Whoever contaminates pays… Does this go for everything and everyone?

Article Latin Trade March  2021



… Whoever contaminates pays…

Does this go for everything and everyone?

           Ingo Plöger

Brazilian Entrepreneur, President CEAL Brazilian Chapter

France, one of the leaders of the European Union and the G20, launches the motto

… whoever contaminates pays …

 thinking primarily of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, for the COP26 round in Glasgow. Punishing is popularly efficient, but globally difficult. The EU quickly understood that it is unable to achieve its goals for reducing the GHGs set for 2030, and that it alone is unable to achieve them without including the global production chain. The global production chain must necessarily also be sustainable, otherwise the account will not close. The mainly European campaign against deforestation, which is one of the causes of GHG, shows how serious the issue is. The punishment of violators will be very severe, if they do not comply with the premises to be defined by the European Commission, there will be restrictions on market access and economic sanctions. It hits Mercosur, in the recently agreed agreement between the EU-MS about to be ratified by the parliament.

Public opinion closely follows the efforts of South America, especially Brazil, to achieve zero deforestation, as the EU wants. It is no longer governments that want it, nor companies, but much more the end consumer. That when consuming products, and these have any remnants of deforestation, he will change his option, for other preferences.

The financial system quickly understood this preference, and although we have had the Equator Principles for sustainable financing for more than 15 years, it brings an aggressive way to offer ESG-based financing, the parameters of which are not yet well defined internationally. It does not matter, here the point is to show very fast, your commitment and come out with a product of international acceptability!

Everything seems very logical, transparent and clear. If Mercosur does not show effectiveness in combating deforestation, it will have market restrictions, selective financing and its damaged image.

Nevertheless, the motto … whoever contaminates pays … can have a more global than local interpretation, and then the consequences could be quite different.

Certainly, zero net deforestation (legal gross deforestation minus the reforestation of native trees) is a very well accepted goal for all, at the same time combating illegal deforestation at all levels. For Mercosur, this would mean a huge goal in reducing emissions. Achievements due to the Forest Code implemented, possibly further compensatory measures and public policies, this objective maybe in a 15-year horizon.

Good news, would we have the problem solved with this? Certainly not … and then we would be seeing the real size of the problem, in global terms.

Analyzing the Giga trends, Demography, Energy and Communication, we quickly concluded that while the American citizen consumes 87,000kWh/year, the European 40,000kWh /year, the Latin American is consuming 14,000kWh /year.  We return to the metric that if the world wanted to have the American style of life, we would need five planets, and in European style three planets, this considering only the consumption of energy and raw materials, foreseeing in 2050 a population of 10 billion inhabitants. The root of the GHG problem lies in the energy matrix and lifestyle of consumers. In addition, the energy matrix of Latin America today has the best rate of renewables. 1)

Observing the disruptive innovations for electric mobility, the consumption of electric energy will increase, and we have an exponential increase in the consumption of information / data, today sized in Exabyte (1 billion Gigabytes), which increases in seconds … which consumes increasing amounts of energy, per capita energy consumption, does not tend to decrease, but certainly to increase. Considering the slow decrease in energy per capita of developed countries, and the strong growth of developing countries, world energy consumption per capita will continue to grow, remembering that this energy is predominantly fossil and nuclear. Add the curious fact that the world’s electric energy is no more than 15% of the total consumption of primary energy. And today, renewables do not exceed 11% of primary energy (rate of renewables in Latin America by 31%). 2) 3)

I take the liberty of asking … who pays for contamination … will it still be valid under these circumstances?

China, which thinks about millennial cycles, has already stated that its zero-emissions purpose is stretched to the year 2050. Well, my grandchildren, who are now 20 years old, will be my age to see if China has managed to fulfill its promise. The EU already postpones its goals frequently, and the fashion now is to put the goals away from any political mandate. Looking at the large numbers, the inhabitants of high-energy consumption per capita, will they be willing to pay in proportion to their contamination?

Here, I only referred to the theme of sustainability of our Planet Earth. Remember we have only One Planet to Live.

However, being in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic, I hear political voices of global reference from Europe and the USA, which have expressed themselves in holding China responsible for the pandemics that broke out in recent years … if the French motto is really implemented, how would the motto be? … whoever contaminates pays…? The scope of the concept does not necessarily need to be restricted to sustainability, but it would have the legitimacy to be extended to global health contaminations, which put populations and millions of people at risk, in addition to constraining world economies. 4)

As an attentive and critical observer of the evolution of giga and megatrends, the crusade of France, which is accompanied by a large majority of European countries, to achieve a politically effective result, based exclusively on the principle of punishment, does not seem sufficient to me. We know from the historical lessons that the public hanging at the end turns against the ruler. Moreover, France is well aware of this. It is a very risky political process, which does not seek its greatest strength in solidarity, in the union of forces, in stimuli, in union in principles, in international cooperation, but in the qualification of right and wrong, which can have very different facets as shown here.

We also recognize that after the pandemic, we will have much greater poverty in the world and an accumulated wealth as well, which suggests a different pact for cooperation, otherwise the radical political forces will gain more strength every day. It is not what we seek to consolidate our democracies.

I think that the EU urgently needs to review its stance. The project of Biden’s first 100 days points in another direction, much more in cooperation, in looking at joint construction, and in global cooperation, than in punishment, even with opponents. Latin America on the agenda of sustainability, democracy, free and open societies is much more a solution than a problem. Not those infractions are not punished, but they cannot be the basis for international cooperation, when looking for solutions for the Planet. We only have one planet; we do not have another, so the initiatives of One Plant to Live OPL, need innovative, and disruptive, but solidary and global solutions.




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