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Leadership Challenges: Biofuels and the 2009 Brazilian National Climate Change Policy Act

Rômulo Silveira da Rocha Sampaio


Brazil has been a world leader in promoting biofuels since the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, reacting at the time to high petroleum prices. During the first decade of the 21st century, with oil prices skyrocketing once again and a strong international consensus about the causes of global warming, biofuels policies in Brazil constitute a viable climate change mitigation tool. However, the recent discovery of large offshore oil reserves has altered the domestic political environment and in 2009 a National Climate Change Policy Act was passed without a single provision on a fuel switch policy that could reduce the country’s risk of future overdependence on fossil fuels. A regulatory strategy to solve the lack of a specific provision in the Climate Act must take into account the extended role envisioned for biofuels in the 1997 Energy Act. Such a provision should be construed in light of the broad objectives set forth in the 2009 Climate Change Act to be used as a legal limitation on the overexploitation and usage of those massive oil reserves. Otherwise, depending on how the vast petroleum reserves are integrated into Brazil’s national energy strategies, the country could risk endangering over three decades of leadership promoting renewable energy sources.

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