Since President Lula da Silva’s presidency in 2003, Brazil has the potential to assume a leadership role in the global environmental governance through south-south cooperation. However, this potential has been going through ups and downs, especially regarding the country’s heterogeneity and ambivalence about concrete environmental manifestations as a rising power. Moving beyond the Brazilian participation in multilateral environmental negotiations, Kathryn Hochstetler and Cristina Inoue shed light into Brazilian initiatives in other developing countries deeming them either as contributing to global environmental solutions or as exacerbating environmental problems. In the article South-South relations and global environmental governance: Brazilian international development cooperation published in the special issue of Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional Brazil ups and downs in global environmental governance (2008-2018) (RBPI – vol. 62, n. 2), Dr. Hochstetler and Dr. Inoue focus on the concrete manifestations of Brazil as a rising power, showing the actual implementation practices of Brazilian bureaucracies that support development in other countries. Tiago Tasca interviewed Dr. Hochstetler and Dr. Inoue about the ideas presented in the article.
In order to investigate the possibility of Brazilian constructive leadership in global environmental governance, the article is particularly “[…] interested in the south-south initiatives that began with former President Lula da Silva’s presidency in 2003. The initiatives were formulated primarily in economic terms, but we show that they also had significant environmental dimensions that scholars have usually overlooked.” In your opinion, why scholars have usually overlooked these environmental dimensions?
There is an academic hierarchy, where certain topics seem more important than others. Environmental issues have often been treated as secondary. With the effects of climate change and species loss accelerating, that will be increasingly difficult to do. Our article shows that political economy issues like aid and development finance have significant environmental impacts that should be studied and recognised.
The last section of your article discusses the environmental dimensions of BNDES’s international project finance, and you mention that: “[…] the environmental impacts of Brazilian international project finance are directly linked to the environmental performance of Brazilian firms.” However, some of these firms – Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, Andrade Gutierrez, and Queiroz Galvão – are being investigated under the Lava Jato operation. Firstly, could you expand on the idea of “environmental performance?” And, in your opinion, in what degree the relation between environmental performance and corruption may hamper the future of Brazilian SSC?
There is already much less of the South-South cooperation through BNDES finance than there was before. It seems to have at least three reinforcing explanations. The first has to do with the shift in governments, with the current Brazilian government having little interest in a significant role for South-South relations. However, the decline in BNDES’ finance for international activities came before Bolsonaro. The second reason is that many of the firms involved have been implicated in the Lava Jato scandal. Odebrecht, for example, received a lot of BNDES support for its international engineering projects and has also been a focal point of the corruption accusations in Brazil and beyond. Since Odebrecht and other Brazilian companies have received many fewer international contracts, there is less demand for BNDES finance. But our study adds a third reason. Much of the BNDES finance was used for projects that have significant and negative environmental impacts. Especially in Latin America, activists often resisted these projects and so they could not be completed.
On May 8, 2019, eight of the nine formers Ministers of Environment published a joint letter to assert that the climate and environmental governances are essential conditions to the Brazilian development in the 21st century. In this letter, the Ministers argue that the government is undermining Brazil’s international credentials in the environmental realm by minimizing the success of the body of legislation and governmental organizations that have carried out environmental policies, as you also highlighted in the article. In this sense, what are your thoughts about a potential change in Brazil’s international profile: from an “emerging power” to a reactive and obstructionist role in the global environmental governance, as occurred in the late 1980s?
There are many international concerns about the recent shifts in Brazilian policies that endanger environmental protections at home and abroad. The recent EU-Mercosur trade agreement was finally completed, but ratification of the agreement will depend on reassurances to Europe about Brazil’s environmental commitments. The current Brazilian government seems to believe that environmental protection comes at the expense of economic growth and development, but they must come together to achieve real development.
Read the article
Hochstetler, Kathryn, & Inoue, Cristina Yumie Aoki. (2019). South-South relations and global environmental governance: Brazilian international development cooperation. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 62(2), e004. Epub July 29, 2019. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201900204
About the authors
Kathryn Hochstetler, London School of Economics and Political Science – International Development. London, England.
Cristina Inoue, Universidade de Brasília, Instituto de Relações Internacionais. Brasília, Brazil.
Tiago Tasca, editorial assistant of RBPI.
How to cite this interview