What is a low carbon economy? Know its 7 principles

Find out what this concept means and how it has been applied in Brazil

The low-carbon economy has been discussed for at least two decades when talking about climate change. On the other hand, little has been done to meet the goals of zero carbon

Brazil, however, is a reference in the low-carbon economy, as it has a renewable energy matrix which places the country in an advantageous relationship when compared to different countries. 

In this guide, we will explain what the low-carbon economy is, its importance, its principles and the ways to achieve this goal in Brazil. 

What is a low carbon economy?

The term “Low Carbon Economy” appears for the first time in the document “Our Energy Future – creating a low-carbon economy”, 2003, from the British Department of Trade and Industry. 

This economy is based on clean technologies and innovative systems that aim to reduce or eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere.  

In this sense, the transition movement to a low-carbon economy requires countries to have inclusive and comprehensive transition and economic diversification policies. 

This means that in addition to preserving the environment and helping to reverse global warming, this model can bring new job and income opportunities. 

What are the principles of the low carbon economy?

This concept is based on seven principles, according to the report Seven Principles for Realizing the Just Transition of the Low-Carbon Economy, from the Stockholm Environment Institute.

These principles are the basis of a fair and broad shift to a low-carbon economy to ensure environmental protection, diversification of economic activities and combat socioeconomic and gender inequalities. 

Are they: 

  • Actively encourage decarbonization; 
  • Avoid further investment in carbon-intensive industries; 
  • Support regions affected, but historically not responsible for global emissions, less capable of investment; 
  • Support workers, their families and communities affected by industrial and factory closures; 
  • “Clean up” environmental damage, ensuring that the costs related to this cleaning are not transferred from the public to the private sector; 
  • Aim for social equality and the empowerment of vulnerable social groups in the transition to a low-carbon economy; 
  • Ensure an inclusive environment, with broad social dialogue, and a transparent development plan, with international financial and technological support. 

Low carbon economy in Brazil

The low-carbon economy in Brazil has international prominence, especially in the agricultural sector, as shown This one study by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea). 

The expansion of agricultural production with sustainable technologies and practices reached 154% of the target set by the Sector Plan for Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change for the Consolidation of the Low Carbon Emission Economy in Agriculture (ABC Plan). 

Although there is no legal framework for a low-carbon economy in the country, there are climate commitments, such as the ABC Plan (Low Carbon Emission Agriculture) and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Reductions Estimation System.

Brazil also stands out for having a clean energy matrix. In 2020, 84.8% of the country's domestic electricity supply came from renewable sources, especially hydraulics. 

How important is it for companies to emit less carbon?

It is important for companies to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions in their operations, as GHG emitting activities are mainly responsible for global warming. 

GHG-emitting activities involve burning coal, oil, gas, deforestation, use of equipment and products with fluorinated gases and nitrogen fertilizers. 

Between 2015 and 2022, the increase in the global average temperature of the oceans and atmosphere was the largest ever recorded since 1880, which has put the world on alert. 

In addition to high temperatures, droughts, floods, heat waves, glaciers, record sea levels, heat in the oceans affect communities, causing economic losses. 

Paths to a low-carbon economy in Brazil

According to the report Carbon Economy: For a Sustainable Future,  the paths to a low-carbon economy in Brazil involve the energy transition, carbon market, circular economy and forestry conversation. 

The energy transition concerns the shift from the use of fossil fuels to the use of renewable and clean energy sources, such as electrical and solar energy. 

The carbon market works with the pricing and compensation of carbon emissions through the acquisition of carbon credits for various sectors of the economy. 

The circular economy is a way of thinking about consumption and production with the aim of reducing their impact on the environment, whether through recycling, reuse and reuse. 

The conservation and forest restoration are extremely important, as these two measures can eliminate billions of tons of carbon dioxide annually throughout the world. 

How important is the energy transition in the low carbon economy?

One of the pillars of this economy, the energy transition is extremely important to reduce and even eliminate GHG emissions into the atmosphere. 

The energy transition happens when there is a change in the energy matrix of a given activity. In other words, the energy source becomes renewable and clean. 

An example is the exchange of non-renewable sources, such as oil, which comes from fossil fuels, for a renewable source, such as solar, wind or water. 

Other ways to promote the energy transition within the low-carbon economy are to encourage the use of biofuels and promote energy recovery and efficiency.  

What are the challenges to neutralizing carbon emissions?

The main challenges in neutralizing carbon emissions have to do with setting and meeting targets. 

Second study from the University of Oxford, only 19% out of a total of 4 thousand entities from the 25 highest emitting countries made commitments to the goals of the Net Zero.

Net Zero is a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to as close as possible to zero emissions.  

According to United Nations Organization, The commitments made by governments are far from what is necessary to neutralize emissions and contain global warming. 

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