Brazilian farmers wake up to their own specialist coffee

Daniel Gallas – BBC News, 10/02/2015

We drive up the hills in his pickup truck to see farmers harvest the coffee beans in the vast valley around us. Coffee has been the economic backbone of this region – on the border between the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo – for more than a century.

But after years of a commodity-fuelled boom, economies like Brazil are having a hard time adjusting to slower global demand and lower prices.

Over the decades, the Lacerda family has known fortune and poverty, with their wealth always oscillating around coffee. Droughts, government policies, global consumption, currency problems – these were blessings and curses that determined the fate of the Lacerdas.

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Climate deal gains with Brazil pollution plan and European cash

Vanessa Dezem, Anna Edgerton, and Alex Nussbaum – Bloomberg Business, 9/27/2015

Brazil said it will seek to cut its global warming pollution by 37 percent while France and the U.K. pledged billions of dollars more in aid to poorer countries as world leaders try to build support for an international agreement to tackle climate change.

The announcements during United Nations meetings in New York offered progress on two of the toughest issues in the climate negotiations: whether developing nations would commit to emissions cuts and how much rich nations would provide in financing to help them get there. After a meeting among 30 nations on Sunday, French President Francois Hollande said he was optimistic a deal could be reached when negotiations wrap up in Paris this December.

“There is undoubtedly a will” among countries to reach a deal, Hollande told reporters Sunday. “Everyone is now convinced that there will be an agreement in Paris.”

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Brazil’s sugar cane: an emerging debacle

Julie Wernau – The Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2015

Virgolino de Oliveira SA is trodding what has become a well-worn path for emerging- market companies that built up capacity to meet China’s demand for commodities only to watch it crumble.

The Brazilian sugar producer missed a bond payment in February and hasn’t been able to renegotiate the terms of its debt, according to Fitch Ratings. The company couldn’t be reached for comment, but Fitch analyst Claudio Miori said it is likely to seek bankruptcy protection, joining the roughly one-fifth of Brazil’s sugar-cane mills that already are requesting relief from unpaid bills and debt payments.

“They stopped paying sugar-cane farmers,” Mr. Miori said, referring to Virgolino de Oliveira. “They stopped paying banks. They are only one notch from default.”

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How Brazil can emerge as a climate leader

Viviane Romeiro and Rachel Biderman – WRI, 9/21/2015

Brazil, the world’s seventh-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has the relevant tools and policies it needs to become a leader in the fight to deal with climate change. This opportunity comes at a pivotal time for Brazil: its national climate plan—its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)—should be submitted within days as part of global climate negotiations, while a national economic crisis, drought and energy uncertainty inform Brazil’s decisions at home.

A new WRI report, Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Climate Policies in Brazil, finds that Brazil could act to change its energy mix and move toward a lower-carbon economy, but it needs to strengthen existing policies to amplify their impact to join other key climate players including China, the United States and Mexico.

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WRI Report Points to a Roadmap for Energy Emissions Reduction in Brazil

Press Release based on Report by by Viviane Romeiro, Taryn Fransen and Oswaldo Lucon – WRI, 9/21/2015

A new report by World Resources Institute and University of Sao Paolo’s Institute of Energy and Environment finds that Brazil could change its energy mix and move toward a lower-carbon economy by modernizing transport, improving renewable energy capacity and increasing industrial efficiency. The report, Bridging the Gap Between Energy and Climate Policies in Brazil, analyses different emissions scenarios and makes recommendations to strengthen the portfolio of policies that would enable Brazil to meet both its energy and climate objectives.

As the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Brazil’s climate commitment is an important piece of the global response to climate change. The report is especially timely as Brazil is expected to release its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) this week. The report finds that under current policies Brazilian GHG emissions are likely to exceed the country’s share of the remaining carbon budget between 2024 and 2035 if it does not change its current energy mix.

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‘Party’s over,’ warns new science chief

José Goldemberg – Science for Brazil, 9/21/2015 

Newly-impoverished Brazil could soon be reaching for higher impact science to guarantee a better “bang for every research buck,” after wasteful years and policymaking divisions between rival agencies.

The “party’s over” message being delivered to Brazilian academics is that if they want access to fast-dwindling public resources, they must engage much more closely with the process of transforming their nation into a knowledge society, and align their research more closely with government policy.

Politicians running technology policy are also on notice that they need to pay more heed to scientific experts who should play the role of gatekeepers, before spending on public projects is allowed to begin.

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Brazil’s science sector undergoes worst crisis in 20 years

Herton Escobar – O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/30/2015

With no federal funds, agencies cancel notices and delay payment of projects

The economic crisis that is troubling Brazil has not only caused fiscal adjustments, but has also caused cuts to the budgets of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) and to the Ministry of Education (MEC), of 25% and 9%, respectively.

The sector also suffers with the losses of oil royalties and with the plunder of resources reserved for research, which were used as payment for scholarships of the Brazilian program “Science Without Borders” [Ciencia Sem Fronteiras]. In 2014 alone, the program drained R$2.5 billion out of the National Development Fund for Science and Technology (FNDCT).

The atmosphere is the worst it’s been in the past 20 years, according to the president of the Brazilian Society for Science Progress, Helena Nader. Without cash in stock, funding agencies are cancelling notices and delaying payment of thousands of projects.

The cause of the problem lies within the FNDCT, a huge sectorial funds portfolio, which is the main funding resource in the country designed for research. With the 2014 changes in oil royalties’ distribution, the pre-salt resources that nourished the Sectorial Fund for Petroleum (CT-Petro) began to flow to the Social Fund, which is not a part of FNDCT and is not dedicated to science. With this, the amount collected by CT-Petro fell from R$1.4 billion in 2013 to R$140 million in 2014 – and probably won’t even reach R$30 million this year.

FNDCT’s total amount collected therefore also fell from R$4.5 billion in 2013 to R$3.2 billion in 2014; and over R$1 billion of this amount was reserved for the “Science without Borders” program. This scenario is aggravated by the appreciation of the dollar against the Brazilian real, and by recession, which reduce tax collections and impact the budget of foundations that support research.

The National Counsel for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)’s budget this year foresees a transfer of R$1,22 billion from FNDCT, but only one fourth of this (R$330 million) was received thus far. The Counsel is delaying notice payments approved last year and cancelling or postponing new openings. Only six notices were opened this year, compared to 51 in 2014 and 91 in 2013.

Many scientists are waiting for payments and financing for their approved projects. They remain in line, but having to pay these researches out of their own pockets. Thus, “the priority right now is to pay what is owed before launching new things,” says Olivia, former president of CNPq.

In the academic sphere, in order to refrain from canceling scholarships, a department of the MEC had to cut 100% of capital resources and 75% of the cost of funds for post-grad programs across the country. “We had to adjust to our new reality,” says the director of the Programs and Scholarships of the MEC, Marcio de Castro Silva.

Read article in Portuguese here