Merkel’s visit to Brazil can be a milestone on the path to clean energy

Merkel’s visit to Brazil

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Creative Commons: Dilma Rousseff, 2011

Two powerful women, the leaders of the largest economies in Europe and Latin America, could add further clout to the transition to a low carbon world.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel today and climate change is one of the topics on the agenda.

Rousseff is President of a country which has an astonishing potential for wind and solar, while Merkel has spearheaded Germany’s transition to renewable energy and has a track record of leading others to climate ambition.

Nevertheless, there have been some worrying trends in recent years. Brazil has begun to turn to fossil fuels.

Deforestation in Amazonia has been inching up again recently, and a new proposal to stimulate Brazil’s economic growth, supported by President Rousseff, could put even more areas of rainforest at risk.

As for Germany, it remains wedded to coal, which provides the majority of its electricity. Germany’s emissions have risen in recent years, and a move to scrap the proposed ‘coal levy’ in July could leave the country falling short of its emissions target of a 40% cut by 2020.

German expertise in renewable energy can help Brazil to build up its solar and wind industries, providing clean energy, helping it meet the growing energy needs of its 200 million people and secure much-needed jobs in the midst of a severe economic and political crisis.

But media-friendly handshakes are not enough and any agreements made will be hollow unless followed with actions.

Brazil has yet to submit its climate change offer to the UN, while Germany is still too cosy with – and reliant on – coal, despite citizens’ fierce opposition, the risk it poses to the country’s  emissions reduction goal, and coal’s downwards spiral worldwide.

If Brazil makes a firm and ambitious offer for the Paris climate talks and starts to enact it, and Germany finally says ‘Tschüss’ to fossil fuels, their climate leadership clout will be multiplied, adding further momentum ahead of the UN negotiations this December.

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