University of São Paulo: Municipal initiatives aimed at the climate crisis are still insufficient, survey shows

A study conducted by researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) and the University of Campinas (Unicamp) analyzed municipal legislation, journalistic articles and institutional documents from the nine Northeastern capitals (Teresina, Recife, Salvador, Fortaleza, Natal, João Pessoa , Maceió and Aracaju) and found that local management is still inefficient in the development of public policies or actions aimed at confronting climate change.

Researcher Rylanneive Teixeira, PhD student and Master in Urban and Regional Studies at UFRN and first author of the article on the research, explains to Jornal da USP that the choice of this territorial cut was motivated by the high climatic and also socioeconomic vulnerability of the Northeast region and by the fact that that these states do not receive as much attention in the scientific literature. Even so, the researchers call attention to the fact that the reality demonstrated by this work is common to other cities in the rest of the country.

The data are in the text Thinking about today and the future”: climate change initiatives in the capitals of Northeast Brazil. The work was carried out by researchers from UFRN and Unicamp with the support of the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes) and the results, published as an article in Confins magazine , can be read in full here .

According to the team, among the analyzed municipalities, Maceió was the one that showed the worst political-institutional conditions, with a great shortage of implemented public policies aimed at the problems resulting from the climate issue. Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza are the most advanced cities, with a greater internalization of climate issues in their government agendas and the largest number of implemented initiatives.

In general terms, what the researchers observed was that the local managements analyzed have given preference to measures of climate adaptation to the detriment of measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Adaptation measures are aimed at containing the consequences of climate change: investing in sanitation and drainage structure to reduce the impact of floods or rockfill works, which use rocks to prevent water from advancing on beaches, for example. Mitigation measures, on the other hand, seek to attack the causes of climate change, through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

CiAdapta Network
Pontes is part of the CiAdapta network of researchers , coordinated by Professor Gabriela Marques Di Giulio, from the Department of Environmental Health at the Faculty of Public Health (FSP) at USP. The network is focused on studying the solutions that Brazilian cities have found to deal with environmental and climate issues. The group is made up of researchers from different areas, including social scientist Zoraide Pessoa (UFRN), who also signs the article.

For Professor Gabriela, cities play an extremely important role in the adaptation processes, as it is in these places that the negative effects of climate change materialize and are felt and measured. According to her, it is in the city that we can observe the connection of climate issues with various structural dimensions of society:

“When seeking to carry out adaptation measures, cities must promote adjustments in different sectors to anticipate possible impacts related to climate change, which results in a very transversal process that will touch on issues such as water security, sanitation, housing, mobility, food security. and energetic.”

Municipal decision makers need to understand that when they pay attention to addressing these negative effects of climate change, they are also investing in the health and quality of life of their residents.

Pontes explains that the two sets of measures are complementary: adaptation is essential to contain the urgent impacts of the climate crisis and mitigation is what guarantees long-term sustainability.

According to meteorologist Ana Luiza Fontenelle, one of the authors of the article, the ability of municipalities to act in the field of mitigation is limited, since mitigating actions involve, for example, structural issues of the energy matrix that are regulated by state and federal laws, but city halls are still able to intervene in very important ways, such as, for example, improving and encouraging energy efficiency, such as replacing light bulbs and appliances with more modern and less consuming versions.

In addition, Professor Gabriela also cites the importance of efforts to improve municipal environmental management, which can bring co-benefits for mitigation, adaptation and sustainability, such as investment in biodiversity protection instruments, integrated and sustainable management plans for solid waste, sanitation, urban gardens and expansion of green areas.

Another important dimension for local public policies is in the context of urban mobility: “In cities, most mitigation measures will be linked to the transport sector: changing the diesel from the bus fleet to biofuel, investing in making pedestrian movement more and cyclists more accessible and improve public transport in general, as this reduces the number of cars circulating and, therefore, the emission of greenhouse gases”, comments Ana Luiza.

Professor Gabriela points out that, in recent years, despite the discussion of the climate issue having been more present on the political agenda of municipalities, the implementation of these laws is still slow. She cites, for example, the efforts of the Strategic Master Plan of São Paulo approved in 2014 to plan the city in a more compact way, containing urban sprawl, to promote social housing in regions with consolidated urban infrastructure and job offers. formalities, and reduce the population’s displacement to work (something in line with environmental guidelines), which did not materialize as it should due to the pressures that compete to mischaracterize the PDE’s objectives, mainly on the part of real estate developers .
This is a frequent dynamic: in a 2019 article , researchers from CiAdapta identified that the main obstacles that hinder the advancement of adaptation measures in Brazilian cities are lack of political will, inadequate coordination between different departments of the state bureaucracy and pressure from the private sector. .

All these factors contribute to the current scenario: the actions implemented in the municipalities are insufficient. Ana Luiza says that this is the result observed by the study in the capitals of the Northeast region, but that it also represents the broader reality of the country. “The main cities in the region do not have the necessary adaptation measures and the situation in the countryside is even worse. It is necessary to strengthen these actions at the municipal level, to seek to establish collaborative networks between cities to build collective solutions”, comments the researcher.

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