The country’s blue economy offers tremendous opportunities for the national economy, while preserving the unique natural ecosystems, giving the country the possibility of converting the current passivity into a proactive approach on spearheading global climate action
Article by Luana Tavares and Andrei Covatariu
The World Atlas ranks Brazil on the 16th place among the countries with the longest coastline. This translates into challenges, especially represented by the ocean level rise, but also into multiple economic, social, and environmental opportunities, such as offshore energy development, increased international trading, global food security or tourism. For these reasons, Brazil’s “blue economy” is and must remain one of the major vectors for the country’s economic stability and growth, in the years to come.
Brazil’s past and present offshore exploration are synonymous with oil and gas extraction. While some of the projections look promising, the global climate change agenda and the world’s efforts to switch to renewable sources will call for a diversification of Brazil’s offshore energy assets.
Investors have already started to explore Brazil’s immense offshore wind natural potential, accounting for a total of 126 GW. Preliminary assessments have confirmed that the underwater terrain is relatively shallow (less than 50m), meaning that fixed turbines can be installed (which are easier and cheaper to deploy than floating turbines) with little impact on local biodiversity. This potential has also raised the attention of the hydrogen industry, as green hydrogen may be a new and important economic subsector to be developed by 2030. Brazil’s tidal energy holds a major potential as well, as the estimated natural potential projection reaches 92 GW, a figure that has started to attract investments and collaborations.
Producing electricity closer to the coast would not only benefit the communities and small businesses located there. Ports – be they operated for tourism or for industry purposes – will benefit, as they will witness major transformations, in the transportation sector’s attempt to decarbonize its operations. Hydrogen may play a major role in this attempt, as this is arguably one of the most important future mass utilizations of hydrogen. Until then, cold ironing – the process of providing electrical power from the shore to docked ships, for reducing emissions – must be largely introduced, as soon as possible.
Ocean level rise and coastal protection
The latest IPCC report, issued this summer, clearly defines the major risk of sea level rise, as many coastal cities and lands will have increasing flooding issues, generating the displacement of millions of people.
A 2015 UN analysis has revealed that 18% of Brazil’s population lives on the coast, while the economic activities in the region account for 70% of Brazil’s GDP. Sea level rise is already causing physical and biological modifications of both the natural and human-built coastal structures in Brazil, with already extreme cases being recorded. Inevitably, this phenomenon will also affect tourism, especially in the major coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro and Recife.
Despite the biblical threat, adaptation measures are already adopted by coastal cities around the world. They include building or adapting existing infrastructure (seawalls, sand dunes, regulations on building permits and coastal setback, relocation), creating and restoring wetlands (land-filling or planting), crop management (dikes, seawalls, relocation of agricultural crops, or even switch to floating agriculture or aquaculture).
Aquaculture under pressure
Fish is healthier. According to experts, 100 grams of fish provide almost the entire daily dose of selenium needed, which contributes to the strengthening of the immune system. This is one of the main reasons why the global fish consumption per person increased from 9 kg to 20.5 kg, between 1961 and 2018 (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization). The fish protein performs better in the economy than other products of animal origin, with an annual average growth of 1.5% per year. In Brazil, 803 tons of fish were produced in 2020 with an average turnover of R$5.6 billion. A market that generates around 1 million direct and indirect jobs.
Although eating healthier is a global necessity and also generates economic growth, the increase in the fish-based diet has a big effect on the marine ecosystem, thus changing the way the aquaculture industry works. Furthermore, the increase in the average temperature of the oceans and mares, increased by global warming, directly impacts the increase in the level of water acidification and, consequently, reduces marine reproduction rates. Therefore, ensuring a balance in the amount of fish consumed and in the reproduction rates of each species requires special attention.
In this direction, several crucial questions must be raised. Is the fishing industry working towards the marine ecosystem’s sustainability? How much is the industry fishing and are there proper fishing calendars, based on reproduction windows for different species? Are the available laws properly and sustainably regulating the fish industry, in relation with the ecosystem’s equilibrium? If so, are they diligently reinforced?
Equally, the fishing industry in Brazil still holds numerous economic and social opportunities. As the south’s fishing is industrialized, the northeast region has a great potential to gradually switch from conventional fishermen to a more automatized practice. This can create additional jobs, as the additional fishing can contribute to the world’s food security, while growing the country’s international trade.
Dodging the dangerous effects of climate change will not be an easy task for Brazil. However, the country’s blue economy offers tremendous opportunities for the national economy, while preserving the unique natural ecosystems, giving the country the possibility of converting the current passivity into a proactive approach on spearheading global climate action.
Luana Tavares has spent the past 15 years dedicating herself to the social impact sector in Brazil, working with several non-profit organizations focused on strengthening democracy and state effectiveness. Between 2013 and 2020, he directed one of the pioneering and most relevant organizations in this field called CLP – Center for Public Leadership, which since 2008 has trained more than 8,000 public leaders throughout Brazil and is informing and engaging society in the defense of a structural national agenda with the National Congress. Luana is also an advisor for Vetor Brasil and Poder do Voto – two social impact organizations focused on increasing the State’s capacity through better people management and strengthening civic participation, respectively. Luana has a degree in advertising, an MBA – Master in Business Administration (Fundação Getúlio Vargas – FGVSP) and two international specializations, one in public management and the other in leadership development, at Harvard Kennedy School and Oxford University. She is currently completing a Master of Public Policy (MPP) at Blavatnik School of Government-Oxford University and developing her Summer Project with the IEPS-Institute for Health Policy Studies.
Andrei Covatariu is a Senior Research Associate at Energy Policy Group and an expert for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Task Force on Digitalization in Energy. Andrei was the Head of Public Affairs at Enel Romania (2019-2020), previously holding several positions inside the utility company (2014-2019). He was also a Member of the Board of the FEL-100 community (World Energy Council, London), a 2020 Non-resident Fellow at the Middle East Institute (Washington DC), and a 2021 GYCN Climate Ambassador (an initiative of the World Bank Group). Andrei has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering (Politehnica University of Bucharest), and a master’s degree in Business Administration (Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies). He is currently finalizing a Master in Public Policy (MPP) at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, with a Summer Project performed at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs – Managing the Atom Project.
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