Interview with Ricardo Mastroti: Executive Director of the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS)

In this interview, Ricardo Mastroti, Executive Director of Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), discusses how government policies can effectively support the integration of nature-based solutions into broader climate strategies for key Brazilian biomes, such as the Amazon and the Cerrado. With more than 20 years of experience leading the ESG agenda in national and multinational companies, Ricardo also explains why public policy and financial levers are essential to expand initiatives such as Producers in Focus to further boost Brazil's journey towards a nature-positive economy.

What is CEBDS's perspective on the trajectory towards COP30, especially with regard to the organization's efforts to position Brazil as a leader in the transition to a green economy?

CEBDS's vision is for Brazil to lead the transition to a fair, carbon-neutral, fair and nature-positive global economy. Recently, Brazil presented its Federal Government Ecological Transformation Plan, in which CEBDS actively contributed and which signals Brazil's intentions to shape a green economy. To implement the plan, attract external capital and boost Brazil's transition, it is necessary to ensure a business environment that can support economic stability, develop effective incentive structures and monitor associated public policies.

Since 2016, CEBDS has been promoting the need to establish a regulatory framework for the carbon market of Brazil and providing technical assistance to the Federal Government to develop its National Bioeconomy Strategy. Until COP30, the organization aims to support companies and the Brazilian government to fulfill their respective climate commitments, demonstrating that Brazil's goal in the Paris Agreement to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 it's possible.

How can government policies effectively support the integration of nature-based solutions into broader climate strategies, especially in key Brazilian biomes such as the Amazon and Cerrado?

The six biomes of Brazil represent 15-20% of the planet's biodiversity. Therefore, the country is well positioned to take a leading role in offering global nature-based solutions (NbS) and natural climate solutions (NCS). Public policies that successfully address deforestation and value environmental assets are crucial to halting and reversing the conversion of biomes rich in carbon and biodiversity, such as the Amazon and the Cerrado.

Launched at the end of 2023, Brazil's Ecological Transition Plan provides guidance and conditions to mitigate the risks of macroeconomic instability that could compromise the country's environmental and social transition. This is done by creating incentive structures for a carbon-neutral economy to emerge and strengthening supply chains capable of economically valuing the richness of Brazilian ecosystems and the knowledge of its traditional peoples. Thanks to the engagement of CEBDS, the business sector contributed to the Plan with a set of recommendations.

In transforming food systems, CEBDS has also worked with the federal government to promote the implementation of regenerative agriculture in Brazil. In another project, we recently began developing a position paper for the Brazilian business sector on its contribution to the development and implementation of a nationally viable traceability system for the livestock sector.

More broadly, CEBDS advocates public policies and economic instruments that have the capacity to direct economic behavior towards sustainable practices. The organization also actively supports the regulation of the national carbon market, as well as the creation of a Brazilian green taxonomy and the regulation of Payments for Environmental Services (PSA).

What financial instruments or mechanisms attract investment in landscape initiatives that contribute to both carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation?

Instruments like PES, bioinputs It is regenerative agriculture, through practices such as direct planting, permanent soil cover and crop rotation, are examples of solutions that contribute to soil conservation and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The PES allows producers to profit from conserving native vegetation, being an effective mechanism to stimulate the maintenance, recovery and/or restoration of ecosystem services throughout the national territory. Furthermore, Brazil's National Bioinput Program aims to reduce dependence on imported inputs, effectively and sustainably use the potential of Brazilian biodiversity, and indirectly reduce GHG emissions.

Regenerative agriculture is being implemented around the world and, according to the report Future of Nature and Business from the World Economic Forum (WEF), this agricultural model is one of the most important strategies for the transition to more sustainable, productive and inclusive production models, highlighting its particular relevance when associated with ensuring no deforestation. If adopted on a large scale by 2030, regenerative agriculture could generate US$ 1.4 trillion in business annually and create 62 million jobs worldwide. Based on the priorities of Brazil's Ecological Transformation Plan, the WEF estimates that regenerative agriculture in the Cerrado has the potential to add up to US$ 72 billion annually to the country's GDP. CEBDS has several member companies that employ or encourage their suppliers to transition to regenerative practices, with actions such as replacing degraded pastures with agricultural crops, as captured in the report “Regenerative Agriculture in Brazil: challenges and opportunities“, launched at COP28.

How does CEBDS envision the role of the Soft Commodities Forum (SCF) in advancing sustainability agendas and what strategies does CEBDS employ to ensure effective collaboration and impactful outcomes within such diverse stakeholder networks?

The SCF contributes to the conservation of priority landscapes and the transition to more sustainable soy production in landscapes where deforestation pressure has increased in recent years. We believe that partnering with local actors familiar with the region's challenges and opportunities, such as CEBDS, could expand the results of the initiative.

The SCF and CEBDS have common goals of supporting the private sector in achieving supply traceability, conserving native ecosystems and engaging companies in implementing regenerative agriculture. This alignment of agendas is promising for the sustainable transition of food systems in Brazil.

Furthermore, the agribusiness sector has been adopting sustainable practices and technologies for food production for years. Practices such as direct planting, bio-inputs, animal waste management, circularity of water, restoration of degraded areas and traceability have been adopted, especially in the last decade, largely in response to climate change and demands for improvements in food production and quality. Brazil's 2023/2024 Harvest Plan, recently launched, makes it clear that it will reward rural producers who adopt sustainable practices and brings several programs aimed at financing sustainable practices, mainly related to reducing GHG emissions.

How can landscape initiatives like Produtores em Foco support Brazil's path to zero carbon by 2050?

We welcome initiatives such as Producers in Focus, which take a landscape approach and bring financial incentives, technical assistance and training to farmers. These must be expanded and replicated in other biomes, as decarbonization requires actions from different sectors and value chains. Emissions produced along the value chain represent a significant amount of a company's environmental footprint and remain difficult to measure, collect, manage and report.

CEBDS involvement in projects and initiatives such as the Produtores em Foco initiative can increase their success and impact through greater engagement of companies and other stakeholders. CEBDS, which represents the Brazilian business sector, has expertise in agricultural landscape management and conservation and leads initiatives to restore degraded pastures, increase short-term productivity and prevent additional environmental damage. These efforts include transitioning to a low-carbon agricultural system, promoting sustainable practices among rural producers and encouraging private investment in regenerative agriculture.

Could you elaborate on the CEBDS approach to promoting multi-sectoral collaboration in landscape initiatives, especially in engaging local communities, indigenous groups and other relevant stakeholders?

CEBDS promotes multi-sectoral collaboration on landscape initiatives involving local communities, indigenous groups and diverse stakeholders. For example, until now, the organization has focused on human rights and consultation, free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities, defending their inclusion in corporate governance structures for the preservation of the Amazon.

Through forums like the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, we also facilitate discussions on climate change and human rights, involving companies, local organizations and indigenous representatives.

“Collaborative efforts and innovative financial instruments are essential to drive landscape initiatives that contribute to carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.” With CEBDS and SCF leading collaborative initiatives, Brazil is well positioned to chart a path towards a green economy, which prioritizes environmental integrity and social equity in its main biomes.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee.

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