07 May BRIC paving a path to a better future
More and more people are coming around to the point of view that action on climate change is urgently needed around the world, however there are four developing economies that are critically important to the cause- Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). BRIC have a combined population of 3 billion people and GDP of $16 trillion, and will have a significant and direct impact on global emissions. If these economies can develop sustainably, they could prove to be examplars for other developing nations in terms of creating sustainable economic opportunities without further damaging the environment or oppressing their people. It is likely that the path that BRIC take will ultimately shape sustainable development for the rest of the world.
Brazil has actively pursued investment opportunities in Guyana, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay (amongst others). Brazil is a large player in Latin America, however it lives in China’s shadow, and the current slowdown in the Chinese economy is having a demonstrable impact on Brazil’s economy and that of other Latin American economies. Brazil is struggling with a historic drought and is also grappling with its heavy reliance on power from hydroelectric sources (more than 75%). Rationing water highlights the gap between rich and poor, and water pollution is threatening the way Brazil will be viewed when the spotlight is on them during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
While battling a number of issues, Brazil has reduced its emissions of carbon dioxide by more than any other country, mainly thanks to huge efforts to reduce deforestation. The B Corporation social and environmental certification for businesses was launched in Brazil in 2012 as Sistema B, and last year Brazil was home to the world’s first publicly traded B Corp with Natura cosmetics earning Sistema B certification.
Russia exerts an influence on Ukraine, evidenced by its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Following sanctions from the European Union, the United States and others, Russia has imposed quid pro quo sanctions including banning food imports from the European Union. Despite being a world superpower for most of the last 100 years, sustainable development is a significant issue. Oil, gas and coal produce 90% of Russia’s energy, and non-fossil fuel based energy resources are almost non-existent.
Russia has made progress with regards to sustainability in terms of forestry and fishing. Fishing companies have made sustainability commitments and the Walleye Pollock fishery in the Sea of Okhotsk has earned the Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification. In terms of forestry, more than 33 million hectares of forests in Russia have earned the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for responsible forest management. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia is partnering with a number of companies including Tetra Pak and Avon to spread FSCs sustainable forestry management practices.
India’s insatiable search for energy to meet huge demand means that companies are traversing as far and wide as the Nepalese Himalayas for undeveloped hydropower resources. Potential multi-billion dollar deals could mean prosperity, however this excitement needs to be tempered with the potential for widespread environmental and human rights issues.
A World Bank study in 2014 highlighted a number of environmental issues including air and water pollution, deforestation and natural disasters had cost the Indian economy $80 billion annually. Delhi’s air quality is so poor that plants are less able to photosynthesize which is reducing crop yields by half.
In 2013, India was the first country in the world to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory, with approximately 8000 companies required to invest 2% of their profits each year on CSR programs. Such a law could generate $2 billion annually which will be invested in reducing poverty and environmental and social programs. Infosys (an IT company) raised the profile of green buildings when it expanded its Hyderabad campus and built one section to traditional standards and one with energy efficiency as its focus. The energy efficient section uses 38% less energy that the other section.
Air pollution is widely recognised as China’s most significant environmental issue, and it can be seen from space. While neighbour Russia has had strong Environmental Protection laws but hasn’t enforced them, China has recently began making big strides in terms of strengthening and enforcing their Environmental laws. Its Environmental Protection Law was upgraded in January 2015 and Local Governments are now able to fine polluters on an ongoing basis until their problems are fixed. Activists are now also able to tackle pollution with NGOs able to sue polluters.