Study analyzes incorporation of climate change issues into RenovaBio’s legislative process

RenovaBio established annual decarbonization targets, broken down into individual mandatory targets for all fossil fuel distributors in the country.
29 September 2023
Study analyzes incorporation of climate change issues into RenovaBio’s legislative process

Encouraging the production and consumption of biofuels in Brazil in order to increase the regularity of fuel supplies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector is the goal of the National Biofuel Policy (RenovaBio). This policy was approved by Congress in just 28 days in 2017.

RenovaBio established annual decarbonization targets, broken down into individual mandatory targets for all fossil fuel distributors in the country, which are met through the acquisition of decarbonization credits, or “CBIOs,” issued by biofuel producers.

In order to draw lessons for future sectoral and climate public policy processes, it is important to understand which forces were at work in RenovaBio’s legislative process, the roles played by different actors and how the issue of climate change was present in the process. These are the questions that guided a study titled Biofuels and Decarbonization Credits in Brazil: An Analysis of the Legislative Process of Brazil’s National Biofuel Policy (RenovaBio), carried out by Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Center for Sustainability Studies (FGVces).

To answer these questions, the team analyzed 123 articles published by three Brazilian newspapers (Folha de S. Paulo, O Estado de S. Paulo and Valor Econômico) between August 31, 2016 and April 6, 2018. In addition, between January 26, 2023 and April 11, 2023, researchers Camila Yamahaki and Gustavo Velloso Breviglieri conducted 11 semi-structured interviews with representatives of the federal government, civil society, fossil fuel distributors, ethanol producers and industry associations.

Window of opportunity to pass law

According to the study, changes in the configuration of the executive branch (including the appointment of a new director of biofuels at the Mining and Energy Ministry in 2016), coupled with growing concern about energy security and the unfavorable market context for biofuels, created a window of opportunity for the law to be passed, which was subsequently exploited by a series of events.

The presence of multiple public policy “entrepreneurs,” with complementary skills and abilities, who invested their time and resources at different points in the process, made it possible for RenovaBio to be approved, regulated and implemented quickly. These “entrepreneurs” included senior officials at the Mining and Energy Ministry’s Biofuels Department, the leaders of the biodiesel congressional caucus, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) and biofuel producers. These four groups acted together in a kind of “relay race,” the researchers argue.

The fact that RenovaBio seeks to achieve several objectives, such as helping fulfill Brazil’s climate commitments, guaranteeing the country’s energy security and improving market conditions for the biofuels sector, helped speed up the legislative process, while reducing possible public resistance and uniting various supporters, including members of the agricultural, biofuels and environmental caucuses.

Finally, the fact that the policy incorporates a market solution, with mechanisms that are considered robust, such as the use of the fuel life cycle analysis methodology and the CBIO certification structure, also favored its acceptance.

Study’s conclusions

Without evaluating RenovaBio itself and its effectiveness, the research pointed to the following findings:

  • Linking a solution to several problems helps secure the approval of a policy, but there must be a clear priority out of the various objectives;

  • The existence of several public policy “entrepreneurs” at the different stages of a law’s creation helps speed up public policy processes;
  • Labeling a policy as a climate policy helps increase its visibility and decrease public opposition to it;
  • The adoption of a market-based approach contributes to acceptance of a policy, while the incorporation of best practices commonly found in regulated environmental markets contributes to its effectiveness.

The study was carried out by FGVces as part of a project called Strengthening the implementation of national climate policy: Comparative empirical learning and creating links with climate finance.

Coordinated by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), this project aims to support the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa. It is funded by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

To find out more about the project, click here.

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