North America might be quiet, but south of the Rio Grande, Brazil rocks


It seems that in the virtual world a week is an eternity… so I have to start by apologizing to you for the lack of new articles on this blog in the last few days. I must confess that posting relevant stories while traveling, presenting at conferences, building projects, and writing reports is a challenge I have not conquered yet.

The North America Leaders’ Summit came and went and, unless I missed something, there wasn’t much substance to it. On the energy side of the equation, in spite of all the declarations and “deliverables”, the discourse was the same we have been hearing for a while: much talk of efficiency, the importance of the intersection between climate change and energy, this and that, but the projects are the same ones announced before without any more details. Moreover, given the new California Low Carbon Fuel Standards and the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (the Waxman – Markey Bill) which so far has Congressional approval and is now making the rounds in the Senate, it is hard to see how President Obama can work in unison with other nations on these matters. Cooperation in this field will, undoubtedly, be determined by the legislation once it is approved.

But it is still summer in North America … so not much is about to happen in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, south of the Rio Grande, there is much going on.

Honduras is still troubled – with an OAS foreign ministers mission heading to Tegucigalpa on Monday in an attempt to have ousted President Zelaya reinstated. And the Colombia/US accord to expand the US military presence in Colombian bases prompted not only the usual rattling of sabers from Chavez, Morales, and Correa; but also much uneasiness from Argentina and even Chile. It fell on Brazil’s Lula to call Barack Obama  to obtain assurances that the US has no intention of expanding its presence beyond Colombian borders and suggest that a meeting with UNASUR was in order. True to form, Obama promised to consider the request.

For President Lula, a chat with Obama must have felt like a walk in the park, after a week of relentless battering in Congress. Two prominent members of his party, Marina Silva and Flavio Arns, left the party (Marina to run for president for another party and Arns in response to his disappointment over an ethics scandal) and his back was against the wall over an investigation of Petrobras which doesn’t seem to go away and for his decision to back his Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff for the presidency in 2010.

Yet, for all the multiple scandals Brazilians have endured in the last few weeks, democracy is alive and well. In a meeting of the President’s civil society council on “Green Jobs and Sustainable Buildings”, a number of initiatives were discussed. Among them, “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” is a plan to deliver one million houses to Brazilians from the lowest income brackets. The twist is that much effort is being made to incorporate sustainable energy elements in the housing, including solar water heating systems. Interestingly, although Brazil proposed to create a “best practices” data bank for sustainable low income housing as one of the possible initiatives for the Energy and Environment Partnership for the Americas, so far, it doesn’t appear the idea has gained much ground with the Obama administration. It was nice to see that Brazilians are not waiting for this to happen…they are going ahead full steam.

There are many other ideas being discussed and projects in different stages of approval. I will keep you posted on what I find out, but should you have something to share, I am sure all of us would be grateful for the information.

Be our guest, leave a comment or get in touch.

Cheers from Rio


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