Are Brazil, Russia, India and China pushing global decarbonization?, by Eduardo Viola & Larissa Basso

Researchers from the Institute of International Relations of University of Brasília, Professor Eduardo Viola and PhD Candidate Larissa Basso, have analyzed the positions of Brazil, Russia, India and China in the climate regime and their climate-related domestic policies and concluded that the countries have not been pushing global decarbonization. Their article, titled Wandering decarbonization: the BRIC countries as conservative climate powerspublished in the issue 1/2016 of the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, indicates that the countries’ rising use of fossil fuels is key to understand why their share in total global emissions have been increasing; policies to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency have not been sufficient to revert the trend. Brazil, Russia, India and China’s share of global carbon emissions have increased dramatically between 1990 and 2015; yet their commitments to reduce the problem remain very limited. There are ten key powers in the international system regarding their share of global carbon emissions. The four countries studied are part of the group, with remarkable presence of China. The other six are the United States, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

All four countries have enacted energy-related climate policies, especially in renewable energy and energy efficiency. China has been adding installed capacity of hydro, nuclear, solar and wind power in an impressive pace; yet the expanded use of coal to generate electricity and of oil in transport have offset potential reduction in emissions. Russian emissions have decreased from 1990’s levels due to reduced economic growth, and the decrease is a stumbling block to the implementation of renewables and energy efficiency policies. In India, hundreds of millions lack access to modern energy sources; the country has great potential to generate renewable energy but also extensive coal reserves; despite Indian extreme vulnerability to climate change, the issue has been losing priority in federal planning. In Brazil, renewables have occupied a larger share of the energy matrix, compared to global average, but fossil fuels have been gaining ground. Efforts to improve the picture have been diverted by the use of energy prices in support of short-term economic goals and the fact that deforestation and agriculture share with energy the prominence in Brazilian emissions

Brazil, Russia, India and China are conservative players in the climate regime. They resist compulsory emission reduction targets, and their commitments have been incoherent with their responsibility to climate change. Russia has high per capita emissions; Brazil and China’s are above world average. Only India could claim with some legitimacy some differential treatment because its per capita emissions are below world average, but in its recent trajectory emissions are increasing strongly. Further involvement with the issue would show signs of change in the four countries, probably affecting positions of key players such as the United States, and press forward reformist standings in the climate regime and in other international fora.

Read the article:

VIOLA, Eduardo  and  BASSO, Larissa. Wandering decarbonization: the BRIC countries as conservative climate powers. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2016, vol.59, n.1 , e001.


Eduardo Viola – Universidade de Brasília, Instituto de Relações Internacionais, Brasília – DF, Brazil (;
Larissa Basso – Universidade de Brasília, Instituto de Relações Internacionais, Brasília – DF, Brazil (

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