Analysing the Brazilian Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning: Is This Government Policy Capable of Avoiding Adverse Effects from Land-Use Change?
There are doubts about the reliability of so-called biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and conserve biodiversity. Brazil is the largest producer of sugarcane ethanol in the world. This thesis analyses the extent to which the Brazilian Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning (ZAE Cana), a federal policy developed in 2009, can contribute to reducing, or avoiding, adverse environmental impacts in terms of GHG emissions and biodiversity degradation. It takes into account both direct and indirect effects of land-use change (LUC) caused by the expansion of sugarcane in Brazil. Because sugarcane expansion has primarily displaced areas of pasture, most of the literature reviewed, and information from the participants, are optimistic in regard to GHG emissions due to direct LUC. But the expansion of sugarcane has caused biodiversity impacts and it may be aggravated in the near future. Despite increase in agricultural productivity, studies contend that indirect LUC caused by the increase in sugarcane ethanol production in Brazil is expected to take place. Qualitative face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with experts representing private institutions, the Brazilian government, the sugarcane industry association and the NGO WWF-Brazil. The key stakeholders were chosen to elicit knowledge from a range of respondents with experience of the production of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. The interviews were also used to investigate the importance of, and motivations to create, ZAE Cana. ZAE Cana has shortcomings and there is significant impact on LUC caused by other agricultural activities. Monitoring and enforcement of specific legal frameworks are important. Agroecological zonings for other activities such as pasture, soybeans and corn should also be developed to control detrimental indirect LUC.