3, October, 2012

Brazil’s Efforts to Mitigate the Environmental Impacts of Ethanol Production

As the sustainability of ethanol production continues to be a hot question, Brazilian attempts to improve an environmentally inefficient production process could provide pointers for those dealing with similar challenges in other countries.

Sugarcane cultivation and ethanol production can result in ecosystem damage to the soil, water and atmosphere, all of which cause significant harm to biodiversity and human health. This Brief presents the efforts made by Brazil, Latin America’s largest ethanol producer, to avoid, mitigate and compensate for these impacts.  Ethanol producers, or those assessing whether or not they will implement an ethanol programme, in Africa and Asia could benefit from Brazil’s lessons learned in order to develop an ethanol production system that is environmentally efficient from the outset.

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Key Lessons:

  • Establishing environmental assessments as a legal requirement for all ethanol producers has led to significant environmental improvements.
  • Public pressure and environmental awareness have been important in pushing forward policies to mitigate negative environmental impacts of ethanol production.
  • The strengthening of environmental institutions proved key to effectively supervising compliance with the law.
  • Reducing waste and emissions has been shown to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability in the ethanol sector.

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