Green Energy, Grey Practices

Figure 1: Cumulative land privatizations for wind and solar PV parks. Left, wind park areas. Right, solar PV park areas. The plots show the comparison to control areas
as function of the difference in time to first investment. ā€˜Control areasā€™ are sampled from the same municipality with the same shape. ā€˜Control match wind resourceā€™ are
areas with similar wind resources as wind park areas.

Overview of Green Grabbing in Brazil

The research paper delves into the expansion of wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in Brazil, highlighting a phenomenon termed “green grabbing.” This process involves the large-scale appropriation of land, ostensibly for environmental projects like renewable energy development, that ends up displacing local communities and altering land ownership dynamics.

Scale and Ownership in Wind and Solar PV Developments

The study provides a detailed examination of land usage for renewable energy from 2000 to 2021, revealing significant foreign influence in these sectors. European companies are prominently involved, with foreign entities owning 78% of wind parks and 96% of solar PV parks in Brazil. This has led to substantial land appropriation, covering 2,148 kmĀ² for wind and 102 kmĀ² for solar PV. Despite the majority of wind parks being operated by Brazilian entities, many are subsidiaries of foreign companies, suggesting a complex web of ownership that often favors foreign investment over local control.

Transformations in Land Tenure

The transition towards renewable energy has prompted significant changes in land tenure, primarily shifting from public or communal ownership to private hands. This transformation is facilitated by the privatization of land, where areas previously designated as public or communal are now owned by private entities, often backed by foreign investors. This shift has profound implications on local communities, especially in regions with historically contentious land ownership issues.

Legal Frameworks and Social Equity

The paper critiques the use of environmental regulations and legal frameworks that ostensibly support green initiatives but in practice enable the large-scale acquisition of land. These legal mechanisms often lack transparency and are manipulated to serve the interests of powerful foreign investors at the expense of local populations. This has led to increased conflicts over land, with local communities and indigenous groups often finding themselves dispossessed or marginalized by these developments.

Environmental and Social Impact

Despite the environmental benefits touted by renewable energy projects, the manner in which land for these projects is acquired and controlled can lead to significant environmental degradation and social unrest. The study points out that the consolidation of land under foreign ownership not only disrupts local ecological systems but also exacerbates social inequalities, leading to resistance and conflict from local communities who lose access to their ancestral lands.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The research concludes that while renewable energy projects like wind and solar PV are essential for sustainable development, the current practices associated with green grabbing in Brazil undermine both social equity and environmental sustainability. It calls for reforms in land governance, suggesting that for renewable energy projects to be truly green, they must be implemented in ways that are transparent, equitable, and inclusive of local community interests.

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