The Brazilian municipality of Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais, stands out for its historic buildings coexisting in perfect harmony with the modern aspects of its architecture. More than its beautiful landscapes, the city is an example of good practices in climate mitigation and adaptation.
Belo Horizonte has been recognized for its constant work in the fight against climate change since the early 2000’s, having already conducted a 20-year series of greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and an emissions’ reduction plan that includes 99 actions in the areas of mobility, sanitation, and energy.
In 2015, the city joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) to strengthen its transition to a low-carbon economy and overcome the most significant challenges the city faces: the lack of financial and human resources to fulfill the workload of a large city. It is necessary, for example, to guarantee resources that allow the GHG inventory to be updated annually and to monitor compliance to the goals of the Emissions Reduction Plan..
On the other hand, the city staff highlight that the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) has helped the city meet international demands and advances related to climate change. “The support needed is related to the training of the municipality’s technicians and the search for partners to help the municipality meet the challenges presented by climate change,” staff emphasize. The GCoM awarded Belo Horizonte the adaptation, mitigation, and compliance badges in recognition of its progress,
To keep up with current climate demands, the city’s Climate Law was updated to incorporate the goal set during COP 26 to achieve Net-zero GHG Emissions by 2050. The municipality is also promoting the planting of 60,000 trees over 4 years, which will significantly help reduce GHG emissions and improve air quality.
Furthermore, there are plans to launch a public call for proposals to the Municipal Environmental Defense Fund to finance projects to combat climate change, with a leading role for women living in areas of greater climate vulnerability in accordance to a map drawn up in 2016.
Transforming waste into opportunities
In Belo Horizonte, the city’s recycling program includes associations and cooperatives of collectors and recycling workers. In 2020, the Urban Cleaning System (SLU) sent more than 4 thousand tons of paper, metal, glass, and plastic to recycling cooperatives. From January to September 2021, 4,832 tons of waste were sent for recycling. SLU also makes the operation of these associations financially viable by renting, building, and renovating sheds for sorting the waste.
The city has two types of recycling: point-to-point and door-to-door. In the point-to-point modality, the population separates recyclable materials in their homes and deposits them in containers installed by the municipality. In door-to-door recycling, recyclables are separated by citizens and placed at the curb for collection.
Recycling in Belo Horizonte covers the entire city. Currently, there are 40 Green Points (point-to-point collection) and 24 Voluntary Drop-off Locations (LEVs). Door-to-door recycling is carried out once a week, from Monday to Saturday, in 47 neighborhoods of the capital.
Another good practice, with immense benefits for the environment, is the generation of clean energy from the solid waste collected and treated by the Urban Cleaning Superintendency. In September 2017 the city inaugurated a plant for the energetic use of biogas at the Macaúbas Waste Treatment Center (Sabará), where waste from Belo Horizonte is disposed. The plant is owned by a private company, Asja Brasil, and prevents the atmospheric emission of methane gas, a pollutant potentially 25 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2).
The operation of this plant has already prevented the emission of around 1,246,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year since installation. For comparison purposes, this value corresponds to the CO2 emissions of 594,000 cars.
The recovery plant consists of a network of pipes distributed throughout the landfill, collecting the biogas and directing it to a treatment center, which then transforms it into electricity. If this energy were produced by a thermoelectric plant, about 80,000 barrels of oil would be needed.
All the renewable electricity produced by using biogas energy at the Sabará thermal power plant is connected to the power grid of the Companhia Energética de Minas Gerais SA (Cemig) and distributed for use by a wide range of consumers. Besides the environmental gains, the operation brings economic benefits to Belo Horizonte, since part of the income generated by the sale of electric power is reverted to the Municipality.
Partnerships and climate action financing
Belo Horizonte is supported by several partners of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy on the path to climate resilience,
For example, the city’s Local Climate Action Plan, due to be finalized in August 2022 is being developed in partnership with ICLEI South America. The document will guide the local administration in organizing the policies needed to achieve compliance with greenhouse gas reduction targets, as well as for adaptation to the new climate reality. The alliance with ICLEI, which began in 2016, is focused on promoting climate actions, such as the Urban Leds project, the elaboration of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Plan.
The partnership also operates within the Municipality Program: Horizon 2030, which aims to strengthen the capacities of municipal collaborators concerning Global Development Frameworks: New Urban Agenda, Agenda 2030, Sendai Framework, and Paris Agreement. The program aims to educate city officials in the identification of municipal goals for sustainable development and in the elaboration and qualification of public policies that implement all the proposed principles, goals, indicators, and parameters.
The Urban Leds project, financed by the European Union and co-implemented by ICLEI and UN-Habitat, aims to accelerate climate action, through Low-carbon development strategies, with Belo Horizonte as one of the cities that benefited from this initiative in Brazil.
In 2019, Belo Horizonte and seven other Brazilian cities submitted proposals to ICLEI to implement energy efficiency projects and photovoltaic energy usage, to receive funding from the European Union (EU) within the framework of the Urban Leds project. BH’s proposal, which was approved for financing, was for the implementation of a photovoltaic system at the Herbert José de Souza Municipal School, within the “Solaris Schools” pilot project. The plant was inaugurated on December 7, 2021, at the school unit. The partnership also enabled the implementation of the Sustainability Education Center, at the Language and Creative Innovations Center of the Municipal Environment Department, focusing on formal and informal pedagogical processes in the school space and on the continuous training of educators, with emphasis on Environmental and Climate Education.
Furthermore, Belo Horizonte is part of the Mercociudades network, having participated in training courses offered by the network, as well as in political and thematic councils, such as the gender council. Seeking advances in its climate action, the city is also getting involved in the C40 Cities network projects. One of them has been articulated with BHTrans – the municipal company for Transports and Traffic in Belo Horizonte – to raise international funding for the pilot installation of a photovoltaic plant in the stations of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the MOVE.