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This section presents other initiatives for classifying land use activities that are not considered taxonomies, as they do not constitute complete classification systems for various economic sectors. In fact, these are domestic initiatives focusing on agriculture or forestry activities, with various objectives, but which, to a greater or lesser degree of detail, establish sustainability criteria that are directly applicable to the Brazilian case. These initiatives therefore serve as an important basis for discussing the criteria of the Brazilian Sustainable Taxonomy.

Ambitec-Agro (Embrapa)

The Environmental Impact Assessment System for Agricultural Technological Innovation (Sistema de Avaliação de Impactos Ambientais de Inovações Tecnológicas Agropecuárias – AMBITEC-AGRO) is an EMBRAPA initiative (Rodrigues, Campanhola, and Kitamur 2003). The initiative is cited in the Brazilian Sustainable Taxonomy Action Plan as one of the references for thinking about criteria for land use activities (MF 2023a). It consists of a set of 148 socio-environmental performance indicators (grouped into 27 criteria) to assess the impact on rural properties of adopting agriculture technologies and management practices. Technologies are considered to be any crop innovation, such as new types of management, machinery, crop or production system. The impact of adoption is assessed in the following dimensions:

  • Use of inputs and resources
  • Environmental quality
  • Respect for the consumer
  • Employment
  • Employment
  • Income
  • Management

The data used to formulate the indicators is obtained in the field from the farm manager, without the need for an instrumental or laboratory approach. The producer, in possession of the results, can assess which practices have the greatest impact on the performance of his activity in each of the seven dimensions.[1] However, the initiative does not aim to assess the environmental quality or sustainability of the rural enterprise.

The result depends on the state of the rural establishment before the adoption of a particular practice. In this sense, it does not establish criteria for evaluating the sustainability of an establishment according to an established standard, and cannot be used for certification or inspection purposes. The APOIA-NOVORURAL method, which will be presented below, was designed more precisely for this assessment of the sustainability of the enterprise, compared to AMBITEC-AGRO.

AMBITEC-AGRO also does not present a list of criteria considered sustainable according to any definition, but rather a multi-criteria evaluation aimed at assessing the impact of adopting a technology on a series of dimensions. Some examples of aspects considered are: change in land use, use of crop inputs, energy and water consumption, emissions to the atmosphere, soil and water quality, biodiversity conservation, income generation, food security, among others.


EMBRAPA’s Environmental Impact Weighted Assessment of New Rural Activities (Avaliação Ponderada de Impacto Ambiental de Atividades do Novo Rural – APOIA-NOVORURAL) tool is also cited in the Brazilian Sustainable Taxonomy Action Plan as one of the references for thinking about criteria for land use activities (MF 2023a). It provides a quantitative analysis of the sustainability of rural activities, with the aim of assessing the environmental performance of an agriculture enterprise. It consists of 62 indicators distributed across five dimensions of sustainability:

  • Landscape ecology
  • Environmental quality
  • Economic values
  • Socio-cultural values
  • Management and administration

These indicators are verified with technical data from rural establishments, requiring field inspections, data collection and soil samples, laboratory analysis and information gathering from the producers/managers of the property.

The result of this process is an overall index that reflects the contributions of the activities to the sustainability of the rural establishment analyzed. Each resulting indicator needs to be compared with a baseline value in order to assess environmental performance.

When the value of a given indicator is above the baseline, it is said that there is stability in the performance of the activity in relation to the aspect measured by the sustainability indicator.[2]

Unlike other initiatives, the tool does not propose a prior classification applicable to broadly defined activities, lines of financing or agriculture practices. It generates specific indicators for each enterprise and serves mainly to reorient processes within rural activity management, with a focus on environmental aspects. In this sense, an establishment will have good socioenvironmental performance if the indicators measured are above a predefined benchmark for each indicator (baseline).

Examples of aspects considered are: compliance with the Permanent Preservation Area (Área de Preservação Permanente – APP) and Legal Reserve (Reserva Legal – RL) requirements, agricultural production management conditions, production diversity, regeneration of degraded areas, incidence of endemic diseases, risk of fire, air quality indicators (e.g. presence of smoke particles), water quality indicators (e.g. fecal coliforms) and soil quality indicators (e.g. organic matter and erosion), access to basic services, net income of the establishment, marketing conditions and waste disposal, among others.

The tool covers a broad spectrum of information about rural property, which is in line with the multi-objective approach of the Brazilian Sustainable Taxonomy, which is thought of in both climate and environmental and socioeconomic terms. The applicability of EMBRAPA’s methodology within the taxonomy can be related to the foundation of protocols for certifying properties and practices based on criteria defined in the taxonomy. There is an open challenge as to how to operationalize this type of certification on the scale needed to guide funding for land use activities in Brazil.

Sustainable Production Systems, Practices, Products and Processes of the ABC+ Plan (SPSABC),  MAPA

The Brazilian Agricultural Policy for Climate Adaptation and Low Carbon Emission (Plano de Adaptação e Baixa Emissão de Carbono na Agricultura – ABC+ Plan) is the main government initiative to reduce emissions in Brazilian agriculture. The plan includes a series of guidelines on technologies considered to be low-carbon, consolidated every two years, based on public consultations and the systematization of technical knowledge on the subject.

The scope for including a technology in the list of those recommended by the ABC+ Plan is that it has “proven capacity to adapt to climate change and mitigate GHGs, based on scientific criteria” (MAPA 2021, as translated by the authors). In other words, it is a classification with a specific focus on climate change, not necessarily taking into account other environmental and social aspects that are part of a broader definition of sustainability.

In the most recent version (MAPA 2023d), which underpins the plan for 2020 to 2030, the plan includes the following technologies:

  • Practices for Recovering Degraded Pastures (Práticas para Recuperação de Pastagens Degradadas – PRPD), including pasture renovation (with the introduction of a new forage species);
  • No-till Farming System (SPD), which consists of the joint adoption of: minimal soil disturbance,[3] permanent cover with live plants or straw, and plant diversification in crop rotation. The ABC+ Plan recognizes the use of SPD for grains (No-till Farming System for Grains – Sistema de Plantio Direto para Grãos – SPDG) and for vegetables (No-till Farming System for Vegetables – Sistema de Plantio Direto para Hortaliças – SPDH);
  • Integration systems, which can be any variation of consortium, rotation or succession systems between crops, cattle and forest—Crop-Forest Integration (Integração Lavoura-Floresta – ILF), Cattle-Forest Integration (Integração Pecuária-Floresta – IPF), Crop-Cattle Integration (Integração Lavoura-Pecuária – ILP) or Crop-Cattle-Forest Integration (CCFI)—or Agroforestry Systems (AFS), which usually incorporate a more explicit ecological and biodiversity component;
  • Use of biofertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers (especially nitrogen), including Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) and other Plant Growth-Promoting Microorganisms (PGPM);

  • Irrigated Systems (Sistemas Irrigados – SI), which consist of planting systems that use irrigation in a sustainable way, with correct soil management, crop rotation and legal water collection. The use of irrigation alone does not characterize the adoption of SI;
  • Planted Forests (Florestas Plantadas – FP) for commercial production or the recovery of environmental areas;
  • Management of Animal Production Waste (Manejo de Resíduos da Produção Animal – MRPA), including all types of waste from animal production. The main technologies are biodigestion and composting; and
  • Intensive Termination (Terminação Intensiva – TI), which consists of adopting confinement, semi-confinement and pasture supplementation regimes in the final phase of the production of cattle destined for slaughter.

This set of techniques is already used as the basis for specific rural credit programs for investment in the transition to low-carbon agriculture, such as the Program for Finance Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems (Programa de Financiamento a Sistemas de Produção Agropecuária Sustentáveis – RENOVAGRO, formerly the ABC+ Program) and some lines of the National Program for Strengthening Family Farming (Programa Nacional de Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar – PRONAF) focused on Agroecology, Bioeconomics and Forests. Table 10 takes into consideration those programs and sub-programs explicitly related to the ABC+ Plan to be aligned with the SPSABC for the purposes of measuring the alignment of rural credit with sustainability according to this initiative.

It is worth noting that some of these practices can already be visualized and monitored via satellite, which can facilitate the application of the taxonomy criteria, as well as acting as a prioritization criteria when defining the criteria. In particular, the platform of the MAPBIOMAS (Brazilian Annual Land Use and Land Cover Mapping Project – Projeto de Mapeamento Anual do Uso e Cobertura da Terra no Brasil) (2023) has information on pasture vigor classes (for recovering degraded pastures), planted forests and irrigation systems.[4] Progress in monitoring other practices is a challenge for large-scale use of the SPSABC as a basis for defining the taxonomy criteria.

Sustainability Criteria Applicable to the Granting of Rural Credit from BCB Public Consultation no. 82/2021

The BCB is the government body responsible for supervising the financial institutions that operate rural credit lines. The specific conditions for the credit lines are subject to approval by the National Monetary Council (Conselho Monetário Nacional – CMN) and are registered annually in the MCR by the BCB (BCB 2023; Souza, Herschmann, and Assunção 2020).

In September 2020, the Central Bank launched the Sustainability dimension of its BC# Agenda. Two initiatives should be highlighted: (i) the announcement of the Green Bureau (today called the Rural Credit Bureau), associated with the rural credit system with information of an environmental nature on borrowers; and (ii) the aim of generating incentives to make rural credit greener (Souza, Herschmann, and Assunção 2020; BCB 2023).

Initially, one of the actions planned by the Rural Credit Bureau was to define sustainability criteria for rural credit operations (BCB 2021c). One of the BCB’s actions was Public Consultation no. 82/2021 (BCB 2021a), which proposes a regulation to define sustainability criteria applicable to rural credit operations. According to the proposed resolution, these operations can be classified as sustainable rural credit if the information recorded on SICOR[5] is equivalent to the Annex to the resolution (BCB 2021b). However, currently, this definition of criteria is no longer provided for under the bureau (BCB 2023).

In addition, according to the proposed regulation of the consultation, the classification of operations as sustainable would be conditional on compliance with a series of legal or infra-legal provisions relating to social, environmental and climate issues. The list of impediments of this nature provided for in the MCR has expanded considerably since the proposal was announced. Currently, the definition of sustainable activities must be in line with the impediments provided for in the “Social, Environmental and Climate Impediments” chapter of the MCR (2-9), created by BCB Resolution no. 140/2021 and whose most current version includes the requirements of CMN Resolution no. 5081/2023. The resolution indicates not only the requirements for rural properties associated with rural credit operations, but also which databases can be consulted for verification and monitoring. Following this resolution, the MCR was updated to prevent the granting of rural credit to enterprises located on rural properties that are:

  • With suspended or canceled Rural Environmental Registry (Cadastro Ambiental Rural – CAR);
  • Overlapping with a protected area;
  • Overlapping with Indigenous Lands;
  • Overlapping with quilombola community lands;
  • Where there is a federal or state embargo on the economic use of illegally deforested areas;
  • Overlapping with Type B Public Forests (undesignated); and
  • The borrower cannot appear on the register of employers who have kept workers in conditions analogous to slavery.[6]

The proposed standard presented for public consultation is restricted to identifying fields in SICOR in which information can be identified about the operation’s alignment with sustainable practices. However, it does not specify a list of Annex criteria that would need to be met for a given operation to be classified as sustainable. Nor does the proposal determine an objective, benefit or use for sustainable operations, either for the financial institution or for the rural credit borrower.[7] The public consultation did not result in an actual regulation, nor is there any expectation of publishing a standard along these lines. The criteria included in the public consultation document are presented in Table 10.

Environmentally Sustainable Productive Systems (SPAS) and the Brazilian Agricultural Plan (MAPA)

The Secretariat for Agricultural Policy (Secretaria de Política Agrícola – SPA) is responsible for conducting the Brazilian Agricultural Plan at MAPA, and the preparation of studies and diagnoses is one of its competencies (Decree no. 11,332/2023). In the last three harvests, the SPA has released a series of publications entitled “Environmentally Sustainable Productive Systems (Sistemas Produtivos Ambientalmente Sustentáveis – SPAS)”, which aims to analyze the volume of rural credit financing for sustainable systems based on the Rural Credit Data Matrix (Matriz de Dados do Crédito Rural – MDCR) (MAPA 2022).[8]

The Secretariat defines SPAS as productive systems that generate benefits such as:

  • Increased productivity (land-saving effect)
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Prevention and recovery of losses in agricultural production
  • Rationalization of the use of natural resources and inputs
  • Soil recovery and conservation
  • Improving the quality and health of agricultural production
  • Treatment of manure and crop waste
  • Reforestation and restoration of native vegetation
  • Clean energy generation on farms (MAPA 2022)

The SPAS use a broader definition of sustainability, which goes beyond ABC+ practices, climate issues and forest protection, but does not explicitly include social issues. In its publications, SPA/MAPA identifies rural credit operations granted on the basis of the SPAS using the criteria below, presented separately according to the purpose of the credit.[9] These criteria are detailed in Table 10:[10]

Investment purpose

i. Lines of support for low-carbon crops:

  • RENOVAGRO (ABC+ Program)
  • PRONAF: Forest (ABC+), Agroecology (ABC+), Semiarid (ABC+) and Bioeconomy (ABC+) sub-programs

ii. Lines of support for sustainable practices:

  • Program for Financing Irrigated Crops and Protected Cultivatio (Programa de Financiamento à Agricultura Irrigada e ao Cultivo Protegido – PROIRRIGA)
  • Program for Modernization of Agriculture and Conservation of Natural Resources (Programa de Modernização da Agricultura e Conservação de Recursos Naturais – MODERAGRO): Soil Recovery subprogram
  • Program for the Modernization of Agricultural Tractors and Related Accessories and Harvesters (Programa de Modernização da Frota de Tratores Agrícolas e Implementos Associados e Colheitadeiras – MODERFROTA)
  • Program to Encourage Technological Innovation in Agricultural Production (Programa de Incentivo à Inovação Tecnológica na Produção Agropecuária – INOVAGRO)
  • Program for the Construction and Expansion of Warehouses (Programa para Construção e Ampliação de Armazéns – PCA)
  • Fund for the Defense of the Coffee Industry (Fundo de Defesa da Economia Cafeeira – FUNCAFÉ): subprogram Recovery of Damaged Coffee Plantations

iii. Investment and working capital purposes

Other environmentally sustainable contracts : products that could have been financed through the lines mentioned in categories i and ii. These products are selected from the list of products registered in SICOR, based on their greater affinity with the programs/sub-programs indicated in categories i and ii.

The selection of the lines of support for low-carbon agriculture is aligned with climate criteria, as they are lines established with the aim of supporting the agriculture sector in achieving the climate targets of the NDCs. However, for the other two selection criteria (ii and iii), there is no specification of what the benefits would be from the list of SPAS generated by contracting rural credit.

With regard to point ii, it is important to note that not all of the programs listed were designed to promote environmental sustainability. For example, PROIRRIGA includes funding for items inherent to irrigation systems in general, without considering whether the practice of irrigation contributes to efforts to mitigate or adapt to the climate/maintain carbon stocks or whether the use of irrigation generates negative effects on water availability. Even for

programs such as MODERFROTA and PCA, although they may generate positive effects from an environmental point of view, there is no a priori guarantee that this will be the case, since they are not programs designed specifically for this purpose.

Furthermore, even though operations associated with sustainable practices can be financed from credit lines that do not explicitly have this purpose, there are some risks in adopting this affinity criteria based on products. The criteria used by SPAS considers fixed parameters to measure this affinity. Consider the example of crops such as soybeans and corn: according to this criteria, 78.9% of all rural credit contracts for these products are considered SPAS due to their affinity with the ABC – No-till Farming subprogram.[11] This parameter is calculated based on the ratio between the no-till area of 33.1 million hectares (surveyed in IBGE’s 2017 Agricultural Census) and the total agricultural planting area of 41.9 million hectares.[12] This parameter is the same for all years, which means that, for each harvest analyzed, more than three quarters of all credit operations for these products will always be considered sustainable for the SPAS methodology.

It’s worth noting that these products account for a very significant part of rural credit in Brazil. To give you an idea, costing and investment financing for soybeans and corn represent 27% of the total value of rural credit granted in the 2022/23 harvest.[13] In addition, the same products within RENOVAGRO contracts, former ABC+ Program, for example, must be produced according to a series of criteria that must be included in a technical project, something that will not necessarily be demanded in other lines of financing.

Carbon + Green Program (MAPA)

The National Program for Decarbonized Agriculture Chains (Carbon + Green Program) is run by MAPA’s Secretariat for Innovation, Sustainable Development, Irrigation and Cooperatives (Secretaria de Inovação, Desenvolvimento Sustentável, Irrigação e Cooperativismo – SDI). The program presents guidelines, orientations, concepts, requirements, and criteria for granting the Carbon + Green Seal. The seal is a voluntary certification which, through a conformity assessment, establishes criteria for the production and marketing of carbon credits for primary agricultural products (food, grains, fibers, and energy). The program is aimed at products that use systems or technologies that are scientifically recognized and validated as mitigating and reducing their GHG emissions.

The program’s main objectives are to promote sustainability in the agriculture sector, ensure competitiveness and facilitate access for certified products to national and global markets, and provide guidance to the market on the subject. In its first cycle, it will prioritize 13 production chains: açaí, cotton, rice, rubber, cocoa, coffee, beef cattle, yerba mate, milk, corn, soy, wheat and grapes (MAPA 2023b).

The development of this initiative is participatory. The criteria for assessing compliance, qualification and eligibility must take into account the production systems and low carbon emission technologies of the ABC+ Plan, as well as the peculiarities of each agricultural production chain included in the initiative. These criteria and the management tools for monitoring and evaluating the program will be established by MAPA based on three dimensions:

  • Environmental
  • Transparency
  • Social and labor

In 2023, MAPA held a public consultation to receive contributions from society for the Carbon + Green Program. However, no additional information on the operationalization of the program has yet been published (MAPA 2023a). To come into force, it is necessary to publish regulations that formally establish it.

Despite covering a similar scope to the Brazilian Sustainable Taxonomy, including environmental, economic and social aspects, the program was not explicitly mentioned in the Taxonomy Action Plan. It is important that the certification provided by the program is in line with future taxonomy criteria.

Green Seal and Amazon Seal Programs (MDIC)

In 2023, the federal government, through the MDIC, released proposals to establish certification programs for Brazilian products and services with a focus on environmental and social sustainability: (i) the Green Seal Program; and (ii) the Amazon Seal Program. The proposed decrees establishing the initiatives were put out for public consultation by the MDIC’s Secretariat for Green Economy, Decarbonization and Bioindustry. To come into force, it is necessary to publish a normative act establishing the program.

The two programs establish voluntary certification seals with the aim of promoting environmental sustainability, ensuring competitiveness and facilitating access for certified products to the national and global markets.

The Green Seal Program aims to “establish and develop a national certification strategy for the recognition of Brazilian products and services that are proven to have a socio-environmentally responsible life cycle and that meet the sustainability requirements demanded by the main global markets” (MDIC 2023a, as translated by the authors). According to the MDIC, the program aims to unify and harmonize, in the Green Seal certification, the proof that Brazilian exporters comply with environmental norms, standards and regulations of the main international markets. The program aims to act as a “passport to export”, simplifying the process for Brazilian exporters, who would now have the Green Seal Brazil, a voluntary third-party certification.

The Amazon Seal Program aims to develop a national standardization and conformity assessment strategy for the recognition and promotion of bioproducts and services from the Legal Amazon produced or provided in a socio-economically and environmentally sustainable manner (MDIC 2023b). This program will also establish voluntary third-party certification. This program will also have the function of contributing to the development of criteria and minimum requirements for the technical standardization of bioproducts and services from the Amazon.

The development of each of the programs will be participatory. Each program will have a management committee, made up of public and private institutions, to support the development of Brazilian technical standard criteria for certifying the products and services under consideration. The companies certifying the Green Seal and the Amazon Seal must be accredited by the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia – INMETRO) and follow the technical standards set for the seals by the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas – ABNT).

The public consultations to submit contributions to the text of the decree to establish the programs were closed in December 2023 and, according to the MDIC, the criteria should be established in 2024 (MDIC 2023c). In the draft decrees, there is no explicit mention of the Brazilian Sustainable Taxonomy, nor does the action plan mention these two initiatives. It is important that these certifications are also in line with the future taxonomy criteria.

See full report

[1] The spreadsheet for entering the information and generating the indicators can be downloaded from EMBRAPA (2015a).

[2] The spreadsheet for entering the information and generating the indicators can be downloaded from EMBRAPA (2015b).

[3] The practice of minimal soil disturbance alone, called “No-till Farming” or “Direct Seeding” (Plantio Direto/ Semeadura Direta – PD/SD), does not guarantee the adoption of SPD, which must follow the three principles of conservation cropping. According to MAPA (2021), less than 15% of the crop area that adopts PD/SD fully adopts the SPD concept.

[4] The platform still has limitations for analysis at the property level, since in some cases the unit of analysis (pixel) of the satellite image corresponds to an area larger than many rural properties.

[5] Fields reported: sub-program, production systems (type of crop, type of integration/consortium, type of cultivation/farming, type of irrigation), modality, product financed and variety.

[6] List provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego – MTE) (MTE 2023)..

[7] Recently, the announcement of the 2023/24 Brazilian Agricultural Plan provided for a 0.5 percentage point discount on the interest rate for credit operations that prove the use of sustainable practices (MAPA 2023c). Although this is a possible way of using the definition of criteria, based on the SICOR fields, to identify such practices, the announcement has not yet become a de facto regulation.

[8] The data collected refers to rural credit granted for working capital and investment purposes.

[9] Rural credit has four purposes: working capital, investment, industrialization and commercialization.

[10] Survey based on the most recent version of the publication (MAPA 2022).

[11] The products considered to be related to the “ABC – No-till Farming” subprogram are: cotton, peanuts, rice, oats, ryegrass, canola, rye, barley, beans, sunflower, millet, corn, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, buckwheat, and triticale.

[12] The figure only considered first-crop crops, since second and third crops and winter crops, which total around 19.7 million hectares, are planted in first-crop areas.

[13] The amount of rural credit earmarked for working capital (and investment) purposes for corn and soybeans increased from 24.7% in the 2015/16 harvest to 26.9% in the 2022/23 harvest.


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