Frame Analysis in Environmental Conflicts : The case of ethanol production in Brazil

Abstract: Governments and policy-makers are currently dealing with some key issues as energy security in countries dependent on oil imports; global economic development, including increased food production; and controlling global climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The perception that biofuel could solve these challenges simultaneously has led to the implementation of policy and regulatory mechanisms on the mandatory use of biofuels, resulting in a sharp increase in biofuel production and consumption. Serious concerns about large-scale ethanol production have been raised regarding loss of biodiversity and competition for land between food and ethanol production. It is also suggested that sugarcane-based ethanol increases GHG emissions due to indirect land use change. Furthermore, sugarcane harvesting has been criticised for causing air pollution and bad working conditions for cutters. These criticisms have mostly been denied by Brazilian actors. This thesis seeks to clarify these divergent views and conflicts concerning Brazilian ethanol. It was carried out within a KTH research programme that uses frames in the analysis of conflicts emerging from the development and implementation of new technologies. Frame analysis can help improve understanding of such conflicts, which derive from differences in values, world views and beliefs and can be difficult to resolve. Frame analysis seeks to identify the particular factors determining the actions taken by different stakeholders, giving equal treatment to all actors. The results showed that the international views expressed in the media captured the attention of the public and policy-makers, and led them to frame ethanol as a destructive for nature fuel. The analysis identified that the ethanol as a threat to food security frame combined with the ethanol as a destructive for nature frame led the public and policy-makers to frame ethanol as a brown fuel. However, Brazilian actors frame ethanol differently: as a green and safe fuel. These differences have raised the conflicts that are analysed in this thesis. Furthermore, the analysis identified that the changes in the harvesting system, from manual to mechanised –besides decreasing air pollution- will cost the job of hundreds of thousands of cane cutters. Values and beliefs orientating such changes are analysed in the thesis.