Nature and Biodiversity

João Pedro Rocha: The bridge builder with an eye for local climate solutions

This Global Shaper -- in the forefront of the image -- is working to help feed the people of Rio de Janeiro sustainable and healthy food — a local climate solution that builds upon the city's culture.

This Global Shaper is working to help feed the people of Rio de Janeiro sustainable and healthy food — a local climate solution that builds upon the city's culture. Image: Global Shapers Rio de Janeiro

Julie Masiga
Communications Lead, Centre for Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum
Chris Hamill-Stewart
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Global Shapers Annual Summit

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  • Many of the most impactful solutions to climate change take place at a local level.
  • This Global Shaper wants to further those local solutions — but make sure they're tailored to his Rio di Janeiro culture and community.
  • This year, we recognize the transformative impact of João Pedro Rocha's previous participation as a winner of The Climate Reality Project innovation grant challenge.

Climate change is a global-scale problem with local solutions. The challenges one community faces, though caused by the same underlying problem, often look nothing like those faced by others elsewhere.

For João Pedro Rocha, Global Shaper and Impact Officer at the Global Shapers Rio de Janeiro Hub, Brazil, this is fundamental to his own view of the world.

A native of Rio de Janeiro City, Rocha has spent much of his life so far working to bring locally-driven solutions to climate-related problems.

“I believe that what brings the beauty of Rio de Janeiro city is our diversity,” he tells the World Economic Forum. “To protect our culture and environment we need to act locally.”

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Building local climate solutions

He knew he wanted to fight climate change on a local level early, he explained.

“I live right beside a state park, one of the biggest inside a city in Brazil. My neighbourhood suffers a lot from urban sprawl pressure,” he says.

“Since 2004, the municipality has tried to change the urban law (as a master plan) to try to allow buildings and more dense construction. In 2009, this pressure became stronger and terrible legislation was approved (called PEU das Vargens).”

“At that time I was in high school and was volunteering with my dad at the local association … I understood that I needed to study and learn how to propose different alternatives and projects from a climate and environmental perspective.”

His environmental advocacy has always been fiercely local, but guided by the need to confront global challenges.

Take, for example, his work at Nossa Horta, a grassroots movement he started alongside his neighbours to develop local community gardens. He explains that he wanted to provide clean, healthy and sustainable fresh food for locals — an approach tied into the local culture, history and people.

Rocha says: “We want to promote collective gardens and keep our agriculture culture alive, and at the same time help people to access clean and healthy food. In the end, we also want to promote the wider climate project.”

For the last two years, up until recently, Rocha had worked closely with the municipal parliament as a climate advisor. He said that among his biggest achievements in that role were proposing the first-ever Climate Education law for Rio, and being a part of the team pushing for a Climate Emergency Declaration in Rio de Janeiro.

“Both laws are pioneers in Brazil, and I'm really proud to be the one who helped to write them,” he said.


What is a Global Shaper?

Global Shapers Brazil

From his work on local climate challenges, he said realised that these kinds of fights are being replicated all over he world. That is part of what drew him to the Global Shapers community.

“From the local reality, I started to join global networks and see that these challenges are happening in many other places. And I wanted to be part of a global community that could also impact locally.”

The Rio de Janeiro hub focuses on sustainability and equality. One of the Hub’s projects — Agroecology and climate change in Favelas — works alongside Rocha’s Nossa Horta to promote food security, generate income and improve climate education through community gardens and greenhouses in low-income communities of Brazilian cities.

The Brazilian context

In Brazil, projects like Rocha's are essential. More than 33.1 million people face hunger in Brazil, and the country’s favelas have doubled in size in the last 10 years.

The economy was scarred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which left More than half of the Brazilian population suffering from food insecurity in 2022. But it’s not just Brazil. Hunger and food insecurity are growing problems in many places.

Throughout this work, Rocha has played a key role in coordinating and fostering collaboration.

“I’m a bridge builder, I love to connect people and opportunities. I’m also a ‘hands-on’ person that likes to be also in action. Sometimes building public policies, other times being an activist or doing some volunteer work,” he says.

As for what the future holds, for Rocha, local issues remain paramount.

“My dream for my community is that we have a local sustainable development plan that is created and implemented collectively.” This plan, he adds, must “connect our culture with climate and economic policies.”

Learning to Lead: How Grassroots Activism is Saving Our Planet is a blog series that delves into the Global Shapers Community's top Climate Leaders. This series aims to celebrate the accomplishments of our Climate Leaders and inspire readers to take action in their own communities.

By amplifying their voices and sharing their stories, we hope to empower individuals to join the global movement towards a sustainable and resilient future.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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