Once climate leader, Brazil fails in Glasgow

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil, a global climate leader turned environmental villain under President Jair Bolsonaro, approached the United Nati...


RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil, a global climate leader turned environmental villain under President Jair Bolsonaro, approached the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow ready to prove it was changing course, with commitments to create a green jobs program, reduce carbon emissions and curb deforestation.

But even though John Kerry, the US climate envoy, said on twitter As these measures add “crucial momentum” to the fight against climate change, environmentalists argued that the plans lacked the ambition and details that would make them credible.

And Mr Bolsonaro’s egregious absence from the summit has raised questions about his commitment to the overthrow.

One week before the start of the conference, Mr. Bolsonaro said in an interview that he would not appear for “strategic” reasons, without specifying. A few days later, Vice President Hamilton Mourão suggested that Mr Bolsonaro wanted to protect himself from the exposure.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, supervised a skyrocketing deforestation Amazonia and the widespread neglect of environmental regulations, which have made it the target of condemnation at home and abroad.

If the president attends the summit, “everyone will throw stones at him”, Mr. Mourão told reporters. Instead, he said, “there will be a strong team out there with the ability to, say, carry out the negotiating strategy.”

Days before the conference, the Brazilian government announced a policy to create green jobs while preserving the country’s vast forests. Then, on Monday, Brazil pledged to halve its emissions by 2030, achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and end illegal deforestation by 2028, a step up from its commitment. from last year.

In a video shared at one of the summit’s side events, Mr Bolsonaro called Brazil a “green power” and said that “in tackling climate change, we have always been part of the solution, not of the problem “.

Tuesday, Brazil joins more than 100 other countries by committing to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. It has consistently refused to make such a commitment because most of its methane is released by the agricultural sector, one of the main engines of the economy Brazilian.

Yet Mr Bolsonaro’s absence flies in the face of the argument that Brazil is backing down, said Natalie Unterstell, president of the Talanoa Institute, a climate policy think tank.

“It’s a big contradiction,” she said. “When he should confirm that he wants to be more ambitious on climate issues, he is not present.”

Environmentalists and political opponents in Brazil were quick to dig holes in the announcements. The green growth plan lacked details to make it credible, they said, and the emissions commitments included an important caveat, revealed by looking at the technical aspects of the proposal.

In 2015, under the Paris Agreement, Brazil promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 43%. Today, it has pledged to reduce its emissions by 50 percent. But what looks like an improvement isn’t, experts say. The base number used for the calculation in both cases – Brazil’s emissions in 2005 – has been adjusted since the first commitment. So each engagement translates into roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide reduction, about 1.2 gigatons.

“This is an old new commitment,” said Marcelo Ramos, representative of the state of Amazonas and vice president of the lower house of Brazil. “Once again, Brazil is not showing ambition.

Then there is the issue of Brazil’s record. By law, the country was supposed to have already started cutting emissions. Instead, the broadcasts reached levels not seen since 2006, making it one of the few countries where emissions increased during the pandemic.

The increase is largely due to a surge in deforestation. From August 2020 to July 2021, the Brazilian part of the Amazon lost 4,200 square miles of tree cover, according to the latest figures published by the National Institute for Space Research. If Brazil had honored its previous deforestation commitments, the rate would be around a third of what it is now.

Still, the timetable released by the government in time for the Glasgow summit would reverse the country’s trend and cut deforestation by 15% from next year – a drop Brazil has not seen in nearly a decade.

The lack of credibility of Brazil’s commitments is already hurting its economy. Dozens of environmental and human rights groups wrote a letter urging the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to heed the country’s poor environmental record before accepting it as a member of its club of developed countries . He also led political leaders in Europe delay the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the European Union and the South American Mercosur bloc.

Many other Brazilian leaders are eager to show that the country is more than Mr. Bolsonaro’s vision. The heads of some of Brazil’s biggest companies and more than half of the country’s state governors are in Glasgow to present their own plans.

“It’s hard to do a lot without the federal government,” says Marcello Brito, spokesperson for the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, a non-profit organization that reaches out to major agribusiness and environmentalists. “But we’ll show our faces and find a way to attract some of the green funding that’s available around the world.”

As the most biodiverse country in the world, with an electricity grid that relies primarily on clean energy, Brazil could greatly benefit from a greener global economy. Ending illegal deforestation and restoring degraded land could help the country exceed its carbon dioxide emissions target, allowing it to sell the difference in the form of carbon credits to countries and businesses that cannot reach their own. goals alone.

Regulating this international trade in emissions credits, which is described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, is one of the most ambitious goals nations hope to achieve in Glasgow. The global market could generate 167 billion dollars per year by 2030, according to the International Emissions Trading Association.

And if it is able to take action to protect its environment, Brazil could be uniquely placed to benefit.

“We could use the revenues from a carbon market to reduce inequalities,” said Ms. Unterstell, an expert on climate policy. “Decarbonization does not impose a sacrifice on the Brazilian economy, quite the contrary.



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