In the first year of Jair Bolsonaro’s government (no party), Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 9.6%. The main driver of the increase has been deforestation, which is growing rapidly and showing no sign of disruption under the current administration.
In total, Brazil emitted 2.17 billion tCO2e in 2019 (read tonnes of CO2 equivalent, where the “equivalent” is a way to convert measurements of other types of greenhouse gases to make the data easier to read).
The data are part of the latest estimate by Seeg (System for Estimating Emissions and Removal of Greenhouse Gases), an initiative of the Climate Observatory, a network of more than 50 NGOs.
The method used by Seeg to measure emissions follows the guidelines of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and was published in 2018 in the Scientific Data Magazine of the Nature Group, one of the most respected in the world.
Seeg analyzes various sectors responsible for emissions. These are: land use changes (this is where the deforestation calculation comes into play), agriculture, energy, industrial processes and waste.
And it is precisely in the land use category that emissions rose by 23% to 968 million tCO2e in 2019. In 2018 this category emitted 788 million tCO2e.
In the past year, land use change was responsible for 44% of gas emissions. Agriculture is the second largest producer of Brazilian emissions at 28%. The sector posted a slight year-on-year increase in emissions of 1.1%.
As a result, agribusiness was directly or indirectly responsible for 72% of Brazil’s emissions in 2019.
Third place in Brazilian emissions is energy, which is responsible for 19% of the gases released. Between 2018 and 2019 there was a slight increase of 1.1% in this sector. According to Seeg, the increase in emissions corresponds to higher energy consumption, which, in addition to the increase in the use of diesel, led to the activation of gas-fired power plants in the country for freight transport.
Then, with 5% of national emissions, there appears the sector of industrial processes and the use of products, the only one to show a decrease (2%) in emissions due to the crisis in the industry, mainly given the slowdown in steel activity.
After all, waste is responsible for 4% of Brazil’s emissions. The sector recorded slight emissions growth of 1.3% between 2018 and 2019.
Even taking into account the net emissions of greenhouse gases (i.e. deducting the carbon bound by standing forests), the situation in 2019 means a significant growth of 13% compared to the previous year. The net emission in 2019 was around 1.57 GtCO2e (gigatons of CO2 equivalent).
The year 2020 marks the ten years of regulation of the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC) and the date when Brazil should fulfill some of the commitments it has made.
However, according to the analysis of the Seeg data, the targets are not being met and the main culprit for this is the increase in deforestation (even with an increase in emissions in other sectors).
The country is linked to two emission reduction targets. One of them referred to the PNMC and the current year and the other to the so-called NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) and the Paris Agreement with a target of 2025.
According to the PNMC, the country is expected to arrive with emissions of around 2.068 billion tons of CO2e in 2020 (value based on the less ambitious target). To this end, one of the key points would be to reduce deforestation in the legal Amazon by 80% compared to the average between 1996 and 2005, which would lead to deforestation of around 3,925 km².
With a degree of destruction in the Amazon of over 10,000 km² in 2019 and renewed growth in deforestation in 2020 (a year that should be well above the previous mark), a reduction of 80% is not plausible.
In addition, forecasts by Seeg for 2020, which are based on the scenarios of the last five years, indicate emissions of 2.2 GtCO2e.
The Seeg report also suggests that the PNMC’s goal was far from reality. The policy proposed reduction (from 36.1% to 38.9%) was calculated based on a scenario in which nothing was done to reduce emissions. However, the base calculation was based on meaningful annual GDP growth that was still far from being realized and on an increase in fossil fuel consumption in the energy sector in Brazil (a country with a largely cleaner energy matrix based on hydropower plants).
The scenario, which was used as a parameter in which nothing was done to reduce emissions, has therefore been “artificially inflated”, the report says. “The PNMC’s premises were unreal, and yet Brazil contradicted politics and increased its emissions by almost a third since 2010,” the document reads.
As for the NDC, the country needs to reduce emissions by 17% by 2025, compared to 2019 data that Seeg considers feasible. However, there are a few points that hinder the realization of the framework.
First, Brazil should present a new NDC in 2020, which is more ambitious than the previous one proposed in 2015. This has not yet been done. In addition, the country has been showing a picture of increased emissions since 2010.
Finally, the Bolsonaro government’s environmental policy points to a path that runs counter to emissions reductions, especially when one takes into account the government’s lack of concrete anti-deforestation plans.
The Bolsonaro government, for example, canceled plans to prevent and control
Deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado. It had also paralyzed the Climate Fund and, without further explanation, blocked the Amazon Fund, which benefited measures to conserve and combat deforestation.
The government continues to deliver a speech denying the problems related to deforestation and fire, and from time to time reiterates plans to revise regulations or reduce protected areas such as indigenous areas and nature reserves.