Brazil pledges 50 percent emissions cut by 2030 in change of tone

Environmentalist says Brazil is attempting to rebuild goodwill amid global outrage about deforestation in the Amazon.

al jazeera correspondent - the crying forest - picture gallery
Deforestation in the Amazon is rising under far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, leading to international criticism [File: Marcelo Sayao/EPA]

Brazil has pledged to raise its climate commitments at the start of the COP26 in Glasgow, marking a change of tone after more than two years of soaring deforestation under President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 9.5 percent in 2020, according to a study released last week sponsored by Climate Observatory found.

Deforestation, which hit a 12-year high in Brazil’s Amazon in 2020, is the biggest source of the country’s emissions. Anger about rainforest destruction has led to international condemnation and pressure on investors to avoid products linked to deforestation.

Brazil’s Environment Minister Joaquim Leite said on Monday the country would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, compared with a previous commitment to reduce emissions by 43 percent during that period.

The reductions are calculated against emissions levels in 2005.

That baseline was retroactively revised down last year, making it easier for Brazil’s targets to be met. Advocacy group Climate Observatory said that a 50 percent reduction was still weaker than the 43 percent commitment using the pre-Bolsonaro baseline, meaning Brazil had not, in reality, increased its ambition.

In a pre-recorded video shown at COP26, Bolsonaro said he had authorised Leite to submit new climate targets at the summit.

“We will act responsibly and search for real solutions for an urgent transition,” Bolsonaro said.

“I reaffirm my message to all who participate in COP26 and the Brazilian people: Brazil is part of the solution to overcome this global problem.”

Leite also said that Brazil would formalise a commitment to become “climate neutral” by 2050 during COP26, a promise first made by Bolsonaro in April.

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, lauded Brazil’s shift.

“We welcome Brazil’s new commitments to end illegal deforestation by 2028, achieve a significant 50% GHG reduction by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050,” Kerry said on Twitter. “This adds crucial momentum to the global movement to combat the #climatecrisis”.

In contrast, Julia Neiva, head of environmental programs at the Sao Paulo-based non-profit Conectas Direitos Humanos, said Brazil sees COP26 as an opportunity to repair its tattered reputation on climate change.

For example, she said Bolsonaro gave a speech last month at the UN General Assembly in which he praised Brazil’s environmental laws – without mentioning his government’s efforts to weaken them.

“Whoever listens to the government’s presentations should question them … because they are doing the opposite of what they say,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies