Brazil's CO2 emissions at 20-year low

The reduction coincided with decreasing deforestation in the Amazon, which fell 78% from 2004 to 2011

Brazil's CO2 emissions at 20-year low

World Bulletin/News Desk

Environmental groups in Brazil say that decreasing deforestation in the Amazon has pushed greenhouse gases to their lowest level in more than 20 years, but warned that this good work could soon be undone by rising emissions in other industries.

Brazil’s greenhouse gas output was 1.48 billion tons of carbon equivalent (CO2e) in 2012, the Climate Observatory said, and peaked in 2004, at 2.9 billion tons CO2e.

This reduction coincided with decreasing deforestation in the Amazon, which fell 78% from 2004 to 2011, according to a separate 2012 study by the National Institute of Spatial Research.

Brazil's emissions grew by 7% between 1990 and 2012, significantly below the world average of 37%. Total global emissions of greenhouse gases totaled about 52 billion tons of CO2e in 2012, according to estimates by EDGAR, the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research. In the same year, Brazil contributed 1.6 billion tons CO2e, some 3%, falling from its 2004 peak of 6%.

In relation to the size of Brazil, with 5% of the world’s total land area, this could be considered relatively little. However, it is consistent with Brazil’s population (2.8% of the world population) and its Gross Domestic Product, which accounts for 2.89% of global GDP.

Even so, the executive secretary of the Climate Observatory counseled caution, pointing out that the tendency of increased emissions in all sectors except those linked to deforestation meant that the data did not offer cause for celebration.

“Brazil is still, according to our estimates, among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the 7th,” said Rittl.“Furthermore, emissions from other sectors, such as energy and agriculture, are growing over time.”

Deforestation still too high

Deforestation has historically produced the lion’s share of Brazil’s emissions, as logging and farming has pushed into increasingly remote parts of Brazil’s Amazon forest, destroying carbon storage and releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

A concerted effort to slow this down has had a marked effect on the country’s emissions: Climate Observatory’s data for the “Land Use Change” sector, which measures emissions from deforestation, shows emissions falling 42% from 1990 to 2012.

Rittl said that although the rate at which Brazil’s forests are being destroyed had fallen, it was still very high, and that Brazil lead the world in emissions linked to deforestation.

“The country does not monitor vegetation cover in other regions besides the Amazon with the same frequency as this region, which prevents further analysis of emission trends necessary for this sector,” he added. “Only with a new and significant reduction of these [deforestation] rates could we say that we are in the right direction, that of zero deforestation.”

Other industries have a long way to go

Despite an overall drop thanks to deforestation rates, the report notes that, “in other sectors there is a clear trend of increasing emissions, with strong pressure from the energy sector.”

Energy sector emissions increased 126% from 1990 to 2012 and are likely to continue rising. Brazil’s energy matrix may currently enjoy an unusually high proportion of clean energy - thanks in large part to its enviable natural water resources – but recent huge subsalt oil discoveries and planned shale exploration are likely to change this.

Rittl noted that the government’s ten-year energy plan, published recently, indicated investments of more than R$700 billion in fossil energy sources.

“This is 72% of all investment in the country's energy directed to sources that generate massive emissions of greenhouse gases,” he said. We're "dirtying" our energy matrix at a time when we could invest more in renewable low impact sources, whose potential is huge in Brazil, such as wind, solar and biomass.”

Similarly, the emissions from the sectors of “Industrial Processes and Waste increased by 65% and 64% respectively, and greenhouse gases released by the agricultural sector rose 45% to 445 million tons in 2011 – their highest ever recorded level.

Agricultural emissions dropped slightly in 2012, to 440 million tons, but Rittl said that this not due to the adoption of low carbon practices, but to the “mass death of livestock” in Brazil’s northeast, due to one of the worst droughts in the region in history.

“That is, the vulnerability of agricultural activity in the country to a much drier climate caused the reduction of emissions.”

Targets

The nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19), known as the UN Climate Convention, begins next week in Warsaw, Poland.

As a developing country, Brazil was not required at the last conference to agree to a binding target to reduce emissions. However, Brazil set its own voluntary target, to reduce projected emissions for 2020 by 36.1% under itsNational Policy on Climate Change.

Last Mod: 09 Kasım 2013, 14:40
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