Climate Summit promises much; Brazil, little
April 22, Earth Day, is the start of the Climate Summit (or Leaders Summit on Climate its official name). It brings together leaders from 40 countries as a type of warm-up for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Its main symbolism is the return of the United States to the climate and environmental agenda, after four years of disengagement and neglect by the Trump government. In practice, promises that take into consideration, for the first time in fact, the need for a world with an average increase of temperature up to 1.5 ºC, in comparison with the pre-industrial period.
In his speech, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, put a new ambition on the table: the 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, with 2005 as the base year. Compatible with the science, the goal doubles the previous target, set in 2015. According to Biden, this is a measure that will position the United States on the path to zero emissions by 2050.
China and the European Union joined the chorus and produced speeches and plans that could lead to economic decarbonization and green recovery. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, even signaled a reduction in the use of coal – an Achilles' heel for the main emitting nation in the world.
The largest disappointment was due to the lack of more ambitious commitments of financing by the developed countries to assist the poorest nations in achieving their mitigation and adaptation goals. The climate community expected much more.
What about Brazil?
Brazil, once again, proved to be detached from reality and was left behind in the line of practices, agreements and multilateral support. In a speech that lasted about six minutes, Jair Bolsonaro praised the environmental gains by previous governments and presented some questionable proposals and figures.
As the Climate Observatory noted, Bolsonaro reported the commitment to zero illegal deforestation by 2030, which is a goal that was withdrawn from the new Brazilian Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) sent by his government to the UNFCCC in December 2020. He also reinforced the plan to reduce national emissions by 37% up to 2025 and by 40% up to 2030, when, in fact, the new NDC officially submitted by the federal government maintains the reduction of 43% from the first document filed by Brazil in 2015, although changing the methodology, which in practice allows more emissions and reduces our climate ambition.
By stating that he ordered the doubling of the budget for environmental inspection, Bolsonaro omits to say that the budget for the Ministry of the Environment for 2021 is the lowest in 21 years, and also that over 600 employees have signed a letter saying that inspection by Ibama has stopped. In his speech, there was no lack of what he does best: the president reinforced the request for international money in exchange for "environmental services provided to the world by our biomes." He did not mention, however, the more than R$ 3 billion that the Amazon Fund has in an account, which is frozen.
In fact, the Amazon Fund, which is a national creation, served as an inspiration for the United States, United Kingdom and Norway to join some of the largest private companies in the world to launch the LEAF Coalition. This seeks to mobilize 1 billion dollars in order to help countries protect their tropical forests. The consideration is that these nations have to demonstrate results in the reduction of deforestation on their own account. This is something that Brazil cannot do because the rates have only increased since 2019. In other words, before counting on international contributions, the government has a significant amount of homework to do – which is quite ironic for a country that until recently was seen as an example
In praising Brazil and the supposed 84% of the Amazon that continues to be preserved, the president could listen to one of the leading climatologists in Brazil, Carlos Nobre. According to him, about 20% of the Amazon forest has already been deforested by clear cutting. There is still an additional estimated area of 10% to 20% in different degrees of degradation. The deforestation, he recalls, was the reason why the greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil increased in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic, while they reduced in most countries.
“Jair Bolsonaro talked a lot about having the largest forest in the world and the cleanest energy. The real truth is that nature has been very generous with Brazil, and has positioned it as a climate leader on the global stage. We would like to have seen not only a reflection on the benefits that nature provides us with, but also how we will use this asset and this position in tackling climate change. We are throwing this opportunity away,” says Ana Toni, executive director of iCS.
Política por Inteiro [Politics on the Whole] evaluated Bolsonaro's speech point by point and announced its result: bad. The only point considered as a good one was the anticipation of the goal of neutralization for 2050 – informally, it had been 2060. See the table with comments here.
The truth is that the planet seems to have taken the first step to establish the necessary actions to confront climate change after the ratification of the Paris Agreement. However, in this group, the portrait of Brazil is not one of the best.