Brazil increases 9.5% greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, despite the pandemic – 10/28/2021 – Environment

Even with the pandemic, which stopped the world and reduced global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2020, Brazil increased its emissions by 9.5% compared to the previous year.

With this, the country reached the highest value of tons of gases emitted since 2006. The main responsible for the situation was the high deforestation in the Amazon and in the cerrado, a constant under the government of Jair Bolsonaro (no party).

In 2020, Brazil emitted 2.16 billion tons of CO2e (leia CO2 equivalent, which is a sum of all greenhouse gases), according to data from SEEG (Estimating System for Emissions and Removals of Greenhouse Gases), released this Thursday morning (28), days before COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which starts on Sunday (31).

The program carries out an annual survey of Brazilian emissions and details the sectors from which they originate. In 2019, there were 1.97 billion tons. The 9.5% increase represents the highest percentage increase since 2003.

Land-use change (broadly, deforestation) alone accounted for 46% of national emissions in 2020—or 998 million tons of CO2e— and remains the country’s central source of greenhouse gases.

Gases released by deforestation had an increase of 23%, compared to the previous year. This growth ended up canceling the drop in emissions caused by the pandemic in the energy sector (which includes transport) and threw up the data for Brazil.

Agriculture appears next on the list of the most polluting activities in the country, responsible for 27% of gross emissions, the equivalent of 577 million tons of CO2and. The list goes on with the energy sector (18%), industrial processes (5%) and the waste area (4%).

Considering that part of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to agricultural activities, agribusiness accounts for an important share of national emissions. According to Seeg, in 2020, around 73% of Brazil’s emissions were directly or indirectly linked to rural production and land speculation.

Due to the weight of deforestation in emissions, the leading states in terms of greenhouse gases in the country are Pará and Mato Grosso. Then come Minas Gerais and São Paulo, which in 2020 lost the third position, due to the impact of the pandemic on the state’s activity.

Seeg data point to a growing curve of emissions in the country in the last decade. This becomes even more problematic in the context of the climate crisis, in which large polluters —in the case of Brazil, fifth in the world ranking— must make more efforts to contain the problem.

The Paris Agreement, to which Brazil is a signatory, points to the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to contain the increase in the global average temperature below 2°C and preferably up to 1.5°C.

The most recent report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), however, points to the difficulty of achieving this objective and to irreversible situations in the crisis. Analyzes of the climate goals of countries (called NDCs) that are part of the Paris Agreement also show that the goal remains distant, more specifically, close to a temperature increase of 2.7°C.

The destruction of the Brazilian Amazon —and, consequently, the emissions that this process generates— has received increasing international attention. The forest situation and deforestation at high levels should weaken Brazil at the COP26 negotiating table.

The Bolsonaro government, which plans, once again, to go to the meeting betting on the search for funds to avoid destruction, launched, earlier this week, the National Program for Green Growth. The plan presented, however, is generic, with no details of actions.

The Policy for Whole project, which follows changes in legislation, pointed out that it is “another program packed with ‘green'”.

Emissions in economic sectors

The energy sector was the only one that showed a reduction in emissions, with a drop of 4.6%. This was due to isolation measures in the country, according to the Seeg report, which led to a lower consumption of gasoline. Other than that, electricity consumption — also part of the energy sector’s purview — did not undergo major changes in 2020.

For the next edition of Seeg, referring to 2021, however, the situation in this sector should change. With the water and energy crisis that took place in the country this year, more thermoelectric plants were activated, which should increase emissions.

The industrial processes sector had a slight upward movement of 0.5%.

Agriculture also showed an increase in emissions, 2.5%. This happened because during the crisis resulting from the pandemic, there was a reduction in meat consumption in the country. As a result, the cattle end up staying longer in the pasture, and thus, release more methane (one of the greenhouse gases).

The pandemic also impacted the waste sector, with an increase of 1.6% in emissions. The Seeg bulletin points out that this was due to the treatment of domestic effluents and the growth in solid waste generation during the pandemic.

National Policy on Climate Change

In addition to the context of the climate crisis and greater need for ambition in reducing greenhouse gases, the 2020 emissions data are also important for being part of the National Policy on Climate Change.

The 2009 law, in its article 12, stipulated that the country should reduce its emissions, until in the past, between 36.1% and 38.9%, in relation to hypothetical projections — something that is even criticized in a current bill that seeks to anticipate the reduction of emissions in the country.

According to the Seeg report, the calculation for such projection was inflated, following the assumptions that the GDP would have an annual growth of 5% and that all additional energy demand would be met by fossil fuels. In any case, Brazil was “below the least ambitious limit, which allows us to say that Brazil ‘scraped past’ the goal”, states the document.

At the same time, the country failed to comply with another norm present in the policy, that of reducing deforestation in the Amazon by 80%, by 2020, in relation to the 1996-2005 average.

It is also noteworthy that, since the regulation of the national climate policy, in 2010, Brazilian emissions have grown by 23.2%.

The context makes the country enter a delicate situation in a decisive climate decade. “With all this, the country formally enters the period of compliance with the Paris Agreement, in 2021, in a very uncomfortable situation from the point of view of climate policies”, points out the report.

Apart from increases in emissions, Brazil will reach COP26 with a new climate target, launched at the end of 2020, related to the Paris Agreement that allows for an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

According to a report by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) released this week, among the G20 countries, only Mexico and Brazil have regressed in their climate ambitions. Now, both countries’ goals are being challenged in court.


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