Brazil’s carbon emissions increased by 9.6 percent in 2019 mainly because of higher deforestation in the Amazon during the first year of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, environmentalists warned.
New data released on Friday indicated Brazil will fail to meet its carbon emissions targets for this year and is moving away from its 2025 target and commitments under the Paris climate accord.
Brazil emitted the equivalent of 2.175 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2019, according to the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental organisations.
In 2018, CO2 emissions reached 1.98 billion tonnes, 0.3 percent more than in 2017.
Brazil managed to reduce emissions from 2004 through 2012, but the new data confirms the trend has been reversed despite the voluntary targets agreed to before the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. Those targets were then set into Brazilian law and became binding for the government.
“We are dangerously going in the wrong direction,” said Tasso Azevedo, a climate expert who coordinated the study.
“Since regulation of the national climate law in 2010, Brazil has increased by 28 percent the amount of greenhouse gases it discharges into the air annually, instead of reducing it,” Azevedo added.
The growth of emissions in 2019 was driven by skyrocketing deforestation in the Amazon rain forest, which accounted for 44 percent of Brazil’s total CO2 emissions, the study said.
The world’s biggest rain forest is a vital resource in the fight against climate change, as its trees suck carbon from the air. But when they are felled and burned they release it back.
“Our 2020 goal was easy to reach. We were only going to miss it if there was a tragedy – and that’s exactly what’s happening,” Marcio Astrini, Climate Observatory executive secretary, said.
The report came as Vice President Hamilton Mourao, the head of Bolsonaro’s task force on the Amazon, led foreign ambassadors on a three-day visit to the region in a bid to improve the government’s international image on the environment.
But environmental groups condemned the trip as a whitewash.
“They are flying on a route that’s strategically planned to hide the evidence of the destruction of the forest, even as deforestation and wildfires are at a 10-year high,” Greenpeace said in a statement.