Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions rose 9.5% in 2020 with Amazon deforestation, study shows

An aerial view shows deforestation near an Amazonian forest in Brazil in July 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA (REUTERS) - Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions increased by 9.5 per cent in 2020, largely due to increased deforestation in the Amazon during the second year of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's government, said a report published on Thursday (Oct 28) by climate change experts.

While most countries generated less carbon emissions during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Brazil in 2020 emitted 2.16 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), up from 1.97 billion in 2019, according to the study.

Including greenhouse gas removal by secondary forests and protected areas, net emissions rose 14 per cent last year to 1.52 GtCO2e, according to the so-called SEEG study sponsored by the Climate Observatory advocacy group.

"Deforestation continues to dominate our emissions, with an upward trend in the very year in which Brazil should start meeting Paris Climate Agreement targets," said climate expert Tasso Azevedo, who coordinated the SEEG study.

The rise in deforestation will put Brazil at a disadvantage in climate negotiations at COP26, beginning on Sunday in Glasgow, said Climate Observatory head Marcio Astrini.

"Brazil has achieved the feat of being perhaps the only large emitter that polluted more during the first year of the pandemic," he said.

Brazil will step up its Paris Accord targets at COP26 as it tries to recover credibility for its environmental policies, bringing forward to 2050 from 2060 its goal for carbon neutrality, or net zero gas emissions.

At an Earth Day summit hosted in April by United States President Joe Biden, Mr Bolsonaro promised to end illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. But he continues to push for commercial mining and agriculture there, including on protected indigenous lands.

Environmental activists warn that those distant climate targets are at odds with what is now happening in the Amazon, with authorities turning a blind eye to illegal logging and mining, which has pushed the world's largest tropical forest towards a point of no return.

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