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Brazil’s Climate Plan – “We Won’t Chop Down As Many Trees”

October 23, 2015
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By Paul Homewood  




Next in the list of the biggest emitters, outside of North America and Europe, comes Brazil.

Their contribution is to cut emissions by 43% below 2005 levels in 2030:




It all sounds very impressive, and to some degree it is, but as ever the devil is in the detail.


If we move forward to the Additional Information section, we find that emissions have already fallen by 41% between 2005 and 2012, so there appears to be very little more saving to be made.




So, just how have they made such big cuts already?

The answer is that the targeted emissions include LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Changes and Forestry).

As the Brazilian Government’s own 2014 report on GHG’s showed, emissions from forestry changes, (ie chopping down trees), contributed the bulk of emissions in 2005, having steadily grown since the early 1990’s.

Since then, such emissions have fallen sharply as they have stopped destroying forests in such large numbers.



Click to access 235580.pdf


In contrast, however, GHG emissions from other sources have steadily continued to rise.

This is not simply a case of being churlish, as we can all agree that maintaining forests is important. However, the trees which were cut down in 2005 did not only stop taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. They absorbed none in 2006 or any of the following years. In other words, it is a cumulative effect.

To stop CO2 levels in the atmosphere increasing, we don’t only need to reduce actual emissions, we also need to reinstate the forests already lost, in other words create a carbon sink.


The next table, from the same report as the above one, shows the actual numbers:




Although overall emissions have decreased by 41.1% between 2005 and 2012, emissions from sources other than forests have increased by 19%, counteracted by a fall of 85% from forests, achieved as the Plan states mainly by reducing the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazonia.



The Plan goes on to promise:




But as they also state:




Although they talk of increasing output from renewables, in particular bio, it would appear that most of this will simply go towards increasing the supply of energy, rather than substituting for fossil fuels.

Indeed, as the Carbon Tracker website points out:


But the plans to decarbonize Brazilian power sector remains in stark contrast with the recent policy developments. In November 2014 Brazilian government opened power auctions to coal- and gas-fired power plants. The goal of this strategy was to increase the flexibility of the power sector in case hydro power plants will not be able to provide enough electricity to satisfy the rapidly increasing demand. But the success of the gas-fired power plants in the auctions and the government’s plans to increase power production from gas-fired power plants by 66% until 2023 compared to 2014 (Government of Brazil, 2014) may limit the options for deep decarbonisation in the more distant future of Brazilian economy.



There is one further point to make. All of these INDC’s are targeting all GHG’s, not just CO2, although the total numbers are expressed as CO2 equivalent. Other gases include  CH4, N2O, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and SF6, all of which are considerable more powerful as greenhouse gases, and there has consequently been a commensurate effort to cut these with urgency on a global basis.

We tend to concentrate solely on CO2 itself, and the Brazilian 2014 report on emissions helpfully gives figures for each gas:




Again we see the overall reduction of 41.1% since 2005, with the more powerful gases being weighted accordingly. But just taking CO2 alone, and excluding forestry changes, we get an increase from 378 to 508 million tonnes, from 2005 to 2012. In other words, a very substantial rise of 34%, as opposed to the 19% increase noted above for all GHG’s.

It is this figure which tells us most about energy usage.



To sum up, Brazil’s main contribution to the fight against global warming is stop cutting down as many trees, something they stopped doing ten years ago!





Final thought – Brazil produced 2.9% of the world’s oil output last year. Nowhere does the Plan state that they will cease production to help save the world from global warming. Although Mark Carney may not be too impressed, I would suggest that the rest of us should be most grateful!

  1. October 23, 2015 6:33 pm

    The solution to the global climate debate was hidden in unreported events in Konan, Korea in AUG-SEPT 1945 that changed the course of world history.

    If you want the answer, you must at least study two paper and decide for yourself if Earth’s heat source is a pulsar or a H-fusion reactor.

    After precise experimental data and observations showed unambiguous evidence the core of the Sun is the remnant of a supernova that birthed the solar system five billion years (5Ga) ago:

    Only then were we able to see that falsehoods had been inserted in the foundations of solar and nuclear physics immediately after WWII:

  2. ronhave permalink
    October 23, 2015 6:34 pm

    There is no evidence that CO2 has any measurable effect on climate. Gently increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 are probably beneficial to plant growth and therefore to food supply etc. There should be no restrictions on CO2 until there is some empirical evidence that it is harmful in any way whatsoever.
    Ronald G. Havelock, Ph.D.

  3. October 23, 2015 7:36 pm

    Hmm, Brazil will save the world by felling fewer trees, but the UK (Drax) and others will save the world by burning MORE Brazilian trees:

    This is one of those issues (like Carbon Capture and Storage) where I hope that the eco-warriors do their stuff and expose these subsidy-chasing scams.

  4. manicbeancounter permalink
    October 23, 2015 9:06 pm

    Something worth noting is the difference in estimates of Brazil’s emissions.
    With most of the INDC submissions the UNFCCC produces a country brief, with total GHG emissions.

    Click to access country-brief-brazil.pdf

    Comparing the total emissions estimates (including land use and agriculture is revealing

    Year UNFCCC BZ Govt Difference
    1990 1604 1389 215
    2000 1451 2100 -649
    2005 2548

    • manicbeancounter permalink
      October 23, 2015 9:26 pm

      …oops – hit enter in error!

      Something worth noting is the difference in estimates of Brazil’s emissions.
      With most of the INDC submissions the UNFCCC produces a country brief, with total GHG emissions.

      Click to access country-brief-brazil.pdf

      Comparing the total emissions estimates (including land use and agriculture is revealing

      Year UNFCCC BZ Govt Difference
      1990 1604………….1389 ………..215
      2000 1451………….2100…………-649
      2005 2548………….2048…………500
      2010 1604……………N/A
      2011 …N/A……………1302

      There are significant differences in emissions estimate for many other countries, but this shows that emissions are guesswork, particularly with respect to changes over time. Yet policy is aimed at making changes over time.
      Which is the correct answer to the following questions.
      1. Between 1990 and 2000 did Brazil’s total GHG emissions (a) Decrease 10% or (b) Increase 50% (c) No idea?
      2. Between 2000 and 2005 did Brazil’s total GHG emissions (a) Increase 75% or (b) Decrease 2.5% (c) No idea?

    • October 23, 2015 9:35 pm

      Yes, I have also noted large differences between the BP Energy Review and CDIAC

      I think they all give a reasonable estimate of trends, but the idea that we can monitor small changes year by year is nonsense.

      One of the things the Chinese are dead set against is independent monitoring of CO2. They know that if they are left to measure their own figures, they can massage them whichever way they want. Indeed I have seen reports just this week that that is exactly what they do with GDP numbers

  5. manicbeancounter permalink
    October 23, 2015 9:52 pm

    For meaningful budgeting it is necessary to use the same bases. In the comment above I noted there were difference measures of Brazil’s GHG emissions. Another area of difference is the years used.
    The UNFCCC (following the IPCC AR5) uses the key historical years of 1990 and 2010 in trying to make policy for 2030. There is a certain logic.
    Now look at Brazil’s INDC submission.

    Click to access BRAZIL%20iNDC%20english%20FINAL.pdf

    The base year is 2005. Even worse is this comment.

    In the period 2004-2012, Brazil’s GDP increased by 32%, while emissions dropped 52%
    (GWP-100; IPCC AR5), delinking economic growth from emission increase over the
    period, while at the same time Brazil lifted more than 23 million people out of poverty.7
    Per capita emissions decreased from 14.4 tCO2e (GWP-100; IPCC AR5) in 2004 to an
    estimated 6.5 tCO2e (GWP-100; IPCC AR5)in 2012. At this 2012 level, Brazil’s per capita
    emissions are already equivalent to what some developed countries have considered
    fair and ambitious for their average per capita emissions by 2030.

    Brazil is not alone in these shenanigans. Neither is it unexpected. In international negotiations each country has a moral obligation seek to obtain the best deal for the country. It is the EU and USA who are failing in this obligation, not Brazil. By to ensure fair play, standards need to be established, and it needs to be refereed. Looking at the UNFCCC’s website, there are no challenges to even the most blatant manipulations.
    e.g. Russia using 1990 as a baseline, so claiming it will cut emissions by up to 30% by 2030, whilst at the same time increasing them by 50% on 2010.
    This is why for every tonne of GHG emissions cut by developed nations there will be at least 3 tonnes additional emissions in the major developing countries.

  6. Chris Savage permalink
    October 24, 2015 3:02 pm

    This comment isn’t specific to Brazil but relates to the overall impact of INDCs:

    The International Energy Agency did an assessment of the impact of INDCs earlier this year, based on commitments made by then covering 34% of global emissions. They were very downbeat, concluding that the impact would be to delay climate change by just eight months.

    More INDCs have been made since then – they’re now up to approaching 90% coverage – so you’d think that the impact would now be greater than the previous IEA estimate.

    Well, no. The IEA have now published an update which, remarkably, concludes that the impact is now weaker than they previously estimated.

    If you get past the hyped tone of the report, the IEA is now saying that, based on the INDCs, emissions will be higher in 2030 – 41.9Gt as opposed to 40.6Gt – than they were initially projecting in their earlier report. And the temperature increase by 2100 is now projected to be 2.7 degrees Celsius as against 2.6 degrees.

    There’s no equivalent of the eight months estimate in the latest report, but clearly it would if anything be even less than that on their revised projections.

    What the updated report does include is an estimate of the cost of all these INDCs between now and 2030: an incredible $13.5 trillion. This is more than twice the world’s current spending on health.

    So, according to the IEA, we will be spending the equivalent of two year’s global health spending to delay climate change by less than eight months.

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