Brazil keeps shifting the goalposts on its climate targets

shifting goalposts climate targets
Flood in Salvador, Bahia. Photo: Joa Souza/Shutterstock

At the turn of the month, the Brazilian government submitted an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement. The document is a dud, as The Brazilian Report exclusively revealed on February 19. At first glance, it appears that Brazil is making progress toward its climate goal of net-zero, with a 43-to-50-percent cut in emissions (relative to a 2005 baseline). However, that baseline is being continually shifted by the government.

Back in 2015, Brazil pledged to cut emissions down to 1.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030 – that is, 43 percent below 2005 levels. In December 2020, Brazil updated its emissions accounts, changing the 2005 baseline from 2.1 to 2.8 GtCO2e. The tweak “allowed” Brazil to emit 400 million extra tons of carbon dioxide and still remain within its target range.

Now, the country says it emitted 2.6 GtCO2e in 2005. The promise to cut emissions by half would mean bringing levels down to 1.28 GtCO2e by 2030 – still above the original target, per Política Por Inteiro, an environmental policy watchdog in Brazil.

Instituto Talanoa, a Brazilian think tank, claims the new emissions cap adds an entire “Colombia” (in terms of annual emissions) to Brazil’s previously established threshold.