But those trends are reversing under Bolsonaro.
Such critics fear that an agreement between Brazil and other nations to protect the environment will encourage the Brazilian president, while initiatives that erode environmental protections continue swiftly, such as legislation to regulate public lands stolen by farmers and legalize illegal mining and large-scale agriculture among indigenous peoples. countries.
The core of the separation is this: Can Bolsonaro trust his word on protecting the environment?
The Bolsonaro office and the Ministry of the Environment did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.
‘Amazon is ours and we will develop it’
The Brazilian government defended its environmental history as sufficient, and emphasized the country’s economic well-being as a key priority. In a video posted on his social networks in September last year, Bolsonaro boasted that Brazil is protecting its environment, but argued that the Amazon region needs economic development for the well-being of residents.
“Brazil is the country that preserves the environment the most. Amazon is ours and we will develop it. In the end there are more than 20 million Brazilians who can’t be left behind. Congratulations to everyone on our Amazon day. Amazon will do more and more Brazilian, “he said.
On April 19, its vice president-general Hamilton Mourão told a press conference that Brazil is already doing its part for global environmental efforts and should not “beg” for funding at the climate summit to do better. “We don’t have to be a beggar there. Let’s put it very clearly: we have our responsibilities. Brazil is responsible for only 3% of emissions in the world,” Mourão said.
Salles, the environment minister, told the Brazilian press that his intention for the Climate Summit is to ask for foreign aid of $ 1 billion a year from the United States and other partners to help Brazil stop illegal deforestation. (The Biden government has not been shown offering new funding or support to Bolsonaro for climate action.)
Over the past two years, the Bolsonaro government has also opened the door to increasing deforestation and emissions.
Earlier this month, Mourão announced the first official goal of the Bolsonaro government to combat deforestation in the Amazon: a deforestation rate in 2022 16% higher than it was the year before Bolsonaro took office, although less than the current level of destruction – INPE estimates 11,088 square kilometers were lost to deforestation in 2020.
The target for 2022 was described as “very modest” by leading Brazilian climate researcher Carlos Nobre, while Marcio Astrini, head of the Brazilian environmental defense network Climate Observatory, denounced it as a confession to “environmental crime”.
Most of the deforestation in Brazil is due to deliberate clearing of land. Mining alone has deforested 405.36 km² of the Legal Amazon in the last five years, an area larger than the city of Denver, according to INPE data. And with deforestation come emissions. Heat-trapping gases are released when primary forests are cut down and fires set the earth on fire for other uses, according to the Climate Observatory.
Brazil’s latest update to its climate target for the Paris Agreement also allows it to emit more carbon than previously agreed, using an outdated methodology to calculate emissions – which would allow it to emit more greenhouse gas without changing the original percentage reduction targets.
Environmental services researcher Raoni Rajao and his colleagues from Brazilian Minas Gerais State Federal University (UFMG) say the outdated methodology allows Brazil to emit 400 million tons more greenhouse gas than promised when Brazil first signed the Paris Agreement. The Ministry of Environment has not responded to a request for comment on this matter.
Carlos Rittl, a senior member of the Institute for Advanced Sustainable Studies in Potsdam, Germany, says that given the past two years, Brazil will attend the Climate Summit “with nothing to show” as proof of its commitment to the environment.
“The government wants to present a photo of deforested forest and sell it as sustainability,” he told CNN.