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Brazil - Environment

Far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to crack down on left-wing opposition, progressive politics, and open up the Amazon harming the Indigenous population, was sworn in as Brazil's president 01 January 2019. The neoliberal, racist, homophobic, and misogynistic former army captain vowed to follow Trump's example and pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement on climate change has worried environmentalists. So have his plans to build hydroelectric dams in the Amazon and open up to mining the reservations of Indigenous peoples who are seen as the last custodians of the world's biggest forest. He will unite the Environment ministry with the Ministry of Agriculture, in a country where the deforestation rate in favor of monocultural agro-industry is growing fast. The "defense" of the environment and the Amazon will be in the hand of the industrial landowners. The new Brazilian minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araujo has said that he believes that climate change is a ploy by “cultural Marxists” to asphyxiate Western economies and protome China’s growth, and characterized climates science as “dogma."

Brazil is the 4th largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, 75% of which results from land-use change, in particular deforestation. 18% of the Brazilian Amazon has been deforested since 1970 (an area three times the size of the UK) at an average rate of around one Wales every year. Since 2005, the Brazilian government has announced steady falls in the rate of deforestation—by 25% in 2006 and an additional 20% in 2007 (although there was a slight rise in 2008). Over the same period Brazil has increased the number of protected and indigenous reserves (which now account for around 35% of the Brazilian Amazon), and established a national forestry service. It’s National Plan on Climate Change, published in December 2008, sets out a number of domestic targets for the country including zero illegal deforestation by 2017.

About half of Brazil is covered in forests, and Brazil has the majority of the world's largest rain forest, the Amazon. Little less than 40% of the Amazon, and to a lesser extent the Cerrado (tropical savannah), is managed by national, state, or municipal governments, either as conservation units, forest concessions, or officially designated indigenous lands. In the last 30 years, migration into the Amazon and the conversion of forest land, primarily for agricultural use, reduced forest cover in the Brazilian Amazon by 20%. Through initiatives such as the revitalization of degraded pastures and forest, agriculture, and livestock integration, the government made progress in reducing deforestation for agricultural use. However, deforestation due to illegal logging remains a serious problem. In 2006, the government created the Brazilian Forest Service with the aim to manage in a sustainable manner the Amazon forest resources.

The country is one of the most biodiverse in the world. Its six major biomes—Amazon rainforest, wetlands (including the world’s largest inland wetland, the Pantanal), semi-arid areas (caatinga), savannah (cerrado), Atlantic forest and marine and coastal areas—are home to between 20 and 30% of world’s biodiversity—1,300 species of fish (12 to 15 times the number found in Europe), more than 1,000 species of birds, more than 400 mammals, and 30,000 plants (10% of the world’s total). The Amazon represents over half of the world’s remaining rainforest (8.5 million square kilometres) and contains one fifth of the world’s freshwater. Brazil has 3.5 million square km of coastal and marine waters. Biodiversity is of economic importance—it provides ecosystem services: clean water, fertile soil and regional rainfall, as well as regulating the climate. It is also a potential source of pharmaceutical products and cultural and spiritual significance to Brazil’s people who include over 200 indigenous groups.

Brazil hosted the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (UNCED, the Rio Earth Summit) and played a key role in the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa (referred to as Rio plus 10 by Brazilians), especially in the area of renewable energy. Brazil is a world leader in the production of biofuels, bio-ethanol in particular. 46% of its energy is produced from renewable sources. Despite this, incidences of environmental degradation remain high. The environment is a complex political issue in Brazil. This is partly due to Brazil’s growing commercial significance, but also to conflicting pressures resulting from poverty, social inequality and developmental needs. Brazil also suffers from corruption, red tape and a shortage of resources for policy implementation.

Brazil plays a crucial and active role in international negotiations on climate change, and was behind the original concept of a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). It is also active in building partnerships on biofuels. Although it headed to Copenhagen with an ambitious proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the lowest rates of deforestation on record, the GOB had made very little headway in straightening out the land ownership issues in the Amazon (where only about four percent of the land is clearly titled) or in providing sustainable economic activities for the more than 25 million people living in the region. Without resolving those issues, the pressure to clear the Amazon to support one's family will remain as great as ever.

Although Brazil had a slow start in 2010 in taking steps to advance its climate change commitments made at the COP-15 in Copenhagen, by the end of 2010 it had pushed ahead with concrete action demonstrating results on climate change. Brazil's national initiatives served to demonstrate the country’s intention to solidify its role as a leading player in international climate change negotiations. The lowest-ever Amazon deforestation rate, updated numbers for Brazil’s inventory on greenhouse gas emissions, a national action plan, and the implementation of the National Climate Change Fund were concrete domestic steps taken by the Government of Brazil to address climate change concerns and were a signal to the international community underscoring that Brazil is indeed trying to meet the ambitious goals presented at COP-15.

Figures from 2010 demonstrated that Brazil has reduced the rate of Amazon deforestation by more than 70%, the lowest rate of deforestation in over 20 years, and government officials predict that, at the current pace, Brazil’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 36.1% to 38.9% could be reached by 2016 rather than 2020. Brazil also increased its programs in other biomes at risk for significant deforestation. At COP-16 in December 2010 in Cancun, the Brazilian Government delegation played an important role in brokering the central outcome of the conference--a characterization of country commitments under the Kyoto Protocol that could enable Protocol proponents to say it can continue into a second commitment period.

Brazil is a leader in science and technology in South America and a global leader in some fields, such as biofuels, agricultural research, deep-sea oil production, and remote sensing. The Brazilian Government seeks to develop an environment that is more supportive of innovation, taking scientific advances from the laboratory to the marketplace in order to promote economic growth. Yet there are still some challenges. With the vast majority of the population living in urban areas, Brazil faces serious environmental obstacles in providing potable water to its citizens and removing and treating their waste water.

U.S. Government, private sector, and academic researchers have extensive ties with Brazilian counterparts. Areas in which there is close cooperation include biofuels, medical research, remote sensing, and agriculture. The extent of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation is expanding and prospective areas in which to expand include advanced materials, telecommunications, energy transmission, and energy efficiency. Limitations to cooperation include substantial restrictions on foreign researchers collecting or studying biological materials, due to concerns over possible unauthorized taking and commercialization of genetic resources or traditional knowledge of indigenous communities (often referred to as "biopiracy").

Authorities in Brazilreported an explosion in the number of cases of dengue fever as increasingly extreme weather patterns fuel the spread of the potentially lethal mosquito-borne disease. In recent years, Brazil has suffered a string of outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, including yellow fever in the São Paulo region last year as well as the Zika virus, which spread rapidly through the northeast in 2015. Some scientists have argued that the current outbreak of dengue, which triggers severe flu-like symptoms, can be attributed to the spread of Zika, which they say left Brazilians more susceptible to the tropical illness. No matter the reason, the numbers are startling: in the first six months of 2019, Latin America's largest nation recorded almost 1.2 million dengue cases — a jump of almost 600 percent from the same period last year.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2019 19:16:10 ZULU