Brazil Wants CO2 Cuts Based On Historic Emissions

 Brazil Wants CO2 Cuts Based On Historic Emissions

3 July 2009

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Brazil — Brazil wants historic emissions to be the basis for greenhouse gas pollution targets, slated for discussion during December climate talks in Copenhagen, Brazil’s top climate negotiator said in an interview.

Jose Miguez, who heads Brazil’s Interministerial Commission on Global Climate Change, said Brazil is not yet proposing targets for emissions cuts under the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol because developed nations should take the lead.

“The greenhouse effect is not caused by emissions, it is caused by the accumulation of emissions in the atmosphere,” he said. “We are proposing that the second period of (Kyoto Protocol) commitments be based on the historic responsibilities of each country.”

Miguez said China, India and South Africa will back the historic emissions proposal in the United Nations talks aimed at reining in warming that the U.N. climate panel says will cause more droughts and crop failures and raise sea levels.

In China, which scientists say has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest carbon polluter, a state think tank this year proposed a greenhouse gas trading plan to reflect the historic emissions of rich and poor nations.

Miguez said Brazil opposes “carbon intensity” proposals that measure emissions per dollar of GDP because they favor bigger economies and risk allowing continued increases in global emissions as economies grow.

“It’s the proposal backed by the U.S., Japan and Germany, it’s good for countries with big GDPs,” said Miguez.

Brazil will play a key role in the December negotiations for the 2008-2012 period of the Kyoto Protocol because of Amazon rain forest deforestation. Some 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are linked to deforestation.

The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has promised to halve Amazon destruction over the next decade. Miguez said that deforestation releases 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, or about half Brazil’s total emissions.

Lula last month said Brazil was open to adopting targets for greenhouse gas emissions if rich countries did more to curb climate change.

Conservation International on Thursday said the number of rare plant species unique to Brazil is four times higher than the government has estimated and argued for greater environmental protection measures.


Environmental groups have increasingly eyed the possibility of using Brazil’s rain forest for forestry-based carbon offset projects under the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism, or CDM, but Miguez says this is unlikely under current conditions.

Brazil opposes selling credits through a scheme known as Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), in which developed countries buy rights to carbon stored in trees as they grow to offset their own emissions.

Selling emissions credits from such projects would increase total atmospheric carbon, Miguez said, because ensuring forests remain standing would only keep carbon out of the atmosphere until the trees die and release it again.

“Our position is that we’re opposed to carbon markets for preventing deforestation,” he said. “People confuse this by saying we want to continue deforestation, which is false.”

He said REDD projects would also assign higher land values to states where the Amazon is being used for cattle farming or soy cultivation, he said, effectively rewarding Brazilian state governments that have done the least to protect forests.

REDD projects should be done without tradable carbon emissions through direct financing mechanisms, he said, such as the Amazon fund Brazil created last year that has already received a $1 billion donation from Norway.

Brazil supports carbon projects for reforestation of degraded Amazon areas, a methodology approved by the U.N.’s carbon offset program, but those projects are stalled because Europe has not allowed for trade of such credits.

This is partly on concern that replanted forests could be cut down after the credits were already sold.

“Basically it’s a question of liability,” he said. “If someone comes along and cuts down the forest, what happens to the carbon credits?”

Brazil is the world’s third-largest seller of carbon credits through the CDM, with some 400 projects either approved or in the pipeline. CDM projects in operation have cut Brazil emissions by 7 percent, Miguez said.

Around 25 percent of approved projects are agricultural methane collection operations mostly for pork or cattle businesses, according to U.N. data. Another quarter are biomass energy projects, with a heavy focus on cellulosic ethanol.

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