COP26 highlighted Brazilian division in the climate agenda

Two Brazils went to the COP26. One of them called itself the “real Brazil”, in the country’s official pavilion at the UN climate conference, sponsored by the national confederations of industry (CNI) and agriculture and livestock (CNA).

It was the stand In parallel, however, the Brazil Climate Hub, which launched studies for low-carbon development and for a green economic recovery, in addition to international partnerships with forecast investments in forest conservation.

For the first time, Brazil was divided into two pavilions, separated by two distance corridors, and without joint events between the federal government and organized civil society.

The term “real Brazil” was used recurrently in official events, such as the speeches by the Minister of the Environment, Joaquim Leite. These events did not allow for inquiries from the public, and a one-room press conference was restricted to up to ten people. The concern, according to a spokesperson for the ministry, told journalists at the COP, was to avoid riots and demonstrations.

The minister’s full agenda was not disclosed by the press office and the ministry’s website mentioned only that he participated in the COP26, without detailing the meetings.

Attempts at dialogue were few. Ambassador Paulino Franco, Brazil’s chief negotiator in the first stage of the COP26, visited the stand maintained by the NGOs and held briefings with members of organized civil society, as well as the private sector , reporting on the progress of the negotiations.

On Saturday (6), senator Kátia Abreu (DEM-TO) was informed by journalists that the NGO stand would host the event of signing a memorandum of understanding between the governors of the Legal Amazon Consortium and the Coalizão Leaf, which promotes the offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions from large companies, with support from the United Kingdom and Sweden.

The senator appeared in the event, spoke and took a photo with the signatories. However, the absence of the federal government in this type of international partnership has raised concerns from specialists in carbon credits.

To Gabriel Lui, coordinator of the land use portfolio at Instituto Clima e Sociedade, who has already responded for the forest economy agenda in the Ministry of the Environment, the federal government would have more strength to negotiate an international partnership, with criteria more advantageous to the country.

“The states that already have good results in controlling the deforestation can be at a disadvantage in the remuneration of carbon credits”, cites Lui. They do not have, he assesses, the same power as the national Executive to defend, against a global initiative, the baseline for measuring results.

Gathered in the Governors for Climate initiative, the Brazilian states maintained an international relations agenda called paradiplomacy. Talks were held with the US, European Union, France, China and even with Prince Charles, heir to the British crown.

Meanwhile, in a discursive shift at the COP26, the government of Jair Bolsonaro sought to convince the world that criticism of the country’s environmental policy —which goes through deregulation and dismantling of organs— would not represent reality.

O Minister Joaquim Leite avoided citing data on environmental control and even stated to the press, in a speech at the COP on Friday (12), that he did not follow the deforestation data — released by the government about eight hours before his speech.

Despite current data trends, the government bet on enhancing the country’s climatic advantages, such as the extensive vegetation cover of the territory, the abundance of water resources and the electricity matrix mainly from renewable sources, which are already internationally recognized.

Still in the beginning of d At the conference, the federal government announced the update of its emission reduction target —the cut went from 26% to 26% up to 2030. The goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 was also assumed. The country also adhered to international commitments to reduce methane emissions and conserve forests.

The country’s new posture was praised by the British president of the COP26, Alok Sharma, and also by the United States, but was still received with fear and mistrust in the negotiations and also by economic actors, such as European investors.

“Smoke curtains are being presented rather than genuine measures,” said Kiran Aziz, director of ESG (environmental, social and governance criteria) investments at Norway’s largest pension fund, the KLP.

“How a global investor, we have to be honest and open: the head of the country is pushing foreign investment all the way down its path toward destruction of its forests,” she says. “Whatever the Environment Minister says, Bolsonaro is in charge”, he concludes.

The journalist traveled at the invitation of InstitutoClima e Sociedade.

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