Author: Jan Rocha

About Jan Rocha

Jan Rocha is a freelance journalist living in Brazil and is a former correspondent there for the BBC World Service and The Guardian.

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro puts Amazon at risk

If their new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, acts as many Brazilians expect him to, the Amazon forest is likely to suffer serious damage.

SÃO PAULO, 16 November, 2018 − The Amazon rainforest, the greatest remaining in the world, faces a new threat − from the policies espoused by Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who is now Brazil’s president-elect. The forest is globally vital for its ability to store atmospheric carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bolsonaro has caused alarm both in the country and abroad with his views on the environment. In anticipation of his victory, deforestation in the Amazon region increased by 50% in the three months before the poll.

The Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation in the Amazon region, Deter, which is administered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and provides data for environmental inspectors, found that between August and October, the Amazon rainforest lost 1,674 square kilometres, an area bigger than Brazil’s largest metropolis, São Paulo. This was an increase of 48.8% compared to the same months in 2017.

Imazon, an NGO which also monitors deforestation, using a different system called SAD (Deforestation Alert System) registered an even bigger increase of 84% (in Portuguese) compared to 2017.

“Up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection”

In the area that showed the greatest increase in illegal deforestation, the border region between the states of Acre and Amazonas, the main cause was cattle ranching. It is the cattle ranchers, together with the soy farmers, who are among Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters.

But even they were alarmed when he announced, as one of his first measures, the merging of the Ministry of the Environment, one of whose main functions is to enforce environmental laws, with the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, more or less like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Brazil is one of the world’s top exporters of soy and beef, and farmers know they must adhere to the strict environmental and health conditions demanded by importers.

The president-elect’s radical plans also came under fire from eight former environment ministers. In an open letter to Bolsonaro, published in the newspaper Opinião do jornal Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese), they urged him not to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which, as an enthusiastic fan of Donald Trump, he has said he wants to do.

They point out that Brazil, host to the first Earth Summit in 1992 and to the follow-up 20 years later, Rio+20, is a world leader in sustainable development and the use of renewable energy resources, and, because of the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the world’s climate, a leading player in global environmental policy.

Double disaster possible

To abolish the Environment Ministry and leave the Paris Agreement, they say, would also be disastrous politically and commercially: “We cannot run the risk of international political isolation or the closing of consumer markets to our exports. In the 21st century Brazil can’t get off the world”.

Especially as, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the next decade Brazil is expected to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer and food exporter, unless the reckless destruction of its natural resources prevents this.

Leaving the Paris Agreement, however, seems to be part of the anti-global mindset which predominates among Bolsonaro and his followers, very much influenced by the Steve Bannon playbook.

The president-elect has just announced the choice of an ultra-conservative diplomat to become Brazil’s new foreign minister. The new minister, Ernesto Araujo, sees globalisation as a Marxist plot, and wants Brazil, notable for its leadership of developing countries during previous governments and its active role in international organisations, to ally itself uncritically with the US, because “Donald Trump will save the Western world for Christianity.”

Partial retreat

However, under pressure from exporters, Bolsonaro has been forced to back down and maintain the Ministry of the Environment, although he is determined to weaken its monitoring and enforcement functions, and to water down environmental licensing laws.

He has also said that too much land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous peoples and conservation units, and wants to open up these areas to economic exploitation. SAD figures show that while private properties account for the most deforested areas (58%), and even conservation units make up 24%, indigenous territories account for only 4% of the total. In other words, they are a barrier against deforestation.

Besides the ex-ministers, scientists and environmentalists have warned that if the president-elect carries out his promises, deforestation in the Amazon could explode. A group of researchers at INPE have used mathematical modelling to simulate possible changes in land use and calculated an increase of 268% in deforestation, rising from 6.9m km² in 2017 to 25.6m km² from 2020.

New risk

There is an added danger from another source, if individual Amazon states decide to invoke a clause in the Forest Code, which allows them to authorise a reduction in the 80% of land compulsorily set aside for conservation on private properties. A new study concludes that because of this potential reduction, “up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection.”

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of São Paulo (in Portuguese) say this is equivalent to more than 4 times the entire forest area of the UK. As most of the newly elected state governors and members of state legislatures have declared support for Bolsonaro, the probability that they will enact the clause, leading to more deforestation, is high.

Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the warnings of scientists like Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) who said that “one of the ways to value this great forest is to recognise it as a great irrigation system . . . we can say that the food that is produced in Brazil, not only now but in the future, depends on this gigantic irrigation system which is the standing forest.” − Climate News Network

If their new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, acts as many Brazilians expect him to, the Amazon forest is likely to suffer serious damage.

SÃO PAULO, 16 November, 2018 − The Amazon rainforest, the greatest remaining in the world, faces a new threat − from the policies espoused by Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who is now Brazil’s president-elect. The forest is globally vital for its ability to store atmospheric carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bolsonaro has caused alarm both in the country and abroad with his views on the environment. In anticipation of his victory, deforestation in the Amazon region increased by 50% in the three months before the poll.

The Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation in the Amazon region, Deter, which is administered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and provides data for environmental inspectors, found that between August and October, the Amazon rainforest lost 1,674 square kilometres, an area bigger than Brazil’s largest metropolis, São Paulo. This was an increase of 48.8% compared to the same months in 2017.

Imazon, an NGO which also monitors deforestation, using a different system called SAD (Deforestation Alert System) registered an even bigger increase of 84% (in Portuguese) compared to 2017.

“Up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection”

In the area that showed the greatest increase in illegal deforestation, the border region between the states of Acre and Amazonas, the main cause was cattle ranching. It is the cattle ranchers, together with the soy farmers, who are among Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters.

But even they were alarmed when he announced, as one of his first measures, the merging of the Ministry of the Environment, one of whose main functions is to enforce environmental laws, with the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, more or less like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Brazil is one of the world’s top exporters of soy and beef, and farmers know they must adhere to the strict environmental and health conditions demanded by importers.

The president-elect’s radical plans also came under fire from eight former environment ministers. In an open letter to Bolsonaro, published in the newspaper Opinião do jornal Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese), they urged him not to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which, as an enthusiastic fan of Donald Trump, he has said he wants to do.

They point out that Brazil, host to the first Earth Summit in 1992 and to the follow-up 20 years later, Rio+20, is a world leader in sustainable development and the use of renewable energy resources, and, because of the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the world’s climate, a leading player in global environmental policy.

Double disaster possible

To abolish the Environment Ministry and leave the Paris Agreement, they say, would also be disastrous politically and commercially: “We cannot run the risk of international political isolation or the closing of consumer markets to our exports. In the 21st century Brazil can’t get off the world”.

Especially as, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the next decade Brazil is expected to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer and food exporter, unless the reckless destruction of its natural resources prevents this.

Leaving the Paris Agreement, however, seems to be part of the anti-global mindset which predominates among Bolsonaro and his followers, very much influenced by the Steve Bannon playbook.

The president-elect has just announced the choice of an ultra-conservative diplomat to become Brazil’s new foreign minister. The new minister, Ernesto Araujo, sees globalisation as a Marxist plot, and wants Brazil, notable for its leadership of developing countries during previous governments and its active role in international organisations, to ally itself uncritically with the US, because “Donald Trump will save the Western world for Christianity.”

Partial retreat

However, under pressure from exporters, Bolsonaro has been forced to back down and maintain the Ministry of the Environment, although he is determined to weaken its monitoring and enforcement functions, and to water down environmental licensing laws.

He has also said that too much land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous peoples and conservation units, and wants to open up these areas to economic exploitation. SAD figures show that while private properties account for the most deforested areas (58%), and even conservation units make up 24%, indigenous territories account for only 4% of the total. In other words, they are a barrier against deforestation.

Besides the ex-ministers, scientists and environmentalists have warned that if the president-elect carries out his promises, deforestation in the Amazon could explode. A group of researchers at INPE have used mathematical modelling to simulate possible changes in land use and calculated an increase of 268% in deforestation, rising from 6.9m km² in 2017 to 25.6m km² from 2020.

New risk

There is an added danger from another source, if individual Amazon states decide to invoke a clause in the Forest Code, which allows them to authorise a reduction in the 80% of land compulsorily set aside for conservation on private properties. A new study concludes that because of this potential reduction, “up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection.”

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of São Paulo (in Portuguese) say this is equivalent to more than 4 times the entire forest area of the UK. As most of the newly elected state governors and members of state legislatures have declared support for Bolsonaro, the probability that they will enact the clause, leading to more deforestation, is high.

Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the warnings of scientists like Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) who said that “one of the ways to value this great forest is to recognise it as a great irrigation system . . . we can say that the food that is produced in Brazil, not only now but in the future, depends on this gigantic irrigation system which is the standing forest.” − Climate News Network

Brazil forgets its solar power potential

Here’s a paradox: in one of the world’s sunniest countries, the Brazilian government remains lukewarm about its solar power potential, despite its plummeting costs.

SÃO PAULO, 27 December, 2017 – There’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, as the song has it – and an awful lot of sunshine too, offering huge solar power potential. But the government seems reluctant to develop it.

Brazil’s official energy policy, outlined in its recently published Ten Year Energy Plan 2026, still gives priority to hydropower and fossil fuels. Renewables are expected to provide about 160 GW by 2026, with solar accounting for just short of 10 GW. In 2016 a promised auction, planned to invite bids from solar companies to supply energy, was cancelled.

The government’s explanation for neglecting solar in this way is the high cost of implementing projects. Yet new studies show that in many countries solar energy is now cheaper than other renewables and, in some, cheaper than coal and oil. In some it is even the cheapest source of energy.

So while the government rushed through a bill to provide multi-billion dollar tax relief for oil companies, no incentives are contemplated for renewables. To make up the expected shortfall in energy once the economy, now in recession, kicks off again, more coal-fired generating plants are seen as the answer, even though that would mean an increase in CO2 emissions.

Prtivate interest

In spite of this lack of government enthusiasm, the year-round high levels of sunlight in Brazil’s north-east region are beginning to attract private companies. In the dry, sunbaked state of Piauí the largest solar energy farm in Latin America has just been opened.

Built by an Italian multinational, Enel Green Power, at a cost of US$300 million, the Nova Olinda farm has 930,000 PV panels covering an area of 690 hectares. With an installed capacity of 292MW, it has the potential to produce 600MW, enough to power 300,000 homes.

Enel, launched in 2008 to produce renewable energy, has projects in nine other Latin American countries, as well as the USA, Canada, India, South Africa and six European countries.

Piaui is one of Brazil’s poorest states, and the project also offers jobs, training and recycling workshops to the local community. It is providing the PV panels for the first solar-powered itinerant cinema, CineSolar, packed into a van which travels around rural communities, where many homes are still lit by oil lamps, to stage open-air shows.

The age of solar power is dawning, but there are still battles to be fought against the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel industry

Brazil boasts one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, with 76% coming from renewable sources. But 66% of this is from hydropower, mainly from a network of giant dams, many of them in the Amazon.

The devastating droughts of recent years, which dramatically reduced river levels and left reservoirs so low they could not power the turbines, showed the danger of depending so heavily on a single source.

The government’s reluctance to invest in solar energy flies in the face of mounting evidence of its rapidly plunging cost. A review at the end of 2016 for Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded that solar power was “efficient, viable and profitable”.

It found that investment in sustainable sources is steadily increasing, in both developed and emerging countries, with investment in the southern hemisphere beginning to outstrip that in the north – in 2016 it was US$154 billion against US$153 $billion in OECD countries. China accounted for the biggest investment.

Improved technology

The growth in solar is happening largely because of this fall in cost and the development of new, more accessible technologies. The 2015 Paris Agreement also encouraged signatories to seek cleaner sources of energy and so reduce their CO2 emissions.

Yet it is not all plain sailing for solar energy. The Bloomberg study warned that some countries now face difficulties in integrating solar energy produced by the new plants into the electricity distribution network.

In some cases the companies which control the grid give priority to the energy generated by fossil fuels over renewables.

The age of solar power is dawning, but there are still battles to be fought against the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel industry. – Climate News Network

Here’s a paradox: in one of the world’s sunniest countries, the Brazilian government remains lukewarm about its solar power potential, despite its plummeting costs.

SÃO PAULO, 27 December, 2017 – There’s an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, as the song has it – and an awful lot of sunshine too, offering huge solar power potential. But the government seems reluctant to develop it.

Brazil’s official energy policy, outlined in its recently published Ten Year Energy Plan 2026, still gives priority to hydropower and fossil fuels. Renewables are expected to provide about 160 GW by 2026, with solar accounting for just short of 10 GW. In 2016 a promised auction, planned to invite bids from solar companies to supply energy, was cancelled.

The government’s explanation for neglecting solar in this way is the high cost of implementing projects. Yet new studies show that in many countries solar energy is now cheaper than other renewables and, in some, cheaper than coal and oil. In some it is even the cheapest source of energy.

So while the government rushed through a bill to provide multi-billion dollar tax relief for oil companies, no incentives are contemplated for renewables. To make up the expected shortfall in energy once the economy, now in recession, kicks off again, more coal-fired generating plants are seen as the answer, even though that would mean an increase in CO2 emissions.

Prtivate interest

In spite of this lack of government enthusiasm, the year-round high levels of sunlight in Brazil’s north-east region are beginning to attract private companies. In the dry, sunbaked state of Piauí the largest solar energy farm in Latin America has just been opened.

Built by an Italian multinational, Enel Green Power, at a cost of US$300 million, the Nova Olinda farm has 930,000 PV panels covering an area of 690 hectares. With an installed capacity of 292MW, it has the potential to produce 600MW, enough to power 300,000 homes.

Enel, launched in 2008 to produce renewable energy, has projects in nine other Latin American countries, as well as the USA, Canada, India, South Africa and six European countries.

Piaui is one of Brazil’s poorest states, and the project also offers jobs, training and recycling workshops to the local community. It is providing the PV panels for the first solar-powered itinerant cinema, CineSolar, packed into a van which travels around rural communities, where many homes are still lit by oil lamps, to stage open-air shows.

The age of solar power is dawning, but there are still battles to be fought against the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel industry

Brazil boasts one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, with 76% coming from renewable sources. But 66% of this is from hydropower, mainly from a network of giant dams, many of them in the Amazon.

The devastating droughts of recent years, which dramatically reduced river levels and left reservoirs so low they could not power the turbines, showed the danger of depending so heavily on a single source.

The government’s reluctance to invest in solar energy flies in the face of mounting evidence of its rapidly plunging cost. A review at the end of 2016 for Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded that solar power was “efficient, viable and profitable”.

It found that investment in sustainable sources is steadily increasing, in both developed and emerging countries, with investment in the southern hemisphere beginning to outstrip that in the north – in 2016 it was US$154 billion against US$153 $billion in OECD countries. China accounted for the biggest investment.

Improved technology

The growth in solar is happening largely because of this fall in cost and the development of new, more accessible technologies. The 2015 Paris Agreement also encouraged signatories to seek cleaner sources of energy and so reduce their CO2 emissions.

Yet it is not all plain sailing for solar energy. The Bloomberg study warned that some countries now face difficulties in integrating solar energy produced by the new plants into the electricity distribution network.

In some cases the companies which control the grid give priority to the energy generated by fossil fuels over renewables.

The age of solar power is dawning, but there are still battles to be fought against the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel industry. – Climate News Network

Brasilia pays UK to exploit Brazilian oil fields

British companies targeting Brazilian oil deposits stand to benefit from massive tax relief offered by Brazil itself, despite its own recession.

SÃO PAULO, 6 December, 2017 – Over 120 NGOs and indigenous organisations have protested at a US$300 billion tax relief offer to help UK companies seeking to drill for Brazilian oil in offshore deposits

In a letter to the speaker of the lower house of the Brazilian parliament just before it approved the first stage of the proposal, they said the drilling would “expose the world to unacceptable climate risks” and cause unacceptable costs to the Brazilian economy, which is already facing crisis and imposing austerity cuts in basic services.

The companies plan to drill in what is called the pre-salt region, an oil-bearing rock formation in deep water offshore. 

Its name derives from its antiquity; the region’s layers of rock were laid down about 160 million years ago and then covered by later layers which do contain salt. The Brazilian energy multi-national Petrobras describes the pre-salt product as “excellent quality, high commercial value light oil”.

The bill before parliament offers the oil companies tax relief until 2040. After heated debate, it was passed late at night, by 208 votes to 184. It is being rushed through congress at the very end of the parliamentary year; a vote on the final stage is due on 6 December.   

Targets flouted

If approved, the bill would wreck Brazil’s Paris Agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions. The known reserves of pre-salt oil are estimated at 176 billion barrels, which, if burned, would release 74.8 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. 

“This is equivalent to almost 18% of everything humanity can still release into the air to meet the most ambitious Paris target of stabilising warming at 1.5°C”, the NGOs write.

They point out that a temperature rise of more than 1.5°C will have dramatic consequences, not only for island nations which will be swamped by rising sea levels, but also for the drought-prone Brazilian north-east and for coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro.

British oil companies will be the main beneficiaries of this largesse with Brazilian taxpayers’ money – BP, Shell and Premier Oil, which successfully bid for licences to drill in the pre-salt area. 

“This is equivalent to almost 18% of everything humanity can still release into the air to meet the most ambitious Paris target of stabilising warming at 1.5°C”

Greenpeace says it has discovered information showing that the UK government actively lobbied on the companies’ behalf during a visit to Brazil by the British international trade minister Greg Hands in March, ostensibly to open a UK trade fair. 

After meeting the oil companies, it says, Hands put their concerns to Paulo Pedrosa, Brazil’s deputy minister for mining and energy.

Soon after, Shell and a consortium including BP were given three oil licences, and the Brazilian government decided to reduce its “local content requirements” – regulations that oblige companies to hire local workers and use local goods, to try to boost the economy of developing countries and regions.

Opposition congressman Carlos Zarattini said that, under pressure from the UK, the government of President Michel Temer had altered tax rules, environmental safeguards and the requirement for Brazilian content in equipment and labour. Zeroing taxes on the import of vessels, he said, could cause the collapse of Brazilian shipyards.

The NGOs suspect the Brazilian government’s intention is to exploit the countrys oil reserves as much as possible before the world moves inexorably to a low carbon economy. 

Precautionary principle

With the growing movement in favour of leaving-it-in-the-ground, they calculate there could be fierce  competition by oil-rich nations to sell off their reserves. By offering generous incentives to exploit the deep sea pre-salt reserves, Brazil hopes to get ahead of the game. 

And it is not only the pre-salt area which interests the oil companies. BP is also bidding to drill in the mouth of the Amazon, even after alerts that the blocks on offer are very near a coral reef and in a region with many species threatened by extinction, and with possibly several new species as well.

At recent public meetings in towns near the proposed exploration, a BP spokesman insisted the company had learned a lot from its experience in the Gulf of Mexico.

Greenpeace oil specialist Thiago Almeida, who was present at the meetings, suggested that in view of the scant knowledge available on the region, the precautionary principle should be applied, and BP should abandon its plans and stay away from the Amazon estuary. Climate News Network

British companies targeting Brazilian oil deposits stand to benefit from massive tax relief offered by Brazil itself, despite its own recession.

SÃO PAULO, 6 December, 2017 – Over 120 NGOs and indigenous organisations have protested at a US$300 billion tax relief offer to help UK companies seeking to drill for Brazilian oil in offshore deposits

In a letter to the speaker of the lower house of the Brazilian parliament just before it approved the first stage of the proposal, they said the drilling would “expose the world to unacceptable climate risks” and cause unacceptable costs to the Brazilian economy, which is already facing crisis and imposing austerity cuts in basic services.

The companies plan to drill in what is called the pre-salt region, an oil-bearing rock formation in deep water offshore. 

Its name derives from its antiquity; the region’s layers of rock were laid down about 160 million years ago and then covered by later layers which do contain salt. The Brazilian energy multi-national Petrobras describes the pre-salt product as “excellent quality, high commercial value light oil”.

The bill before parliament offers the oil companies tax relief until 2040. After heated debate, it was passed late at night, by 208 votes to 184. It is being rushed through congress at the very end of the parliamentary year; a vote on the final stage is due on 6 December.   

Targets flouted

If approved, the bill would wreck Brazil’s Paris Agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions. The known reserves of pre-salt oil are estimated at 176 billion barrels, which, if burned, would release 74.8 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. 

“This is equivalent to almost 18% of everything humanity can still release into the air to meet the most ambitious Paris target of stabilising warming at 1.5°C”, the NGOs write.

They point out that a temperature rise of more than 1.5°C will have dramatic consequences, not only for island nations which will be swamped by rising sea levels, but also for the drought-prone Brazilian north-east and for coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro.

British oil companies will be the main beneficiaries of this largesse with Brazilian taxpayers’ money – BP, Shell and Premier Oil, which successfully bid for licences to drill in the pre-salt area. 

“This is equivalent to almost 18% of everything humanity can still release into the air to meet the most ambitious Paris target of stabilising warming at 1.5°C”

Greenpeace says it has discovered information showing that the UK government actively lobbied on the companies’ behalf during a visit to Brazil by the British international trade minister Greg Hands in March, ostensibly to open a UK trade fair. 

After meeting the oil companies, it says, Hands put their concerns to Paulo Pedrosa, Brazil’s deputy minister for mining and energy.

Soon after, Shell and a consortium including BP were given three oil licences, and the Brazilian government decided to reduce its “local content requirements” – regulations that oblige companies to hire local workers and use local goods, to try to boost the economy of developing countries and regions.

Opposition congressman Carlos Zarattini said that, under pressure from the UK, the government of President Michel Temer had altered tax rules, environmental safeguards and the requirement for Brazilian content in equipment and labour. Zeroing taxes on the import of vessels, he said, could cause the collapse of Brazilian shipyards.

The NGOs suspect the Brazilian government’s intention is to exploit the countrys oil reserves as much as possible before the world moves inexorably to a low carbon economy. 

Precautionary principle

With the growing movement in favour of leaving-it-in-the-ground, they calculate there could be fierce  competition by oil-rich nations to sell off their reserves. By offering generous incentives to exploit the deep sea pre-salt reserves, Brazil hopes to get ahead of the game. 

And it is not only the pre-salt area which interests the oil companies. BP is also bidding to drill in the mouth of the Amazon, even after alerts that the blocks on offer are very near a coral reef and in a region with many species threatened by extinction, and with possibly several new species as well.

At recent public meetings in towns near the proposed exploration, a BP spokesman insisted the company had learned a lot from its experience in the Gulf of Mexico.

Greenpeace oil specialist Thiago Almeida, who was present at the meetings, suggested that in view of the scant knowledge available on the region, the precautionary principle should be applied, and BP should abandon its plans and stay away from the Amazon estuary. Climate News Network

Brazil’s recession grows as emissions rise

Uniquely among major economies, Brazil’s recession has left 13 million workers jobless while its carbon emissions continue to grow.

SANTAREM, 14 November, 2017 – Brazil’s recession has earned it an unhappy distinction: it is the only major country in the world where damage to the climate is growing while people are becoming poorer.

In 2016 Brazil’s total greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 9%, reaching their highest level since 2008. This makes it the only large economy in the world whose emissions are growing while living standards for most of its population, far from rising, have fallen. The main causes of the rise in emissions are deforestation and farming practices.

The System for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals Estimates, SEEG, part of Brazil’s Climate Observatory, produces annual estimates of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. It says they rose from just over two billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2015, to nearly 2.3bn tons in 2016. 

“Uncontrolled deforestation, especially in the Amazon, has led to the emission of 218 million tons more CO2 in 2016 than in 2015. That’s twice what Belgium emits in a year”   

This means the total has already, five years early, reached the 2020 target for Brazil decided under the Paris Agreement, showing that only drastic measures will bring emissions down again. If the economy recovers, as the government hopes it will over the next few years, the task will be even more difficult.   

Yet the government remains upbeat. In his speech to the UN Assembly in September, President Michel Temer claimed that new data showed a drop of over 20% in deforestation in the Amazon in the period from September 2016 to July 2017 (a claim later reduced to 16%), saying: “We have rejoined the right road and we will persist on this road.” 

Environment minister José Sarney Filho spoke of the tendency being reversed, but environmentalists remain sceptical. One said the real reversal of the tendency was the increase of deforestation in 2015 and 2016, after the reduction seen between 2005 and 2012.

The biggest cause of the rise in emissions was agriculture, which accounted for 74% of Brazil’s emissions in 2016. Of this total, 51% was due to what is euphemistically called change in land use” – deforestation. 

Changing appetites

A 23% growth in the use of nitrogen fertilisers, which produce nitrous oxide, has also worsened the problem, as has the fall in beef consumption, caused by consumers turning to  cheaper meats like pork and chicken. 

Paradoxically, this has meant greater numbers of cattle grazing and producing methane, as fewer are sent to the slaughterhouse. Brazil has the largest herd in the world, with 198 million head of cattle.   

While the total of emissions from farming and deforestation rose, during the same period almost all other sectors of the economy saw theirs falling. The energy sector dropped by over 7%, because of lower demand and the growing contribution of renewables.

Ane Alencar, the researcher responsible for the SEEG calculations, who works at  IPAM, the Institute for Environmental Research in the Amazon (Portuguese only), said: “Uncontrolled deforestation, especially in the Amazon, has led to the emission of 218 million tons more CO2 in 2016 than in 2015. That’s twice what Belgium emits in a year.” She said most of this deforestation was illegal, contributing nothing to Brazil’s GDP.

Budget halved

The government of President Temer is caught between the need to fulfil Brazil’s international obligations and the demands of the influential rural lobby, who want more deforestation, not less, and less enforcement, not more.   

The reduction achieved in the last few months was won in spite of government policy, not because of it. As part of the government’s austerity programme, Temer had actually halved the budget of the environment ministry in 2016, leading to a drastic fall in its ability to stop illegal deforestation and protect conservation efforts.

But a grant from the Amazon Fund, set up by Norway in 2008 to save the rainforest, with contributions from Germany and the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras, has enabled Ibama (the Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, the environment enforcement agency – Portuguese only) to re-equip its posts in the Amazon region and hire more staff. 

Yet enforcing environment laws in Brazil is never straightforward. A few days ago there was a dramatic illustration of the problems faced by Ibama after it destroyed the dredgers being used illegally to find gold on the bed of the Madeira river, a large Amazon tributary.

General amnesty

An angry crowd of gold miners, deprived of their livelihood, attacked the agency’s offices in the nearby town of Humaitá and set them on fire, after looting hundreds of confiscated electric saws. All the agency’s vehicles, and a boat on the river used for its work, were torched.

In Brasilia, pressure against the country’s environmental laws is more sophisticated. In the national congress the powerful farmers’ lobby has just pushed through Law No. 13465, which  will amnesty everyone who illegally invaded public lands, including parks and conservation areas, between 2004 and 2011. 

Ignoring protests that the new law, dubbed “the landgrabbers’ charter, will encourage new invasions, signalling that crime pays, President Temer has sanctioned the law. He needs the farmers’ votes for his own political survival. Climate News Network

Uniquely among major economies, Brazil’s recession has left 13 million workers jobless while its carbon emissions continue to grow.

SANTAREM, 14 November, 2017 – Brazil’s recession has earned it an unhappy distinction: it is the only major country in the world where damage to the climate is growing while people are becoming poorer.

In 2016 Brazil’s total greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 9%, reaching their highest level since 2008. This makes it the only large economy in the world whose emissions are growing while living standards for most of its population, far from rising, have fallen. The main causes of the rise in emissions are deforestation and farming practices.

The System for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals Estimates, SEEG, part of Brazil’s Climate Observatory, produces annual estimates of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. It says they rose from just over two billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2015, to nearly 2.3bn tons in 2016. 

“Uncontrolled deforestation, especially in the Amazon, has led to the emission of 218 million tons more CO2 in 2016 than in 2015. That’s twice what Belgium emits in a year”   

This means the total has already, five years early, reached the 2020 target for Brazil decided under the Paris Agreement, showing that only drastic measures will bring emissions down again. If the economy recovers, as the government hopes it will over the next few years, the task will be even more difficult.   

Yet the government remains upbeat. In his speech to the UN Assembly in September, President Michel Temer claimed that new data showed a drop of over 20% in deforestation in the Amazon in the period from September 2016 to July 2017 (a claim later reduced to 16%), saying: “We have rejoined the right road and we will persist on this road.” 

Environment minister José Sarney Filho spoke of the tendency being reversed, but environmentalists remain sceptical. One said the real reversal of the tendency was the increase of deforestation in 2015 and 2016, after the reduction seen between 2005 and 2012.

The biggest cause of the rise in emissions was agriculture, which accounted for 74% of Brazil’s emissions in 2016. Of this total, 51% was due to what is euphemistically called change in land use” – deforestation. 

Changing appetites

A 23% growth in the use of nitrogen fertilisers, which produce nitrous oxide, has also worsened the problem, as has the fall in beef consumption, caused by consumers turning to  cheaper meats like pork and chicken. 

Paradoxically, this has meant greater numbers of cattle grazing and producing methane, as fewer are sent to the slaughterhouse. Brazil has the largest herd in the world, with 198 million head of cattle.   

While the total of emissions from farming and deforestation rose, during the same period almost all other sectors of the economy saw theirs falling. The energy sector dropped by over 7%, because of lower demand and the growing contribution of renewables.

Ane Alencar, the researcher responsible for the SEEG calculations, who works at  IPAM, the Institute for Environmental Research in the Amazon (Portuguese only), said: “Uncontrolled deforestation, especially in the Amazon, has led to the emission of 218 million tons more CO2 in 2016 than in 2015. That’s twice what Belgium emits in a year.” She said most of this deforestation was illegal, contributing nothing to Brazil’s GDP.

Budget halved

The government of President Temer is caught between the need to fulfil Brazil’s international obligations and the demands of the influential rural lobby, who want more deforestation, not less, and less enforcement, not more.   

The reduction achieved in the last few months was won in spite of government policy, not because of it. As part of the government’s austerity programme, Temer had actually halved the budget of the environment ministry in 2016, leading to a drastic fall in its ability to stop illegal deforestation and protect conservation efforts.

But a grant from the Amazon Fund, set up by Norway in 2008 to save the rainforest, with contributions from Germany and the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras, has enabled Ibama (the Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, the environment enforcement agency – Portuguese only) to re-equip its posts in the Amazon region and hire more staff. 

Yet enforcing environment laws in Brazil is never straightforward. A few days ago there was a dramatic illustration of the problems faced by Ibama after it destroyed the dredgers being used illegally to find gold on the bed of the Madeira river, a large Amazon tributary.

General amnesty

An angry crowd of gold miners, deprived of their livelihood, attacked the agency’s offices in the nearby town of Humaitá and set them on fire, after looting hundreds of confiscated electric saws. All the agency’s vehicles, and a boat on the river used for its work, were torched.

In Brasilia, pressure against the country’s environmental laws is more sophisticated. In the national congress the powerful farmers’ lobby has just pushed through Law No. 13465, which  will amnesty everyone who illegally invaded public lands, including parks and conservation areas, between 2004 and 2011. 

Ignoring protests that the new law, dubbed “the landgrabbers’ charter, will encourage new invasions, signalling that crime pays, President Temer has sanctioned the law. He needs the farmers’ votes for his own political survival. Climate News Network

Brazilian downpours oust familiar drizzle

Misty rain is giving way to fear of flash floods as Brazilian downpours cause chaos in the country’s biggest city.

SÃO PAULO, 19 August, 2017 – Climate change has put an end to the romantic garoa for which São Paulo, South America’s biggest city, was once famous, as fierce Brazilian downpours move in. The gentle misty rain has been replaced by flash floods and violent deluges, with human victims and economic costs.

Less than half a century ago São Paulo’s famous garoa was much used in song and verse to paint an enticing picture of the city. There was even a popular band called the Demons of the Garoa.

Now that gentle rain is just a memory: instead, people frequently run the risk of being trapped in streets suddenly turned into raging torrents; cars are flattened by falling trees; hillside shanty dwellings are swallowed up by mudslides. The city has also got much hotter.

A new study published in the August number of the International Journal of Climatology has confirmed that rainfall patterns in the southeast region of Brazil, where São Paulo is located, have changed substantially.

After analysing meteorological data for the region over the last 74 years, a group of scientists from São Paulo University (USP) found an increase both in the frequency of rainy days and in the volume of rain. Professor (retired) Maria Assunção Faus da Silva Dias, of the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at USP, said the aim of their research was to verify if the forecasts about changing rain patterns were becoming a reality.

“We discovered that where it rains a lot it will rain more, and where there is drought there will be more drought”

In previous studies, climatologists had foreseen that one of the main effects of climate change would be the exacerbation of extreme effects, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms and severe droughts.

The data they used was extracted from 36 meteorological stations in the southeast of Brazil. They checked the quantity of days without rain, with a small amount (less than 5 mm), or with extreme rain.

“Looking at the pattern of rain in the last decades, we can project tendencies. We discovered that where it rains a lot it will rain more, and where there is drought there will be more drought,” explained Professor Faus da Silva Dias, in further confirmation of a frequently predicted consequence of climate change. 

The team concluded that climate change has altered the rain pattern in the region, with an increase in rainfall in the state of São Paulo and a reduction in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo.

Strong storms

In these two states, located to the northeast of São Paulo on the Atlantic coast, they found a reduction in the frequency of rainy days and in the volume of rain, but a concentration of strong storms in fewer days. Days with light rain were less frequent.

The effects of the changing rain patterns have been felt more in highly urbanised regions, like São Paulo. In the metropolis, home to 20 million people, so-called heat islands have led to a substantial rise in temperatures. Over the last 70 years, the temperature in São Paulo’s urban region has increased by about 4°C (39°F) – equivalent to the forecast global rise for the next century.

Besides putting an end to the garoa, this has contributed to the increase in extreme downpours. The air from the colder regions around the city converges on this heat bubble, provoking intense storms.

According to Professor Faus da Silva Dias there is another factor that could be playing into the change in rainfall patterns. This is an alteration in the Zone of Convergence of the South Atlantic, a band of rainclouds that usually extends from the Amazon to the southeast, reaching the ocean. “One of the hypotheses is that, with climate change, this zone of rain has moved slightly further south”, she says. – Climate News Network

Misty rain is giving way to fear of flash floods as Brazilian downpours cause chaos in the country’s biggest city.

SÃO PAULO, 19 August, 2017 – Climate change has put an end to the romantic garoa for which São Paulo, South America’s biggest city, was once famous, as fierce Brazilian downpours move in. The gentle misty rain has been replaced by flash floods and violent deluges, with human victims and economic costs.

Less than half a century ago São Paulo’s famous garoa was much used in song and verse to paint an enticing picture of the city. There was even a popular band called the Demons of the Garoa.

Now that gentle rain is just a memory: instead, people frequently run the risk of being trapped in streets suddenly turned into raging torrents; cars are flattened by falling trees; hillside shanty dwellings are swallowed up by mudslides. The city has also got much hotter.

A new study published in the August number of the International Journal of Climatology has confirmed that rainfall patterns in the southeast region of Brazil, where São Paulo is located, have changed substantially.

After analysing meteorological data for the region over the last 74 years, a group of scientists from São Paulo University (USP) found an increase both in the frequency of rainy days and in the volume of rain. Professor (retired) Maria Assunção Faus da Silva Dias, of the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at USP, said the aim of their research was to verify if the forecasts about changing rain patterns were becoming a reality.

“We discovered that where it rains a lot it will rain more, and where there is drought there will be more drought”

In previous studies, climatologists had foreseen that one of the main effects of climate change would be the exacerbation of extreme effects, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms and severe droughts.

The data they used was extracted from 36 meteorological stations in the southeast of Brazil. They checked the quantity of days without rain, with a small amount (less than 5 mm), or with extreme rain.

“Looking at the pattern of rain in the last decades, we can project tendencies. We discovered that where it rains a lot it will rain more, and where there is drought there will be more drought,” explained Professor Faus da Silva Dias, in further confirmation of a frequently predicted consequence of climate change. 

The team concluded that climate change has altered the rain pattern in the region, with an increase in rainfall in the state of São Paulo and a reduction in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo.

Strong storms

In these two states, located to the northeast of São Paulo on the Atlantic coast, they found a reduction in the frequency of rainy days and in the volume of rain, but a concentration of strong storms in fewer days. Days with light rain were less frequent.

The effects of the changing rain patterns have been felt more in highly urbanised regions, like São Paulo. In the metropolis, home to 20 million people, so-called heat islands have led to a substantial rise in temperatures. Over the last 70 years, the temperature in São Paulo’s urban region has increased by about 4°C (39°F) – equivalent to the forecast global rise for the next century.

Besides putting an end to the garoa, this has contributed to the increase in extreme downpours. The air from the colder regions around the city converges on this heat bubble, provoking intense storms.

According to Professor Faus da Silva Dias there is another factor that could be playing into the change in rainfall patterns. This is an alteration in the Zone of Convergence of the South Atlantic, a band of rainclouds that usually extends from the Amazon to the southeast, reaching the ocean. “One of the hypotheses is that, with climate change, this zone of rain has moved slightly further south”, she says. – Climate News Network

Brazil’s environment risks political capsize

A serious political crisis over demands for its president to step down is adding to the threats to Brazil’s environment.

SÃO PAULO, 3 June, 2017 – Brazil faces an unpredictable political crisis as the country’s president fights demands for him to leave office. And as the price of his survival, he is making damaging concessions on Brazil’s environment.

President Michel Temer is facing calls to resign after the owners of Brazil’s biggest meat-packing industry, JBS, alleged he had been involved in bribery and the obstruction of justice.

To retain support in congress, he is now working with the powerful farmers lobby, the bancada ruralista, which wants to reduce conservation areas and weaken environmental licensing laws.

He hopes to cling to power by making concessions to the bancada. In exchange for support from the Parliamentary Agriculture Front (FPA), the bancada’s formal name, he tore up the government’s project for modernising the environmental licensing law, telling lobby members they could present whatever amendments to it they liked.

So a congressional committee is now about to approve a radically different version of the government’s original proposal for a new General Licensing Law.

Licensing discarded

Dubbed “flex licensing”, it dispenses with the need for licences in some of the areas where they are most needed – largescale cattle ranching, mining in protected areas, and even roadbuilding in the Amazon, one of the biggest causes of deforestation. Once past the committee stage, it will be voted into law in a plenary session.

This is a serious blow to the environment minister, José Sarney Filho, who spent a year negotiating a more reasonable version of the bill with environmentalists, farmers and industry.

Nevertheless, he has chosen to remain in the government, although his party, the Greens, together with several other small parties, has decided to abandon the ruling coalition in protest at President Temer’s alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

The minister says he has decided to stay in order to defend the cause of sustainability and the green economy”, and his achievements. These include the suspension of the environmental licensing process which would have allowed the proposed São Luis dam on the Tapajos river, in the Amazon, to go ahead, and incentives for clean and renewable energy sources.   

The political turmoil has left Sarney Filho powerless to stop the tide of anti-conservation legislation being tabled by the farmers’ lobby in their desire to open up to economic exploration previously protected land like indigenous areas and national parks.

“Brazil is undergoing an unprecedented offensive against its protected areas”

In a 2017 report (available only in Portuguese) the Worldwide Fund for Nature, WWF, says there is an imminent risk of Brazil losing up to 80,000 square kms of parks and forests, an area the size of Portugal.

“Brazil is undergoing an unprecedented offensive against its protected areas”, WWF says, with up to 10% of the country’s total protected area under threat.

On 24 May, in the capital, Brasilia, the lower house representatives came to blows over the legitimacy of passing any laws while the scandal involving the president remains unresolved.

In the senate the farmers’ lobby quietly passed  two controversial bills which will reduce the size of two national parks in the Jamanxim river area in the Amazon by almost 600,000 hectares, reckoned as the equivalent of 486,000 soccer fields.

This reduction had been proposed by the government to allow the building of a new railway, Ferrogrão – the Grain Railway– to carry the soya harvest from the huge farms of central Brazil to the Amazon river port of Santarem.

After studies by the government’s environment agency, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio – Portuguese only) it was decided that an area of 862 ha would be adequate for the railway. But the ruralistas have increased that to a whopping 600,000 ha.

Growing deforestation

They are using the bill to remove protected status from a much wider area so that  it can be used for farming, mining and logging.

They also introduced a clause into the bill, reducing the size of São Joaquim, a national park in the Atlantic Forest, located in the southern state of Santa Catarina, by 20%, although it has nothing to do with the railway. 

The environment minister’s warning that the bills will severely affect the government’s plan to combat deforestation by strengthening conservation areas in the Amazon, not reducing them, was simply ignored. Deforestation is already on the rise, reaching 7,989 sq kms in 2016, the environment ministry says.

The new legislation also completely contradicts Brazil’s Paris Agreement commitments to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Climate scientists also point out that reducing the size of conservation areas will help to dismember the Amazon, transforming it into an archipelago of forest fragments, leaving plant and animal populations more susceptible to extinction.

Ironically it is the ruralistas, the big farmers, who will suffer from lower rainfall in the midwest region – Brazil’s grain basket – more than anyone. – Climate News Network

A serious political crisis over demands for its president to step down is adding to the threats to Brazil’s environment.

SÃO PAULO, 3 June, 2017 – Brazil faces an unpredictable political crisis as the country’s president fights demands for him to leave office. And as the price of his survival, he is making damaging concessions on Brazil’s environment.

President Michel Temer is facing calls to resign after the owners of Brazil’s biggest meat-packing industry, JBS, alleged he had been involved in bribery and the obstruction of justice.

To retain support in congress, he is now working with the powerful farmers lobby, the bancada ruralista, which wants to reduce conservation areas and weaken environmental licensing laws.

He hopes to cling to power by making concessions to the bancada. In exchange for support from the Parliamentary Agriculture Front (FPA), the bancada’s formal name, he tore up the government’s project for modernising the environmental licensing law, telling lobby members they could present whatever amendments to it they liked.

So a congressional committee is now about to approve a radically different version of the government’s original proposal for a new General Licensing Law.

Licensing discarded

Dubbed “flex licensing”, it dispenses with the need for licences in some of the areas where they are most needed – largescale cattle ranching, mining in protected areas, and even roadbuilding in the Amazon, one of the biggest causes of deforestation. Once past the committee stage, it will be voted into law in a plenary session.

This is a serious blow to the environment minister, José Sarney Filho, who spent a year negotiating a more reasonable version of the bill with environmentalists, farmers and industry.

Nevertheless, he has chosen to remain in the government, although his party, the Greens, together with several other small parties, has decided to abandon the ruling coalition in protest at President Temer’s alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

The minister says he has decided to stay in order to defend the cause of sustainability and the green economy”, and his achievements. These include the suspension of the environmental licensing process which would have allowed the proposed São Luis dam on the Tapajos river, in the Amazon, to go ahead, and incentives for clean and renewable energy sources.   

The political turmoil has left Sarney Filho powerless to stop the tide of anti-conservation legislation being tabled by the farmers’ lobby in their desire to open up to economic exploration previously protected land like indigenous areas and national parks.

“Brazil is undergoing an unprecedented offensive against its protected areas”

In a 2017 report (available only in Portuguese) the Worldwide Fund for Nature, WWF, says there is an imminent risk of Brazil losing up to 80,000 square kms of parks and forests, an area the size of Portugal.

“Brazil is undergoing an unprecedented offensive against its protected areas”, WWF says, with up to 10% of the country’s total protected area under threat.

On 24 May, in the capital, Brasilia, the lower house representatives came to blows over the legitimacy of passing any laws while the scandal involving the president remains unresolved.

In the senate the farmers’ lobby quietly passed  two controversial bills which will reduce the size of two national parks in the Jamanxim river area in the Amazon by almost 600,000 hectares, reckoned as the equivalent of 486,000 soccer fields.

This reduction had been proposed by the government to allow the building of a new railway, Ferrogrão – the Grain Railway– to carry the soya harvest from the huge farms of central Brazil to the Amazon river port of Santarem.

After studies by the government’s environment agency, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio – Portuguese only) it was decided that an area of 862 ha would be adequate for the railway. But the ruralistas have increased that to a whopping 600,000 ha.

Growing deforestation

They are using the bill to remove protected status from a much wider area so that  it can be used for farming, mining and logging.

They also introduced a clause into the bill, reducing the size of São Joaquim, a national park in the Atlantic Forest, located in the southern state of Santa Catarina, by 20%, although it has nothing to do with the railway. 

The environment minister’s warning that the bills will severely affect the government’s plan to combat deforestation by strengthening conservation areas in the Amazon, not reducing them, was simply ignored. Deforestation is already on the rise, reaching 7,989 sq kms in 2016, the environment ministry says.

The new legislation also completely contradicts Brazil’s Paris Agreement commitments to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Climate scientists also point out that reducing the size of conservation areas will help to dismember the Amazon, transforming it into an archipelago of forest fragments, leaving plant and animal populations more susceptible to extinction.

Ironically it is the ruralistas, the big farmers, who will suffer from lower rainfall in the midwest region – Brazil’s grain basket – more than anyone. – Climate News Network

Amazon’s Indians and rainforest under attack

rainforest

Attacks on Amazon Indians and on their land rights are threatening vital areas of rainforest indigenous people have preserved for centuries.

SÃO PAULO, 9 May, 2017 − A recent violent attack on a group of indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest of northern Brazil is seen by environmentalists as a symptom of a new climate of hostility towards such groups, fuelled by conservative congressmen’s attempts to undermine land rights.

As indigenous reserves, which occupy 23% of the greater Amazon region, are spaces where most of the rainforest is still intact, this represents a growing threat to the forest’s future – and therefore could impact on climate change.

The attack, by farmers armed with guns, knives and machetes in the northern state of Maranhão left up to 13 Gamela Indians in hospital with bullet and knife wounds.

The Gamela, who number about 1,200 people, have been occupying cattle farms established on what they claim is their traditional land. In the disputed areas, forest has been cleared and replaced with cattle pasture.

Rainforest preservation

The attack is part of a disturbing trend in Brazil that indirectly threatens the preservation of large areas of the Amazon rainforest.

Satellite maps produced by ISA, an environmental NGO, clearly show the relation between indigenous areas and the preservation of the forest. The Indians preserve the forest because they need its natural resources.

A 2014 study by Imazon, another Brazilian NGO, showed that in the Amazon region indigenous reserves accounted for under 2% of deforestation, while privately-owned areas accounted for 59%. Even in government-run conservation areas it was 27%, because of the frequency of illegal invasions by loggers and farmers.

But by October 2016, satellite images from INPE, the Brazil Space Research Institute, that is responsible for monitoring the Amazon region, showed that deforestation in indigenous reserves had almost tripled, mainly due to illegal logging and invasions. INPE detected an overall increase of almost 30% in deforestation for the region.

A study carried out in 2015 by IPAM, an NGO set up after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to produce scientific knowledge about the Amazon  − found that the indigenous areas, estimated to contain 13 billion tonnes of carbon, will have avoided 431 million tonnes of carbon emissions between 2006 and 2020.

“Forests maintained by the Indians function like
natural air conditioning and as climate
regulators of the region they are in”

In addition to their role in absorbing carbon and their low rates of deforestation, indigenous areas have a healthy effect on their surrounding areas, according to IPAM researcher Paulo Moutinho.

He says: “Forests maintained by the Indians function like natural air conditioning and as climate regulators of the region they are in.”

Yet in spite of the obvious advantages of respecting indigenous areas, not just for their inhabitants but for the whole of Brazil and for the global climate, government and politicians seem more interested in clearing the forest for agricultural and mining projects.

Sonia Guajajara, a co-ordinator at the Network of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB), says: “Although the whole world is discussing the reduction of deforestation to contain global warming, and Brazil has presented targets for reducing illegal deforestation, we are not even managing to do this. It is very worrying.”

She blames the relaxation of environmental laws, the advance of agribusiness, the building of dams that lead to deforestation of large surrounding areas, and the government`s development policies, as well as an increase in illegal logging in the reserves.

Reducing land rights

In order to free more land for cattle ranchers and soy producers, the powerful landowners’ lobby, which now dominates both the congress and the government, has tabled 189 bills aimed at reducing the land rights and autonomy of indigenous and other traditional communities. Other proposed bills will also relax environmental legislation.

A parliamentary committee of inquiry dominated by the rural lobby has also accused anthropologists and missionaries who work with indigenous groups of being in the pay of foreign interests, and has proposed that Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, Funai, should be closed down.

A peaceful demonstration by more than 3,000 indigenous people from all over Brazil in front of the congress building in Brasilia on 24 April was met with teargas and rubber bullets, and the demonstrators were prevented from entering the Senate to take part in a public hearing.

Funai’s budget has been cut by 44% as part of the government’s austerity programme.

The Minister of Justice, who is responsible for Funai, is reported to have held over 100 meetings with farmers and producers, but none with representatives of Brazil`s indigenous people, who number about 900,000 out of a total population of just over 200 million. The 252 groups speak over 150 languages.

The Amazon contains not only the largest indigenous community, the 50,000 strong Ticuna, but also small groups of “isolated” Indians, who still shun contact with the outside world.

One of Funai’s tasks is to protect these groups from the advance of loggers and miners, but the cuts have led it to close most of its forward posts in the region, leaving up to 5,000 isolated Indians on Brazil`s border with Peru at the mercy of invaders. – Climate News Network

Attacks on Amazon Indians and on their land rights are threatening vital areas of rainforest indigenous people have preserved for centuries.

SÃO PAULO, 9 May, 2017 − A recent violent attack on a group of indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest of northern Brazil is seen by environmentalists as a symptom of a new climate of hostility towards such groups, fuelled by conservative congressmen’s attempts to undermine land rights.

As indigenous reserves, which occupy 23% of the greater Amazon region, are spaces where most of the rainforest is still intact, this represents a growing threat to the forest’s future – and therefore could impact on climate change.

The attack, by farmers armed with guns, knives and machetes in the northern state of Maranhão left up to 13 Gamela Indians in hospital with bullet and knife wounds.

The Gamela, who number about 1,200 people, have been occupying cattle farms established on what they claim is their traditional land. In the disputed areas, forest has been cleared and replaced with cattle pasture.

Rainforest preservation

The attack is part of a disturbing trend in Brazil that indirectly threatens the preservation of large areas of the Amazon rainforest.

Satellite maps produced by ISA, an environmental NGO, clearly show the relation between indigenous areas and the preservation of the forest. The Indians preserve the forest because they need its natural resources.

A 2014 study by Imazon, another Brazilian NGO, showed that in the Amazon region indigenous reserves accounted for under 2% of deforestation, while privately-owned areas accounted for 59%. Even in government-run conservation areas it was 27%, because of the frequency of illegal invasions by loggers and farmers.

But by October 2016, satellite images from INPE, the Brazil Space Research Institute, that is responsible for monitoring the Amazon region, showed that deforestation in indigenous reserves had almost tripled, mainly due to illegal logging and invasions. INPE detected an overall increase of almost 30% in deforestation for the region.

A study carried out in 2015 by IPAM, an NGO set up after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to produce scientific knowledge about the Amazon  − found that the indigenous areas, estimated to contain 13 billion tonnes of carbon, will have avoided 431 million tonnes of carbon emissions between 2006 and 2020.

“Forests maintained by the Indians function like
natural air conditioning and as climate
regulators of the region they are in”

In addition to their role in absorbing carbon and their low rates of deforestation, indigenous areas have a healthy effect on their surrounding areas, according to IPAM researcher Paulo Moutinho.

He says: “Forests maintained by the Indians function like natural air conditioning and as climate regulators of the region they are in.”

Yet in spite of the obvious advantages of respecting indigenous areas, not just for their inhabitants but for the whole of Brazil and for the global climate, government and politicians seem more interested in clearing the forest for agricultural and mining projects.

Sonia Guajajara, a co-ordinator at the Network of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB), says: “Although the whole world is discussing the reduction of deforestation to contain global warming, and Brazil has presented targets for reducing illegal deforestation, we are not even managing to do this. It is very worrying.”

She blames the relaxation of environmental laws, the advance of agribusiness, the building of dams that lead to deforestation of large surrounding areas, and the government`s development policies, as well as an increase in illegal logging in the reserves.

Reducing land rights

In order to free more land for cattle ranchers and soy producers, the powerful landowners’ lobby, which now dominates both the congress and the government, has tabled 189 bills aimed at reducing the land rights and autonomy of indigenous and other traditional communities. Other proposed bills will also relax environmental legislation.

A parliamentary committee of inquiry dominated by the rural lobby has also accused anthropologists and missionaries who work with indigenous groups of being in the pay of foreign interests, and has proposed that Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, Funai, should be closed down.

A peaceful demonstration by more than 3,000 indigenous people from all over Brazil in front of the congress building in Brasilia on 24 April was met with teargas and rubber bullets, and the demonstrators were prevented from entering the Senate to take part in a public hearing.

Funai’s budget has been cut by 44% as part of the government’s austerity programme.

The Minister of Justice, who is responsible for Funai, is reported to have held over 100 meetings with farmers and producers, but none with representatives of Brazil`s indigenous people, who number about 900,000 out of a total population of just over 200 million. The 252 groups speak over 150 languages.

The Amazon contains not only the largest indigenous community, the 50,000 strong Ticuna, but also small groups of “isolated” Indians, who still shun contact with the outside world.

One of Funai’s tasks is to protect these groups from the advance of loggers and miners, but the cuts have led it to close most of its forward posts in the region, leaving up to 5,000 isolated Indians on Brazil`s border with Peru at the mercy of invaders. – Climate News Network

Brazil slashes environment budget

Brazil Amazon boys road

Drastic cuts to the environment ministry of Brazil and the approval of anti-environment laws will jeopardise the country’s fulfilment of the Paris Agreement targets.

SÃO PAULO, 20 April, 2017 – The Amazon rainforest, so vital to the world’s climate welfare, is said by environmental groups and scientists to be under severe attack from the Brazilian government, which is removing many safeguards to prevent deforestation.

The first shock was the cuts announced by President Michel Temer to the already limited budget of the environment ministry. These will “profoundly prejudice the monitoring of deforestation, and consequently, Brazil’s climate targets”, says Alfredo Sirkis, executive secretary of the FBMC, the National Climate Change Forum, a hybrid body set up in 2000 to bring together government planners and representatives of civil society to inform environmental legislation and raise public awareness.

Government cuts have been imposed on many ministries in order to reduce a growing deficit. Some will lose up to 30% of their budgets, but the environment ministry has been targeted for the biggest cut of all, losing a total of 53% from treasury funding and parliamentary allocations.

Urgent need

This is at a time when the need for environmental monitoring is more urgent than ever, according to green groups. Preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, INPE, shows that the Amazon region saw a 29% increase in forest clearance last year.

The environment ministry’s enforcement agency, IBAMA (the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), relies on teams of inspectors on the ground to monitor not only the vast Amazon region, but all the other biomes that make up Brazil. These drastic spending cuts will weaken its capacity to carry out inspections, warns the Climate Observatory, an environment group.

As well as investigating and stopping illegal logging and burning operations over vast areas of forest, the ministry’s budget is spent on protecting 326 federal conservation units, which cover 76 million hectares, licensing infrastructure projects, and feeding thousands of animals saved from hunters, poachers and dam construction in rescue centres.

The country, which likes to sell itself to the
world as part of the solution of the climate
crisis, has become a problem again”

While the ministry is being starved of the cash it needs to carry out its constitutional duties, the powerful landowners’ lobby in congress is pushing for a total relaxation of the environmental laws. Claiming the need to speed up the present lengthy process, they want the licensing process devolved to local authorities or even to the construction companies themselves. Critics warn that this could lead to local authorities competing to attract mining and other environmentally damaging projects by offering licensing-free deals.

If the rural producers’ lobby get their way, it would mean that road-building – known to be the main driver of deforestation – could go ahead with no regard for the environmental consequences. This could include the paving of controversial roadways such as the BR-319 (connecting the Amazon capital Manaus with the town of Porto Velho) and the BR-163 (connecting the Mato Grosso capital of Cuiabá with the Amazon river port of Santarém), both of which run through some of the most preserved areas of the Amazon rainforest. At the moment these roads are virtually impassable during the rainy season. Once paved, thousands of lorries will use them to carry the soy harvest north to river ports for shipping to Europe and the US.

Brazil climate targets

In a hard-hitting document, the Climate Observatory warns that the government and its parliamentary allies are promoting what may be the wors`t anti-environmental offensive since the 1980s. It states: “This puts at risk Brazil’s climate targets, besides the security of our entire society.”

Among the reversals of recent months, it lists the reduction in the size of several conservation units in the Amazon, the threat to indigenous reserves by the choice of a blatantly anti-indigenous Minister of Justice, Osmar Serraglio – who even questioned the Indians’ need for land – the privatisation of public lands and the end of environmental licensing.

The report concludes that Brazil risks rolling back its achievements of the last two decades in fighting deforestation, recognising indigenous lands and creating conservation units, and returning to the 1980s when it was viewed as “an international pariah” because of the accelerating clearing of the Amazon rainforest. It says: “The country, which likes to sell itself to the world as part of the solution of the climate crisis, has become a problem again.” – Climate News Network

Drastic cuts to the environment ministry of Brazil and the approval of anti-environment laws will jeopardise the country’s fulfilment of the Paris Agreement targets.

SÃO PAULO, 20 April, 2017 – The Amazon rainforest, so vital to the world’s climate welfare, is said by environmental groups and scientists to be under severe attack from the Brazilian government, which is removing many safeguards to prevent deforestation.

The first shock was the cuts announced by President Michel Temer to the already limited budget of the environment ministry. These will “profoundly prejudice the monitoring of deforestation, and consequently, Brazil’s climate targets”, says Alfredo Sirkis, executive secretary of the FBMC, the National Climate Change Forum, a hybrid body set up in 2000 to bring together government planners and representatives of civil society to inform environmental legislation and raise public awareness.

Government cuts have been imposed on many ministries in order to reduce a growing deficit. Some will lose up to 30% of their budgets, but the environment ministry has been targeted for the biggest cut of all, losing a total of 53% from treasury funding and parliamentary allocations.

Urgent need

This is at a time when the need for environmental monitoring is more urgent than ever, according to green groups. Preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, INPE, shows that the Amazon region saw a 29% increase in forest clearance last year.

The environment ministry’s enforcement agency, IBAMA (the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), relies on teams of inspectors on the ground to monitor not only the vast Amazon region, but all the other biomes that make up Brazil. These drastic spending cuts will weaken its capacity to carry out inspections, warns the Climate Observatory, an environment group.

As well as investigating and stopping illegal logging and burning operations over vast areas of forest, the ministry’s budget is spent on protecting 326 federal conservation units, which cover 76 million hectares, licensing infrastructure projects, and feeding thousands of animals saved from hunters, poachers and dam construction in rescue centres.

The country, which likes to sell itself to the
world as part of the solution of the climate
crisis, has become a problem again”

While the ministry is being starved of the cash it needs to carry out its constitutional duties, the powerful landowners’ lobby in congress is pushing for a total relaxation of the environmental laws. Claiming the need to speed up the present lengthy process, they want the licensing process devolved to local authorities or even to the construction companies themselves. Critics warn that this could lead to local authorities competing to attract mining and other environmentally damaging projects by offering licensing-free deals.

If the rural producers’ lobby get their way, it would mean that road-building – known to be the main driver of deforestation – could go ahead with no regard for the environmental consequences. This could include the paving of controversial roadways such as the BR-319 (connecting the Amazon capital Manaus with the town of Porto Velho) and the BR-163 (connecting the Mato Grosso capital of Cuiabá with the Amazon river port of Santarém), both of which run through some of the most preserved areas of the Amazon rainforest. At the moment these roads are virtually impassable during the rainy season. Once paved, thousands of lorries will use them to carry the soy harvest north to river ports for shipping to Europe and the US.

Brazil climate targets

In a hard-hitting document, the Climate Observatory warns that the government and its parliamentary allies are promoting what may be the wors`t anti-environmental offensive since the 1980s. It states: “This puts at risk Brazil’s climate targets, besides the security of our entire society.”

Among the reversals of recent months, it lists the reduction in the size of several conservation units in the Amazon, the threat to indigenous reserves by the choice of a blatantly anti-indigenous Minister of Justice, Osmar Serraglio – who even questioned the Indians’ need for land – the privatisation of public lands and the end of environmental licensing.

The report concludes that Brazil risks rolling back its achievements of the last two decades in fighting deforestation, recognising indigenous lands and creating conservation units, and returning to the 1980s when it was viewed as “an international pariah” because of the accelerating clearing of the Amazon rainforest. It says: “The country, which likes to sell itself to the world as part of the solution of the climate crisis, has become a problem again.” – Climate News Network

Brazil monkey deaths signal spread of viruses

monkeys and viruses

Climate change and deforestation in Brazil help mosquitoes spread viruses to humans and endangered species of monkeys.

SÃO PAULO, 4 April, 2017 – Scientists in Brazil believe that global warming and climate change have created conditions that favour the reproduction of the mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as yellow fever, now spreading through previously immune regions of Brazil.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that an increase of 4°C in mean annual temperatures is possible in these south and central regions because of warming caused by carbon dioxide concentrations.

The yellow fever virus can be transmitted to humans and to monkeys, and thousands of monkeys − some from endangered species − have died in the last four months.

Most of the deaths have been caused by the virus, but some monkeys have been shot or clubbed to death by Brazilians who erroneously believe that they, and not the mosquitoes, are responsible for transmitting the virus to humans.

The woolly spider monkey (muriqui), and the brown howler monkey (bugio) are the species most affected.

Sérgio Lucena, a primatologist and zoology professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo, says that, in fact, monkeys are sentinels because they die before humans. “If the virus begins to propagate in a determined area, the death of monkeys sends us a warning.”

Encourage viruses

Since January, the yellow fever virus has claimed nearly 2,000 human victims, 300 of them fatal, in a region of Brazil where it had been eliminated in the 1940s.

The epidemic began in the state of Minas Gerais last December, and since then it has spread to the neighbouring states of Espirito Santo, Rio, São Paulo and Bahia. Vaccination campaigns are now under way.

The virus, which is transmitted by the haemagogus mosquito, is normally confined to the tropical regions in the north of Brazil.

José Cássio de Moraes, an epidemiologist at the Santa Casa hospital in São Paulo, says that intense deforestation, the chaotic urbanisation of rural areas and climate change have worked together to encourage the spread of viruses such as yellow fever − not only in Brazil, but in many other countries.

“Changes in ecosystems, global warming, intense rains, heat – all this facilitates the spread of disease by vectors [disease transmitters].”

“When the trees are destroyed and another primate,
the human being, appears, this haemogogus
mosquito will substitute the man for the monkey”

So far, the cases in the southeast region of Brazil have occurred in rural areas with woods and forests. But officials are worried because many of these areas are not far from major urban centres such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Tens of millions of people live in these areas, where the city-dwelling aedes aegypti mosquitoes could start the spread of the disease in a human-to-human cycle, according to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

These mosquitoes are already responsible for the transmission of the dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses, which have claimed thousands of victims in Brazil in the last few years.

Although there is a highly effective vaccine for yellow fever, it is not routinely given in the major urban centres.

Sérgio Lucena is one of a group of scientists in Brazil who have begun to study the relationship between the present epidemic and the degradation of the environment.

Fragments of forest

He explains: “Monkeys live in the canopies of the trees. The cycle is restricted to there. But when the trees are destroyed and another primate, the human being, appears, this haemogogus mosquito will substitute the man for the monkey.”

Over the years, deforestation has left different species of monkey surviving in very small fragments of forest, and Lucena says: “Impoverished ecological systems can favour the growth of mosquito populations.”

When virus-carrying mosquitoes find large populations of monkeys in isolated areas of the Atlantic Forest  − which once covered the entire eastern coastline of Brazil, but is now reduced to under 10% of its original size − they thrive. And when there are no more monkeys to infect, they turn to other victims – humans.

Deforestation also impoverishes the surviving forest. Where there is plenty of fruit and shade, without pollution, the monkeys are healthier, stress-free, with a more efficient immune system, and better able to resist viruses.

Dr Moraes warns that if the continuing worldwide urban expansion into rural areas is not controlled, the changes could bring not only an increase in cases of yellow fever but also of other diseases transmitted by vectors, such as leishmaniasis and malaria. – Climate News Network

Climate change and deforestation in Brazil help mosquitoes spread viruses to humans and endangered species of monkeys.

SÃO PAULO, 4 April, 2017 – Scientists in Brazil believe that global warming and climate change have created conditions that favour the reproduction of the mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as yellow fever, now spreading through previously immune regions of Brazil.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that an increase of 4°C in mean annual temperatures is possible in these south and central regions because of warming caused by carbon dioxide concentrations.

The yellow fever virus can be transmitted to humans and to monkeys, and thousands of monkeys − some from endangered species − have died in the last four months.

Most of the deaths have been caused by the virus, but some monkeys have been shot or clubbed to death by Brazilians who erroneously believe that they, and not the mosquitoes, are responsible for transmitting the virus to humans.

The woolly spider monkey (muriqui), and the brown howler monkey (bugio) are the species most affected.

Sérgio Lucena, a primatologist and zoology professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo, says that, in fact, monkeys are sentinels because they die before humans. “If the virus begins to propagate in a determined area, the death of monkeys sends us a warning.”

Encourage viruses

Since January, the yellow fever virus has claimed nearly 2,000 human victims, 300 of them fatal, in a region of Brazil where it had been eliminated in the 1940s.

The epidemic began in the state of Minas Gerais last December, and since then it has spread to the neighbouring states of Espirito Santo, Rio, São Paulo and Bahia. Vaccination campaigns are now under way.

The virus, which is transmitted by the haemagogus mosquito, is normally confined to the tropical regions in the north of Brazil.

José Cássio de Moraes, an epidemiologist at the Santa Casa hospital in São Paulo, says that intense deforestation, the chaotic urbanisation of rural areas and climate change have worked together to encourage the spread of viruses such as yellow fever − not only in Brazil, but in many other countries.

“Changes in ecosystems, global warming, intense rains, heat – all this facilitates the spread of disease by vectors [disease transmitters].”

“When the trees are destroyed and another primate,
the human being, appears, this haemogogus
mosquito will substitute the man for the monkey”

So far, the cases in the southeast region of Brazil have occurred in rural areas with woods and forests. But officials are worried because many of these areas are not far from major urban centres such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Tens of millions of people live in these areas, where the city-dwelling aedes aegypti mosquitoes could start the spread of the disease in a human-to-human cycle, according to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

These mosquitoes are already responsible for the transmission of the dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses, which have claimed thousands of victims in Brazil in the last few years.

Although there is a highly effective vaccine for yellow fever, it is not routinely given in the major urban centres.

Sérgio Lucena is one of a group of scientists in Brazil who have begun to study the relationship between the present epidemic and the degradation of the environment.

Fragments of forest

He explains: “Monkeys live in the canopies of the trees. The cycle is restricted to there. But when the trees are destroyed and another primate, the human being, appears, this haemogogus mosquito will substitute the man for the monkey.”

Over the years, deforestation has left different species of monkey surviving in very small fragments of forest, and Lucena says: “Impoverished ecological systems can favour the growth of mosquito populations.”

When virus-carrying mosquitoes find large populations of monkeys in isolated areas of the Atlantic Forest  − which once covered the entire eastern coastline of Brazil, but is now reduced to under 10% of its original size − they thrive. And when there are no more monkeys to infect, they turn to other victims – humans.

Deforestation also impoverishes the surviving forest. Where there is plenty of fruit and shade, without pollution, the monkeys are healthier, stress-free, with a more efficient immune system, and better able to resist viruses.

Dr Moraes warns that if the continuing worldwide urban expansion into rural areas is not controlled, the changes could bring not only an increase in cases of yellow fever but also of other diseases transmitted by vectors, such as leishmaniasis and malaria. – Climate News Network

Clean energy comes home to the Amazon

Amazon

The irony of the Amazon, the lungs of the world, being choked by smoke from diesel-powered generators may soon be at an end, as Brazil plans to develop the use of renewable energy in the region.

SÃO PAULO, 26 March, 2017 – In the small towns and villages of the Amazon there is a sound that is as familiar as the calls of the birds and monkeys in the forest: the non-stop throbbing of diesel-powered generators that provide the energy for lights, fridges, TVs and every other piece of electrical equipment.

Although the Amazon region is home to dozens of big hydroelectric dams, their energy is sent thousands of miles south to power the homes and factories in the big cities, or to feed electricity-intensive industries, many of them foreign-owned aluminium smelters.

Very little of it stays within the region which generates it. Instead the seven states that make up Brazil’s huge Amazon region rely on diesel-fuelled power plants, which together emit annually 6 million tons of CO2, double the emissions produced by vehicles in São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.

Paris Agreement

Now the government has finally begun to tackle the problem, spurred on by the need to meet its Paris Agreement targets.

The environment minister, José Sarney Filho, says: “We took on ambitious targets under the Paris Agreement, and to meet them we need to expand the use of renewable sources of energy.”

The first step is a programme to provide alternative energy sources for 55 towns with a combined population of about half a million people, replacing 255 diesel plants with ones using renewable energy.

“Little by little, we will bring cleaner energy
to the region”

Bids have been invited for an energy auction, to be held in May, and 54 have already been submitted. Solar, wind and any other renewable fuels are all eligible. Successful bids will receive subsidised loans from Brazil’s development bank, the BNDES, which has stopped funding coal- and oil-fuelled plants and switched to renewables.

Fernando Coelho Filho, Brazil’s energy minister, expressed confidence that  “little by little, we will bring cleaner energy to the region … we have begun an inversion of the curve of fossil fuel polluting systems”.

Dirty and costly

Not only does Amazonia have the dirtiest energy production in a country where most energy comes from hydroelectricity, it also has the most expensive. Its high electricity bills are partly subsidised by a tax on all Brazilian consumers.

One of the reasons is the high cost of diesel fuel, which has to be transported 4,000 miles round the Brazilian coast from refineries in Rio de Janeiro and then up the Amazon to the port at Manaus, the region’s capital. Five large tankers make the trip each month.

From Manaus, a fleet of 200 rafts and 500 lorries distribute the diesel throughout the region, putting the rivers at risk of pollution from leaks and accidents.

Both industrialists and environmentalists welcomed the news. For local industrialists, like Ronaldo Mota, director of the confederation of industry in the state of Amazonas, thermal plants are unreliable, with power levels oscillating throughout the day and sometimes failing altogether, a costly problem for factories.

For environmentalists like Paulo Moutinho, of IPAM, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, “any energy based on burning fossil fuels is potentially damaging to the environment, not only locally with smoke and soot, but globally with GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions”. – Climate News Network

The irony of the Amazon, the lungs of the world, being choked by smoke from diesel-powered generators may soon be at an end, as Brazil plans to develop the use of renewable energy in the region.

SÃO PAULO, 26 March, 2017 – In the small towns and villages of the Amazon there is a sound that is as familiar as the calls of the birds and monkeys in the forest: the non-stop throbbing of diesel-powered generators that provide the energy for lights, fridges, TVs and every other piece of electrical equipment.

Although the Amazon region is home to dozens of big hydroelectric dams, their energy is sent thousands of miles south to power the homes and factories in the big cities, or to feed electricity-intensive industries, many of them foreign-owned aluminium smelters.

Very little of it stays within the region which generates it. Instead the seven states that make up Brazil’s huge Amazon region rely on diesel-fuelled power plants, which together emit annually 6 million tons of CO2, double the emissions produced by vehicles in São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.

Paris Agreement

Now the government has finally begun to tackle the problem, spurred on by the need to meet its Paris Agreement targets.

The environment minister, José Sarney Filho, says: “We took on ambitious targets under the Paris Agreement, and to meet them we need to expand the use of renewable sources of energy.”

The first step is a programme to provide alternative energy sources for 55 towns with a combined population of about half a million people, replacing 255 diesel plants with ones using renewable energy.

“Little by little, we will bring cleaner energy
to the region”

Bids have been invited for an energy auction, to be held in May, and 54 have already been submitted. Solar, wind and any other renewable fuels are all eligible. Successful bids will receive subsidised loans from Brazil’s development bank, the BNDES, which has stopped funding coal- and oil-fuelled plants and switched to renewables.

Fernando Coelho Filho, Brazil’s energy minister, expressed confidence that  “little by little, we will bring cleaner energy to the region … we have begun an inversion of the curve of fossil fuel polluting systems”.

Dirty and costly

Not only does Amazonia have the dirtiest energy production in a country where most energy comes from hydroelectricity, it also has the most expensive. Its high electricity bills are partly subsidised by a tax on all Brazilian consumers.

One of the reasons is the high cost of diesel fuel, which has to be transported 4,000 miles round the Brazilian coast from refineries in Rio de Janeiro and then up the Amazon to the port at Manaus, the region’s capital. Five large tankers make the trip each month.

From Manaus, a fleet of 200 rafts and 500 lorries distribute the diesel throughout the region, putting the rivers at risk of pollution from leaks and accidents.

Both industrialists and environmentalists welcomed the news. For local industrialists, like Ronaldo Mota, director of the confederation of industry in the state of Amazonas, thermal plants are unreliable, with power levels oscillating throughout the day and sometimes failing altogether, a costly problem for factories.

For environmentalists like Paulo Moutinho, of IPAM, the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, “any energy based on burning fossil fuels is potentially damaging to the environment, not only locally with smoke and soot, but globally with GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions”. – Climate News Network