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Brazil abandons hosting UN COP25, another blow to consensus on climate change

Image Courtesy: Bloomberg

In yet another major setback to global cooperation in climate change mitigation, Brazil has backtracked on hosting COP25 in 2019. The announcement comes just a few days before COP24 talks will begin in Katowice, Poland and it has left the international community dismayed and shocked.

Two months earlier Brazil won the bid to host COP25 conference and as per the official government statement issued then, the country was enthusiastic to play a leadership role in issues of climate change and sustainability. This is why this abrupt and unpredictable U-turn is all the more shocking.

Why the sudden 180-degree turn?

The Brazilian government has said it won’t be able to host the global conference due to the transition in government that is still taking place and budgetary constraints.

However, this statement supposedly belies the real reason. The newly-elected Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, threatened to follow the example of US President Donald Trump and pull out of the COP21 Paris Agreement while he was campaigning for the presidential elections. After being elected he abandoned the plan to leave COP21 due to the global flak his proposal attracted and petitions by organizations like Greenpeace and WWF but scaled down climate change efforts.

Last month,  Ernesto Araújo, Brazil’s current foreign minister and a key ally of Bolsonaro, stunned everyone when he wrote in his blog post that climate change is a  ‘dogma’ and a ‘cultural Marxist’ conspiracy aimed to undermine Brazilian industries and boost Chinese growth.

Also Read: Act now or perish: UN panel on climate change gives ultimatum of 12 years

Climate Change in dire straits

What further aggravates Brazil’s decision to abandon holding the COP25 on summit is that it almost coincides with the latest UN report titled ‘Emissions Gap Report’, which states that governments globally have to take extra efforts to meet the targets of Paris Agreement. The report says that in order to reach the 2 degree Celsius mark, we have to triple the efforts, which is in itself a very difficult task and further derailed by climate change skepticism in governments.

The report presents an assessment of ’emissions gap’, which can be defined as the gap between the predicted emission levels in 2030, compared to levels consistent with a 2°C / 1.5°C target. The report proposes increased taxes on fossil fuels, investment in clean technology, stronger government regulations to curb emissions and removing all government subsidies on fossil fuels.

To reach the goal near the end of the century, the emission gap has to be closed by 2030.

The emissions have reached ‘historic levels’ of 53.5 giga-tonnes of an equivalent of carbon dioxide and it is continuing unabated.

The report highlights that 57 countries, which together account for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, are expected to peak their emission levels before 2030. If emissions rise beyond that limit, the UN has said countries are likely to breach the 1.5C limit, which would trigger global catastrophe.

NOAA has also released the National Climate Assessment report which states that if adequate measures are not taken to control climate change, there would be an estimated loss of $500 billion, which is more than double the economic blow to the American economy during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The consequences would be dire for the environment, human habitation, the industry as well as the economy, as the comprehensive 1,600-page report points out. So it becomes all the more baffling when US president Trump refutes these findings and says ‘I don’t believe it’.

Why Brazil matters in climate change efforts?

Brazil has been traditionally among the nations most committed to reversing global warming and promoting sustainability.

The 1992 UN Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which laid the groundwork for concerted international efforts to recognize and combat man-made climate change. Since then Brazil has been among the influential countries shaping the agenda on global warming, ecological conservation and global warming.

Brazilian diplomats also played a significant role in the adoption of the COP21 consensus on the reduction of average temperature rise by 2030.

What makes Brazil unique for environmental conservation and climate change efforts is also the fact that Brazil has more than 60% of Amazon rainforests – the world’s largest and most biodiverse rainforest, which soak carbon emissions and is a huge repository of different species of flora and fauna.

The threat of deforestation and the Brazil governments push for exploitation of Amazon rainforests and opening them for farming, mining, and building dams, would be an ecological disaster as per environmentalists.