Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in the Amazon Region could be reduced to zero by 2030 if the new Forest Code is fully implemented. That is the principal conclusion of the report entitled “Land use change in Brazil: 2000-2050,” produced by researchers involved in the project known as REDD-PAC (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation – Policy Assessment Center), funded by the International Climate Initiative of the German government, with FAPESP support. The study’s findings were presented on October 7, 2015 at the Foundation’s headquarters in São Paulo, and served as a guideline for drawing up Brazil’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC), delivered by President Dilma Rousseff in September 2015 to the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, held in New York. According to the report, with the gradual reduction in deforestation, more effort should be directed at curbing pollution generated by the energy and industrial sectors. Without investment in renewable energy and modernization of production lines, for example, it will be harder for Brazil to fulfill its promise of a 37% reduction in emissions by 2025 (referenced to 2005) and a 43% reduction by 2030. The Brazilian government will present its goal at the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21), to be held November 30 to December 11, 2015 in Paris.
One projection in the report indicates that, if the Forest Code is fully implemented, with deforested areas restored along riverbanks and in headwaters, nearly 11 million hectares of Brazil’s land area would be reforested by 2030. And emissions from deforestation in Brazil could be reduced by as much as 110 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2030. That figure would represent a 92% reduction in emissions from 2000, when nearly two-thirds of the CO2 that Brazil released into the atmosphere was attributed to deforestation. “This means that, for Brazil, deforestation is likely to cease being a major climate problem. The main focus at this time should be to reassess the energy question and the impact that industry has on greenhouse gas emissions,” explained Gilberto Câmara, a researcher at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and coordinator of the Redd-PAC project. Also collaborating on the project were researchers from the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations Environment Program. “We don’t need more environmental laws to control deforestation. The issue now is to see that the Forest Code is implemented,” Câmara said.
The Forest Code, which was approved in 2012, is designed to prevent illegal deforestation. It stipulates the recovery of legal reserve areas and mandates the Rural Environmental Cadastre (CAR), an instrument created to regulate and monitor rural properties. The report estimates that, if these measures are implemented, Brazil will be able to balance its goals of agricultural production and environmental protection. Croplands are expected to increase in the next few decades, from 56 million hectares in 2010 to 92 million in 2030, and could reach 114 million ha in 2050. In the assessment of the researchers responsible for the report, the current environmental legislation allows for expanded land use for producing both food and bioenergy, without causing an increase in deforestation. They even expect a reduction in the area used for pastureland as techniques are developed to increase productivity.
“We project a 10 million-hectare reduction in pasture area between 2010 and 2030. In that year, we should have approximately 230 million head of cattle in Brazil, occupying 30% less area per head than in 2000,” Câmara noted. There are currently about 200 million head of cattle on approximately 200 million hectares—half a head per hectare. This type of extensive livestock farming predominates in Brazil. In order to meet the projections given in the report, the country needs to invest increasingly in alternative methods that can raise agricultural productivity without environmental damage. One such technique still in its earliest stages here is the silvopastoral system, in which cattle are raised on wooded pastureland in the midst of forests. With this method, farmers can raise up to five animals per hectare, producing an annual yield of 10,000 to 15,000 liters of milk per hectare, without fertilizers and hardly any dietary supplements (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issue nº 192). “Reducing deforestation involves making better use of the land. Contrary to what one might think, however, we haven’t yet solved this problem in Brazil,” says Sergius Gandolfi, a professor at the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture at the University of São Paulo (ESALQ-USP).
According to Gandolfi, who participated in the discussions leading up to the approval of the new Forest Code, we need to look at the law not just for its impact on emissions, but in a broader sense. In his view, it is necessary, and still possible, to revisit the previous Forest Code, which mandates more forest recovery. It would also enable us, Gandolfi says, to achieve a bigger and earlier reduction in emissions, and to effectively save rivers, lakes, mangrove forests, and other resources. “We may be able to revive part of the earlier law, because right now four direct actions to declare the new Forest Code unconstitutional (ADINs) are being pursued before the Brazilian Supreme Court,” he says. The Office of the Prosecutor for the Public Interest is questioning the constitutionality of provisions in the new law pertaining to Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs), reduction of the size of legal reserves, and amnesty for those who promote environmental degradation. “So the code approved three years ago could be rolled back on many important points,” Gandolfi explains.
According to the researcher, nearly 90% of Brazil’s river channels are less than 10 meters wide. For these areas, the earlier 1965 law called for a 30-meter riparian protection zone on both sides of streams as a protection measure. “The current code allows for reduction of the protection zone, depending on the size of the property. It could be just five meters, for example, which would be six times smaller,” he explained. According to Gandolfi, a five- to eight-meter forest protection zone would not be enough to retain sediments or excess fertilizer, which would flow into rivers. “This shows how land use still remains an unstable situation in Brazil, with areas along riverbanks and in headwaters that should be reforested to ensure water security being legally converted into production areas,” he says.
Other countries have also announced their voluntary proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The United States, which is responsible for 14% of global emissions, plans on a 28% reduction by 2025 from 2005 levels. China, responsible for 28% of emissions, recently reaffirmed its pledge to reach its maximum level of greenhouse gas emission in 2030, or before then if possible. According to official data, coal currently supplies 66% of that country’s energy demand, as compared to oil (18.4%) and natural gas (5.8%).
The expected emission reductions, however, would not be able to save the planet from a 2.7-degrees Celsius rise in temperature by 2050. “Based on the INDCs announced to date by several countries, global emissions could be reduced by up to 40% on average,” according to Paulo Artaxo, a professor at the USP Physics Institute who spoke at the event held at FAPESP. “The figure could be lower, however, because goals vary considerably from one country to another, making it hard to give a more accurate estimate. To ensure that the average increase doesn’t exceed two degrees, we would have to cut global emissions by around 70%,” he said.
Gilberto Câmara steered the discussion towards a quandary. “Do we want to go with oil, including pre-salt reserves, or with renewable fuels?” he asked. He explained that in 2035 Brazil is expected to produce about six million barrels of oil per day, yet the country has one of the world’s highest potentials for bioenergy production. “Whereas our fossil fuel consumption makes up around 20% of the energy matrix, oil consumption has a 50% share globally. If you now project that Brazil will become a big exporter of oil, you’re projecting a much warmer world,” he noted. Rubens Maciel Filho, a professor at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), pointed out that you don’t just change a country’s energy matrix overnight. “We have an interesting path to pursue with oil as we continue to reap some benefit from deep-water exploration,” he said. “We may be able to advantageously use some of our revenue from pre-salt to develop biofuels. Energy from biomass such as sugarcane is becoming a strategic long-term focus,” Maciel emphasized.
According to physicist and FAPESP President José Goldemberg, in order for Brazil to meet the commitments it will present at the Paris conference in December 2015, it will be important to invest in modernizing the country’s industrial sector, much of which is located in the state of São Paulo. “Modernization means adopting technological innovations that not only reduce the consumption of energy and other inputs, but also bring Brazil’s industrial sector up to a level of performance comparable to that of the industrialized countries,” Goldemberg wrote in an October 19, 2015 article published in the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo.
On October 8, 2015, the São Paulo State Secretary of the Environment and FAPESP signed a protocol of intentions to implement the state’s Climate Protocol. Its objective is to help companies identify or develop technologies to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Thirteen days later, at a meeting in which she presented the protocol to companies, associations and business entities operating in the state, Secretary of the Environment Patricia Iglecias said that the partnership with FAPESP would support small and medium-sized businesses in particular, which have a harder time implementing measures to reduce emissions. “The big businesses and more highly structured sectors already have initiatives in that area,” she told Agência FAPESP.
Entities can accede to the protocol on the department’s website. Representatives of major companies such as Unilever, Grupo Votorantim and Carrefour have already signed a memorandum of understanding in reference to that document. The protocol sets up a system that awards up to nine points for information that businesses provide, such as data on inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, voluntary goals and climate adaptation measures. According to Oswaldo dos Santos Lucon, a climate change advisor to the department, industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in a number of ways. “From the use of fossil fuels for transportation and logistics, to the impact of end products, such as automobiles,” he said.Republish