A Zero Sum Game: Brazil’s announcement on NDC at COP26 lacks ambition

The Brazilian government announced today at COP26 that it will submit an updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aiming to reduce, by 2030, 50% of GHG emissions relative to the year 2005. NDC is the contribution that each country sets domestically as a commitment to the Paris Agreement – the legal instrument that seeks to limit global warming to secure levels.

The absolute numbers behind the target announced by Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, Mr. Joaquim Leite, this Monday, November 1st, have not been published yet. The government only indicated that data available on the 4th National Emissions Inventory will be utilized, meaning that metrics and background data may change.

Analysis by Talanoa, a Brazilian think tank dedicated to climate policy, shows that it is very likely that the announced proposal will not increase Brazil’s climate ambition, as expected, in relation to the initial goal proposed in 2015.


Previous NDCs
In its first commitment to the Paris Agreement in 2015, Brazil was literal in adopting an economy-wide absolute mitigation target, with absolute emission levels of 1.2 GtCO2e in 2030, corresponding, respectively, to that reduction of 43%, based on estimated emission levels of 2.1 GtCO2e in 2005.

An updated NDC, submitted to the UNFCCC in December 2020, was based on a level of 2.8 GtCO2e in 2005. At that level, and without changing the percentages of its targets, Brazil could actually increase its emissions in the future. It would generate a difference of about 400 million tons in 2030. That gap was greater than eight years of emissions from the Brazilian electricity sector, or three times the mitigation potential contained in the federal government’s Low Carbon Agriculture Plan, the ABC Plan. For this reason, the NDC submitted by Brazil in 2020 was considered a “trick”.


New NDC (2021)
The announcement made by Brazil today will update the percentage (from 43 to 50% reduction in 2030, relative to 2005) and background data utilized in the country’s target. The government is set to use the 4th (Fourth) National Communication, which contains emissions figures for the year 2005 considering two metrics: GWP-AR5 and GWP-SAR. The first (GWP-AR5) was the basis used in Brazil’s first NDC, iNDC, in 2015.

The announcement from November 2021 may be based on one or another level of emissions contained in the 4th (Fourth) National Communication:

– 2.4 GtCO2e emitted in 2005, according to the GWP-SAR metric; or
– 2.6 GtCO2e emitted in 2005, according to the GWP-AR5 metric.

An assessment of what 50% emission reductions mean in 2030, using these two metrics, shows that:

– Using GWP-SAR, means reaching a threshold of 1.22 GtCO2eq in 2030; and
– Using GWP-AR5 means reaching 1.28 GtCO2eq by 2030.

The emission reduction threshold proposed in the original 2015 NDC was 1.20 GtCO2eq in 2030. Therefore, the new NDC (2021) only has the potential to return to an amount almost, but not fully, equivalent to the original target.

To exactly match the original target from 2015, it would be necessary to adopt a percentage between 51% and 54% for the end of this decade, respectively the AR5 or SAR.

To align itself with the Paris Agreement, Brazil should actually increase its ambition. That is, to promise a bigger goal than what was proposed 6 years ago. In this case, it would have to go beyond 51% (considering the GWP-SAR metric) or 54% (considering GWP-AR5).

Contrary to what was announced, no increase in climate ambition is envisioned, even with the percentage increase from 43% to 50%. The only hypothesis that would allow an increase in ambition would be that the government would use the same absolute value of emissions considered in the iNDC (of 2.1 GtCO2eq) for 2005.

2005 GHG Emissions
4th National Communication (GWP-AR5) 4th National Communication (GWP-SAR) iNDC
Emissions target considering the 2005 emission baseline 2.735 2.445 2.1
43% 1.46 1.39 1.20
50% 1.28 1.22 1.05

Visions for Brazil 2030
A 300-people initiative entitled “Climate and Development: Visions for Brazil 2030” presented ambitious proposals for reducing GHG emissions by 2030, considering opportunities for decarbonization and qualification of national development. These proposals were developed through economic modelling done by the Centro Clima from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and involved high-level consultations with more than 300 Brazilian actors – including experts and leaders.

“We are confident that an ambitous climate target has gains for the economy, and, besides decarbonization, it generates jobs, increases GDP and income, and can support the reduction of inequalities,” says Natalie Unterstell, president of Talanoa.

The scenarios developed by the Initiative showed that it is possible for Brazil to reach a level of 0.51 or 0.90 GtCO2e, by 2030, also considering 2005 emissions as the baseline. Using data from the 4th (Fourth) National Communication, these scenarios are equivalent to reductions of 63% and 80% by 2030, relative to 2005.

Comparing the new NDC announced today – and yet to be submitted –  with the numbers of the Climate and Development initiative, there is still a big gap between what was proposed by the government and the ambition recommended by many actors in society. This difference is hundreds of millions of tons.

The initiative estimates that it is possible to achieve these ambitious emission reductions through a significant reduction in deforestation, betting on forest restoration and carbon pricing, through a regulated trading system.

Absolute emissions targets (em GtCO2eq)
1.20 2015 Original NDC iNDC)
1.60 2020 updated NDC
1.22 4 National Communication updated NDC (50%) – GWP-SAR
1.28 4 National Communication updated 4CN (50%) – GWP-AR5
0.96 Climate and development proposal: 63% Scenario
0.51 Climate and development proposal: 80% Scenario



About Talanoa
Talanoa Institute is a Brazilian think tank dedicated to climate policy. More information at www.institutotalanoa.org and www.clima2030.com.br

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