Brazil eyes deeper CO2 cuts, backs U.N. forest plan

BRASILIA Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:10pm EDT

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc said on Tuesday that the government is studying deeper emissions cuts than previously announced and that it favors a U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme.

The South American nation is expected to play a key role in negotiations at a Copenhagen summit in December that will seek to frame a new international treaty on climate change.

Brazil was studying a reduction of 40 percent from its anticipated 2020 emissions of 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to 1.7 billion tons. That compares to emissions of 2.1 billion tons in 2005 and 1.7 billion tons in 1994. Minc had previously said the objective was to freeze emissions at 2005 levels.

"Our proposal has evolved, we're looking at a 40 percent reduction over 2020 levels," Minc told a news conference in the capital Brasilia.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to make a final decision on November 3 on the proposal Brazil will take to the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen.

The government had already decided it would conditionally back a proposed scheme in Copenhagen called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), Minc said.

Under REDD rich countries reward developing nations for preserving forests to prevent CO2 emissions through the use of an expanded carbon market. The scheme could be adopted as part of a broader climate pact in Copenhagen.

Around 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions could stem from deforestation, as trees that are burned or cut down emit carbon dioxide.

"In previous meetings Brazil didn't defend REDD -- that position has evolved," Minc said.

But under Brazil's proposal, REDD should not make up more than 10 percent of a rich country's total reduction commitment, Minc added.

"Rich countries still have to do their homework," he said.

ACTIONS

Under the environment ministry's proposal, roughly half of Brazil's proposed 40 percent CO2 emissions cut would come from reducing deforestation. Brazil aims for an 80 percent reduction in the deforestation rate by 2020, based on the annual average of 19,500 sq km (7,528 sq miles) between 1996 and 2005.

Amazon destruction rates in the 12 months through July are expected to have fallen to 9,500 sq km (3,667 sq miles), its lowest in 20 years.

The remainder of the emissions cuts would come from improved farming practices, increased use of biofuels and planting of forests to make charcoal for the pig iron industry.

Deforestation in Brazil accounts for roughly 75 percent of carbon emissions but only 52 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, which include more dangerous methane and nitrous oxide. The farm sector was the No. 2 polluter, with a 25 percent share of total emissions. Burning bagasse and leaving animal feces untreated are among those culprits.

The power sector accounted for 20 percent and industry for only 1.7 percent of total emissions, according to the environment ministry.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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