By Marcelo Teixeira
SAO PAULO Nov 28 Energy is on track to overtake deforestation for the first time as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil as Amazon rainforest destruction recedes and energy use in Latin America's largest economy continues to rise, a new study showed.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land use change in Brazil stood at 569 million tonnes in 2011, a 64 percent drop from 2005, while energy use emissions rose 33 percent in the same interval to 436 million tonnes.
"This year, considering the projected fall in Amazon deforestation, it is possible to estimate total emissions would fall below 1.5 billion tonnes, and for the first time GHG gases from energy use and agriculture will lead," said independent consultant Tasso Azevedo.
Last year, land use change - namely deforestation - accounted for 36 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, while energy and agriculture accounted for 27 percent and 28 percent respectively.
A former director of the Brazilian Forestry Service, Azevedo authored the study published on Wednesday projecting national emissions levels since Brazil's last official inventory in 2005.
Brazil has had success in reducing deforestation, traditionally its main source of heat-trapping gases, an achievement that should allow the country to reach a voluntary target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 36 percent by 2020.
Strong economic growth and more inclusive social policies in the last years greatly expanded the country's middle class, causing a surge in energy use as more people purchase cars and household appliances.
Experts say the country will have to work on policies for other sectors soon if it wants to keep emissions under control after 2020.
"The government is still celebrating the fall on deforestation and the probable success in meeting its emissions reductions target. It seems that they still don't realize what is happening", said Ronaldo Seroa da Motta, a climate and energy researcher at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ).
"We are seeing a violent surge in energy use in the transport sector. Gasoline consumption went up as well as the amount of electricity produced by thermal power plants," he said.
Non-renewable sources increased their share in the energy grid by 3.1 percent last year, while renewables fell 0.9 percent.
Azevedo said that in 2005 two thirds of Brazil's emissions were attributed to deforestation, while that has fallen to only one third of the total last year.
The report says Brazil's total GHG emissions reached 1.584 billion tonnes of CO2e in 2011, a 35 percent drop from 2005, a baseline year used by countries such as the U.S. and Canada to measure their emissions reduction goals.
Those countries pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.