Lula scraps Bolsonaro’s cuts to Brazilian climate target ambition

Brazil will go back to the climate targets it drew up in 2015 while it works on new and improved ones

Brazil's president Lula da Silva giving a speech at the Amazon Summit. Lula scraps Bolsonaro's cuts to Brazilian climate target ambition

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva addresses the audience at the summit of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), in Belem, Brazil August 8, 2023. (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert/Brazil Presidency/Reuters)


The Brazilian government has agreed to cancel former president Jair Bolsonaro’s cuts to its climate ambition and to work on a new improved climate target.

The moves were agreed by a group of government ministers at the Interministerial Committee on Climate Change last week.

The government will change Brazil’s climate plan, resuming the level of ambition presented in 2015 “in terms of absolute values ​​of greenhouse gas emissions”, it said.

President Lula Da Silva is expected to officially announce this at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

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Izabella Teixeira, Brazil’s former environment minister and Lula advisor, welcomed the decision saying “Brazil finally recognises the mistakes made by the previous government”.

“We have again a baseline pointing in the right direction from whom to discuss the future,” she told Climate Home News. “Brazil has the ambition to do more in the future. It can move from green-wishing to green-doing”.

Claudio Angelo from the Observatorio Do Clima says it is an important first step, but bolder commitments are needed.

“We are finally burying Bolsonaro’s toxic climate governance legacy,” he said. “But this is nowhere near the ambition we need to show in a country whose president says he wants to lead on climate”.

Bolsonaro’s cuts

In its first UN climate plan in 2015, the Brazilian government led by Lula ally Dilma Rousseff pledged to cut emissions by 37% between 2005 and 2025 and by 43% by 2030.

Under UN rules, governments are supposed to progressively increase their ambition but the Bolsonaro administration twice used accounting tricks to weaken its climate goals.

In 2020 it reiterated the same targets but tweaked the baseline emission data, allowing for more emission than the previous version in absolute terms.

Lula scraps Bolsonaro's cuts to Brazilian climate target ambition

The Brazilian climate target in 2015 was more ambitious than its 2020 or 2022 ones. Source: Observatório do Clima

Following pressure from civil society and the international community, the government made a new update in 2022, raising the 2050 target to 50%.

But the proposal still permitted the emission of 70 MtCO2e more than what was first proposed in 2015.

Ana Toni, national secretary for climate change at environment ministry, said the return to stricter targets is “very important symbolically because it helps to end the evil things that the Bolsonaro government did”.

More ambition needed

Toni added that the government will now get to work on a new climate plan, which “will logically be more ambitious than that”. But she did not announce a timeline for its development.

The government has set up two working groups on the new plan – one for emissions-cutting and one for adapting to climate change.

Subgroups will be cretaed to draw up eight emissions-cutting plans for different sectors and 14 adaptation plans.

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Observatorio Do Clima’s Angelo does not expect the new plan to be released before Cop30, which Brazil will host in the Amazonian city of Belém.

Halting deforestation

Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest carbon dioxide emitter, according to Climate Watch, much of it driven by the clearing of trees in the Amazon rainforest.

Deforestation reached record levels under the government of Bolsonaro, who slashed environmental protection programmes.

Before coming back into office, Lula promised to reverse that trend and combat deforestation.

His efforts are achieving some initial results: tree loss has fallen  by nearly a half between January and August, compared to the same period of 2022.

The article was amended on 18/9 after publication to add a comment from Izabella Teixeira and on 19/9 to say that Lula is expected to announce the policy on Tuesday, rather than Wednesday.

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