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Revisiting a climate pledge, made more than a decade ago, that has fallen short


We cannot confirm today that Brazil is changing course in protecting the Amazon. We can only report that Brazil says it is changing. When Donald Trump was president of the United States, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil followed along with him, mocking climate science. His country slashed environmental budgets as farmers continued slashing and burning rainforests. Now a different U.S. president is pushing for a different approach. And though President Bolsonaro did not show up for a climate summit this month in Scotland, his country is making promises. We spoke with Brazil's representative at the summit, Ambassador Paulino de Carvalho Neto.

PAULINO FRANCO DE CARVALHO NETO: We'll commit ourselves to reducing in 50% of emissions in 2030 compared to 2005. So - and besides that, we've joined a declaration on forest and land use, committing ourselves to end basically illegal deforestation as soon as possible. And we also have joined a global methane pledge. So this is just to have a picture of what Brazil intends to do. And obviously, we need not only make announcements, we need also to implement those commitments. So that's our big challenge. But it's not only for Brazil, it's for every country who are part of this agreement, the Paris Agreement.

INSKEEP: Yes, of course. Ambassador, there's a couple of key elements of this that I think would perhaps bring some observers almost to the point of despair, one of them being deforestation. It is going at such a rate in Brazil that it is hard to see how you would reverse that now.

DE CARVALHO NETO: We're doing our best. I mean, the Ministry of the Environment, who is domestically responsible for dealing with issues pertaining to forests and the environment at large, they are joining efforts with our national police, the Ministry of Justice and Security, in order to fight against illegal deforestation. It's a huge, huge challenge, no doubt, but that's what we want to do if we intends to achieve those goals that I've mentioned before.

INSKEEP: Has your president not pursued policies moving in the opposite direction - for example, dismantling environmental agencies that are intended to fight deforestation?

DE CARVALHO NETO: Well, what I could say is that since this year from April on, when President Bolsonaro attended virtually a meeting, a summit that was organized by President Biden, we've announced that we would come to net-zero emissions in 2050, that we will end deforestation - illegal deforestation before the end of this decade and that we are going to double the budget of the Ministry of the Environment, who is, as I said, responsible for dealing with issues pertaining to forests. Obviously, we need to do our part, and do our part means mainly combating deforestation. So that's our commitment. That - it's what we want to do.

INSKEEP: Does Brazil claim any right, as many developing nations do, in effect to pollute more than others for a time because your economy is still growing?

DE CARVALHO NETO: I mean, obviously, there is in the context of the climate convention, which was - begun in 1992, the industrialized countries are the most responsible for, let's say, for trying to solve this problem. But as I said before, we want to be a part of the solution. It's not a question of finger-pointing, but try to solve a problem that is global. So we want to be a part of the solution.

INSKEEP: One other thing, Ambassador - when you talk about climate change in Brazil, is it something that you can put in the context of self-interest - by which I mean, a diplomat from an island nation in the Pacific can obviously see what's at stake for them? Americans, in recent years, with some of the news that we've had, can see what's at stake for us. Can Brazilians look around them and see early signs of change that show that they must change the way that the world produces energy?

DE CARVALHO NETO: Yeah, no doubt. It's in our self-interest to protect our forests, to end deforestation, to try to have a more, let's say, decarbonized economy. In that respect, it's always important to underline that Brazil has a mix of energy who is - at least 50% of its energy mix is renewable. So we are, in that sense, ahead of many developed countries. So as I said, we want to be a part of the solution. We are trying our best. It is in our self-interest, also, to attain those goals because on the economic side, on the trade side, it's quite essential to show to the world that we are on the good side of this process.

INSKEEP: Ambassador Paulino de Carvalho Neto, thank you so much.

DE CARVALHO NETO: Thank you very much. Appreciate that. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.