Falling forests and coal-fueled CO2 emissions
Rio de Janeiro, photo credit Agustín Diaz, http://Unsplash.io
Welcome to the eighth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
Brazil signed the Paris Agreement on the 22nd of April 2016 and brought it into force on the 4th of November 2016.
According to Annex I of the Conference of Parties twenty-first session (COP21), Brazil was the seventh highest emitting nation of CO2 into the atmosphere based on data submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) ahead of COP21 in December 2015.
Unlike other ‘G20’ nations, the UN Climate Change Secretariat cites agriculture (48%) as Brazil’s largest economic sector for greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions followed by the energy sector (38%). According to the World Bank forest area as a % of land area in Brazil has fallen from over 65% in 1990 to 59% in 2015. Deforestation was seen as a major factor in Brazil’s climbing CO2 emissions.
In a more recent study called ‘Trends in Global CO2 Emissions 2016 report’ published by EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research), deforestation and forest fires emissions were excluded from the overall figures and Brazil was still ranked as the ninth highest CO2 emitting country for 2015. Combustion of oil products accounted for 70% of fossil fuel related CO2 emissions with road transportation alone making up 40% of total fossil fuel-related emissions. The report also highlights the fact that Brazil has almost doubled its coal consumption since 1990 and has added 1.8GW in new coal power capacity since 2010.
The climate action tracker ranks Brazil’s policies and pledges towards emission reductions as moderate. It highlighted how Brazil had reduced emissions from the land use and forestry sector by 84% over the period 2005-2012. From an energy sector point of view, energy from renewables sources has fallen from 50% of overall energy generation in the early 1990s to just under 40% in 2014. As mentioned above coal consumption has doubled over same time period.
From a CCUS perspective, Brazil has made some positive developments in recent years. The Petrobras Santos Basin pre-salt oil field carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, located 300 km of the coast of Rio de Janeiro has a capacity to store 1 million tonnes of carbon per annum in a pre-salt carbon reservoir more than 5 km below sea level. Petrobras is the primary stakeholder in this project with Shell, Petrogal, and Repsol having smaller holdings. A second ‘notable project’ as defined by the Global CCS Institute is situated onshore in the state of Bahia in Eastern Brazil. This site has a daily carbon injection capacity of 370 tonnes.
Multiple studies and reports have highlighted how Brazil’s annual level of CO2 emissions has fluctuated dramatically over the last decade due to relaxed and tight deforestation policies. For Brazil to consistently manage its CO2 emissions it will need to adopt more stringent restrictions on deforestation and seek higher yields from existing agricultural land through production efficiencies. Similar to other large CO2 emitting nations, Brazil’s reliance on coal is not a positive, and increasing coal power capacity by 1.8GW over the last seven years could not be considered a step in the right direction.