‘Recovering lost ground was a step forward’, says chief negotiator on Brazil at COP26


“It is in Brazil’s interest to engage in this process [da COP26], even to be able to advance in commercial understandings with other countries, to be able to have more authority to participate”, he tells the sheet Ambassador Paulino Franco de Carvalho Neto, chief negotiator of the Brazilian delegation in this first week of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Under international pressure, in which environmental commitment became a condition for trade agreements and the country’s entry into the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), Brazil surprised observers in the first week of COP26 by assuming responsibility for forests and committing to the reduction of methane emissions.

It also corrected its climate target, whose revision last year led Brazil to promise a smaller cut —compared to the 2015 announcement— in greenhouse gas emissions (which cause the climate crisis).

Although the government publicizes the new goal as more ambitious, in practice it takes up the values ​​announced in 2015. “Recovering lost ground has already been an advance,” said Franco, in an interview at the convention center where the COP26 takes place.

The ambassador, who has already headed the Itamaraty’s Environment Division and negotiated the Nagoya Protocol (a UN biodiversity agreement signed in 2010), headed the Brazilian delegation in this first phase of negotiations, a function that will pass this week to the Minister of the Environment , Joaquim Leite.

With the mission to show that Brazil will not be an obstacle to the regulation of the Paris Agreement, Franco says he is sure that the country will escape this COP from taking the anti-Fossil of the Year prize for the second time, given to those who most hinder international efforts for climate.

But, at least in this contest, the announcements and commitments led by the ambassador were still not enough: on the night of the same Friday (5), thanks to attacks by President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) on indigenous leaders, Brazil ended up being chosen as Fossil da Week.

What image should Brazil leave at the end of this COP? That of a country engaged in climate change issues.

On the first day of the conference, there were five announcements we made and initiatives we joined. We announce that we are going to submit a new NDC [contribuições nacionalmente determinadas, uma meta de redução de emissões de gases de efeito estufa assumida pelo país]. In December of last year, it was 43% reduction in 2030, based on the year 2005, now it is 50% reduction, using the last inventory.

This means that by 2030 we will have to reduce our total emissions from 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to 1.2 billion.

Has Brazil considered presenting a more ambitious NDC? But that is exactly what we announce.

But it is no longer ambitious, it is the same as in 2015. It is more ambitious, without the slightest doubt, than the one we presented in 2020. We went from 43% to 50%.

But the reduction in gigatonnes is the same, 1.2. We could, of course, have announced an 80% target if we wanted to, but that was the decision. Recovering lost ground was already an advance, in our understanding.

Recover lost ground in relation to what? To previous goals. Could we have been more ambitious in the past? Yes. But at that time the decision was not in that direction. Now the decision was to be more ambitious and we present these new numbers. There was an advance in relation to the 2020 target. It depends on the perspective.

So recovering lost ground is recovering from the retreat that was made last year? In a way, yes. It doesn’t stop being positive. We may be more ambitious in the future, but it depends on the circumstances.

At the last COP, Brazil was singled out as one of the main culprits for not having reached an agreement, especially in relation to article 6 [que regula o mercado de carbono] and to financing. Will this view be reversed? I did not participate in this COP in Madrid, but I think it is a mistaken perception that Brazil was “the” responsible for not reaching an understanding. Brazil, of course, presented its positions at the time, but it was not alone.

The Minister of the Environment, Joaquim Leite, will arrive here, who will participate in several meetings and meetings, and the instruction we received from him and from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos França, is that we take this constructive position.

How was this constructive position defined both in the negotiations and in the Forest Declarations and the methane commitment? It was a well-thought-out decision by the government, the issues were formally dealt with in the interministerial committee on climate change, but also between the ministers, in conversations between them. Of course, with the endorsement of the President of the Republic.

There was a surprise in relation to positions that are classic of Itamaraty. In the methane, they are playing the game of “They are cutting the meat”… This is good.

Brazil is committing itself to something related to the economy, it is not just deforestation. What has changed? The climate urgency. In terms of Brazil’s presence in the world, we have to take these additional steps.

From 2019 until now, the trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union was frozen and large funds blocked its transfers and investments in Brazil and in Brazilian companies. Does this also explain the change of position? What I can say is that the commissioner [Josep] Borrell [chefe da diplomacia da UE] published a tweet praising Brazil’s ambitious goals, which shows that there is recognition from the European Union.

It is in Brazil’s interest to engage in this process, even in order to be able to advance in commercial understandings with other countries, to be able to have more authority to participate.

This will facilitate, for example, our accession to the OECD, eventually trade agreements with other regional groups will be facilitated. Yes, without a doubt, this also influenced our decision-making process.

How is the Brazilian position in relation to transparency? Is it more interesting to have a rigid standard or flexibility? Brazil understands that the information must have a minimum necessary level of transparency, even so that the purposes of the Paris Agreement can be fulfilled. There has to be a comparability between what country A and B do so that they can exchange their emission certificates. This is complex, what will happen is that the Paris Agreement will create a framework for this to happen.

In the carbon market, there is the classic position of Itamaraty, which, since the 1990s, defends that the carbon credits created in the Kyoto Protocol are not lost. Is Brazil more flexible in this regard? We want there to be a transition, albeit a partial one. It’s too early to reach conclusions. But this flexibility that we have demonstrated in this first week, we hope that other countries can also demonstrate. There are indications in this direction.

Would the flexibility in Article 6 be giving time to bring in the Kyoto credits? Partly yes, no doubt.

Is this the exchange then? It’s not a specific exchange. When we say that we could accept a partial transition, this has to be seen as Brazil’s flexibility. The other parties would have to accept.

Would Brazil relinquish its position on the corresponding adjustments, which deduction from the country’s climate account for credits sold on the carbon market? We understand that they can be done as long as there is additionality, that is, we are more ambitious: if there is no specific project that means additionality, more ambition in the goals, the corresponding adjustment does not make sense.

When mr. you talk about reciprocity of the most active parts, who are you referring to? Os ‘usual suspects’ [sorriso]. The European Union, the USA, China, India, South Africa. Brazil. And actors that are not economically relevant, but have a rightful weight in these negotiations, such as the islands, who expect concrete results.

Mr. said the final decision is political. From 2019 until now, there is a relevant global political change, which is the change of the American president. Does this affect Brazil’s new position? I would say no. It was more of an internal understanding of ours. It’s in our best interest.

One thing that has not changed at this COP and has been the target of criticism is the relationship with civil society, which in recent COPs was separated from the delegation. The official delegation is one thing, the observer delegation is another, which includes the private sector, civil society, NGOs. The official delegation cannot include non-government representatives.

Is this the criterion that Brazil uses today? Yes, and it’s the criterion that practically every other country uses. Not having representatives from the private sector or civil society in the official delegation. But there is no desire to alienate anyone.

But the private sector is closer to the official delegation. In the Brazilian pavilion, the name of the associations of private companies is on the façade, even above the government logo. Doesn’t this show the government closer to the private sector and further removed from civil society? The private sector is also a representative of Brazilian society. The stand is not official, it is a stand of the National Agriculture Confederation, the CNI, the Apex, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is a point of contact between people.

NGOs are very welcome, they were there and I was at their booth. Ideally, it would be good to have a single stand that could bring everyone together, maybe at a next COP we can do that.

This happened in previous COPs. Brazil was highlighted for having a large democratic delegation. At this COP, he is being criticized for having given credentials to the conference to other entities. No, the private sector, the CEO of a large company or the NGO representative is accredited as an observer. I am not aware of a private sector representative in the official delegation.

If an authority in a sphere of power sends a communication to the federal government with a list of those who accompany him, we include him in the official delegation.

There is no discrimination. If any other government official chose to go his own way, he has every right, but there was no discriminatory spirit. Far from it.

Mr. Do you think Brazil escapes the “Fossil of the Year” award at this COP? I am sure [risos]. It would be unfair if we did. I’m not going to mention countries, but, given the posture we’ve already adopted, it’s enough to maintain this posture of reaching understandings at this level, it doesn’t make sense for any impartial jury to say that we deserve this trophy.

There is great concern about ‘greenwashing’ [anúncios ou promessas não acompanhados por medidas concretas]. This issue of image is not unique to Brazil. Any other country, developed or not, that has announced ambitious targets, we will all have to judge up front whether these promises have been fulfilled or not.

But some can be checked out now. When you say that Brazil has adopted a more ambitious target and the check shows that it does not go beyond that of 2015, the gigatonnes are the same, this can be seen as greenwashing too. No, it’s definitely not. We changed our goals, they are objectively, numerically more ambitious, and our initial NDC was just indicative. It’s an incremental exercise, we can move forward, but there’s nothing greenwashing, it’s a wrong attribution. We have to say clearly where we are going, and I think Brazil has done its part. We can always do more, as other countries can also do.


Paulino Franco de Carvalho Neto, 60,

he is the chief negotiator of the Brazilian delegation in the first week of COP26; A diplomat since 1985 and specialized in public administration by FGV, he served in Rome, Santiago, Geneva and Bera and was ambassador in Luanda from 2016 to 2020. Until July 2021, he served as Secretary of Communication and Culture and is currently Secretary for National Sovereignty Affairs and citizenship


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