Foreign Policy Blogs

Brazil’s Climate Change Performance


Chico Mendes is smiling.

Brazil’s climate change policy performance now leads the world according to Climate Change Performance Index results for 2010 published by GermanWatch and the Climate Action Network of Europe. Brazil ranked highest with 68 points, with Sweden and the United Kingdom ranking second and third.

Summarizing Brazil’s performance, the report argued that

“Brazil made big progress in reducing deforestation within the last months. However, it is not yet clear if this is a result due to a decreased demand of palm oil and soya from the current economic crisis.”

In addition, Brazil scored high in reducing overall carbon dioxide emission levels and through its international policy positions. The reduction in emissions stems from the expansion of renewables throughout the transportation and power generation sectors, as well as the country’s efforts to avoid deforestation. Indeed, while Brazil has made efforts to reduce its emissions and increase production of renewables, it has called on the developed world to make steep cuts in its own emissions.

The report did caution that the country’s booming aviation sector ranks only 49th in the index and requires greater policy attention for Brazil’s future progress in confronting global warming.

The report draws a special comparison with Canada, pointing out that Brazil increased its renewable fuel sources by 35 percent (from the 2000 – 2002 average) while Canada’s increase amounted to only 4.3 percent. In addition, Canada’s national policy was rated as very poor, while Brazil’s national policy was highlighted for its progress since the release of the National Plan on Climate Change in 2008.

No doubt Brazil has a long way to go with respect to achieving the optimal use of land and tropical forest throughout the Amazon and Cerrado regions. Yet, the Climate Change Performance Index appropriately recognizes and measures Brazil’s recent successes and verifiable progress that supports the country’s global leadership on the environment and development at the G20 meetings, the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen, and the continued talks surrounding the Doha round of the World Trade Organization’s negotiations.

This is what Chico Mendes wanted before he was murdered on December 22, 1988.

Can Brazil continue to make progress without hampering its economic growth? If it can, will it increasingly assert its leadership in conflict with the major emitters, including China and the U.S.?



Mark S. Langevin, Ph.D.

Mark Langevin is the Director of BrazilWorks. Mark has lived and worked in Brazil, and currently conducts research and writes on various topics related to U.S.-Brazil relations, and Climate Change and Energy Policymaking.

Mark is from Tacoma, Washington. He holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Public
Health Education from The Evergreen State College in Olympia,
Washington; a M.A. in Latin American Studies and a Ph.D. in Political
Science from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

He is an Associate Adjunct Professor of Government and Politics for the University of Maryland’s University College where he is also an elected representative to the Faculty Advisory Council; member of the Editorial Board of Revistas Universitas: Relações Internacionais of the Centro Universitario de Brasilia (UniCEUB); and an Associate Researcher at the Laboratório de Estudos Políticos (LEP)-Departamento de Ciências Sociais of the Federal University of Espirito Santo in Vitoria, Brazil.

Mark is an Associate of the Inter-American Dialogue and a former
member and current advisor to the California State Senate's California-
Brazil Strategic Partnership.