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Oxford-led research highlights importance of nature-based solutions for net zero in Brazil

With the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) approaching, international researchers led by Oxford have found that nature-based solutions must feature in Brazil’s climate change policy if the country is to meet its commitment to achieve net zero by 2050. Cessation of deforestation and implementation of regenerative forest schemes were identified as the most important measures Brazil should undertake.

The team of international scientists found that nature-based solutions could contribute to around 80% of Brazil’s net zero goal in the next thirty years. 

Published in Global Change Biology, the research also made a case for Brazil avoiding a focus on negative emission technologies (NETs) and solutions that involve engineering nature. These solutions, including Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), incur higher costs and have not yet been proven effective on larger scales. 

Ending both illegal and legal deforestation in Brazil, particularly in the Amazon Rainforest, and restoring areas already cut down will enhance the country’s biodiversity and bolster this natural carbon sink.

In order to realise the benefit of nature-based solutions, policies will need to extend beyond Brazil’s current Forest Code which requires a legal reserve by private landowners. 

Dr Aline Soterroni at Oxford’s The Agile Initiative said the following: “While the implementation of the Forest Code is urgent and can enable Brazil to achieve and increase its short-term climate ambition, it won’t be enough to bridge the gap to net zero emissions by mid-century.”. 

Integrated modelling was used to determine the expected emissions reductions associated with different policy directions. Scenarios that only use Brazil’s Forest Code fall short of the country’s net zero aim, only bridging the gap to greenhouse gas emissions by 38% by 2050. Further renewable and sustainable measures that engage with nature in agriculture and energy could support Brazil in achieving net zero. 

Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and co-author of the study, Roberto Schaeffer, said the following: “The country’s energy sector already has a significant share of renewables and its contribution to Brazil’s net zero ambition would heavily rely on BECCS. Nature-based solutions, in particular ending deforestation and restoring native vegetation, are the way to go here…”.

Significantly, such nature-based solutions were recognised as fundamental to Brazil meeting Nationally Determined Contribution promises as part of global action on climate change. Researchers behind the study have stressed the importance of nature-based solutions being represented in national strategies ahead of COP28. 

The publication of this study follows a 13 % reduction in tree cover in Brazil from 2001 to 2022, as assessed by the Global Forest Watch (Global Forest Watch, 2023). While policies that accelerated deforestation in recent years have been reversed under a new administration led by left-wing Brazilian President Lula da Silva, the new research emphasises the need for nature-based solutions to go further if Brazil is to meet its net zero climate target by 2050.

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