The Brazilian government is preparing to pledge a big curb in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as a "political gesture" aimed at pressing rich nations into agreeing to large cuts in carbon.
The country's chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, said Brazil would take proposals for voluntary reductions of 38-42% by 2020 to theCopenhagen climate change summit next month. The reductions are from projected 2020 emissions levels if no action was taken.
"What Brazil is doing is a political gesture," said Rouseff, following aclimate change meeting in Sao Paulo yesterday. "We still believe that the responsibility belongs to the developed countries." She said the reductions were voluntary, and not binding "targets", which she said should only be set for developed countries with higher emissions.
Rouseff's intervention strikes at the core of the impasse in the global warming talks. Scientists say rich nations with long polluting histories, like the US, need to cut emissions by 25-40% by 2020 on 1990 levels, but the offers on the negotiating table fall short of this. Poorer developing nations need, say experts, to cut their emissions by 15-30% by 2020 compared to business-as-usual. By stepping up to its side of the deal, Brazil is making an open challenge to the US, where Senate legislation on climate change is near deadlocked.
Half of Brazil's proposed cuts will come from a reduction in deforestation, while the remaining 20% relates to industry and farming.
"We are already an example to the world. But the fact that we are going to announce a significant objective does not mean we do not know that the responsible ones are the developed countries," Rousseff said.
Brazil's official position for the Copenhagen talks is expected to be announced before this weekend. Brazilian negotiators are already expected to announce plans to cut deforestation by 80% by 2020.
Sergio Leitao, the director of public policies for Greenpeace Brasil, said that the proposed numbers "were good" but that the Brazilian government needed to take on "concrete targets" not voluntary reductions: "If it doesn't, nobody will do anything."
The recent emergence of rainforest defender, Marina Silva, as a potential presidential candidate for next year's elections, has helped propel the environment back onto the political agenda in Brazil.
Rousseff, a Workers' party minister, who is president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's favoured presidential candidate, is set to travel to Copenhagen next month to lead the Brazilian climate change delegation.