Brazil's COP26 Pavilion. (Image: Ministério Meio Ambiente)

Brazil's COP26 Pavilion. (Image: Ministério Meio Ambiente)

LatAm in Focus: COP26's Gauntlet for Brazil and Latin America

By Luisa Leme

Fresh from Glasgow, Institute Talanoa’s Natalie Unterstell explains how Brazil and the region were part of big steps at the climate conference, but there’s still a way to go.

Natalie Unterstell

Amid the Brazilian delegates, local government representatives, and activists was Natalie Unterstell, the president of the climate policy think tank Institute Talanoa. In conversation with AS/COA Online’s Luisa Leme, the veteran attendee of climate conferences said, “COP26 should be seen more as a scoreboard than actually a place where extra regulation is being done.” Still, she noted that COP26 had many accomplishments, including the founding of a carbon market, numerous sectoral commitments, and new climate financing instruments. “It’s an important moment and important place because it can accelerate action outside,” she explained.

Unterstell is hoping that COP26 will provide fuel for action for her home country. Brazil committed to cutting the country's carbon emissions in half by 2030 with the goal of achieving net-zero by 2050. “This pledge opens up a super big agenda for Brazil with a lot of opportunities, including bringing more technologies in agriculture into the field,” said Unterstell. Signing the methane deal can be critical not only for new opportunities in the country’s huge agriculture sector, but also for Brazil to better measure its emissions.

“[Brazil] is one of the few countries that can achieve a fast decarbonization by radically reducing deforestation at a low cost.”

Still, she says Brazil’s goals are not ambitious enough. The country isn’t eligible to join the new carbon market created at COP26 because participants need to comply with the Paris Agreement first by establishing a progressive National Determined Contribution (NDC), which is an explicit commitment about how a country will reduce its emissions. Not only is Brazil’s existing commitment insufficient, it’s also unrealistic, as recent deforestation figures indicate.  

To encourage Brazil to enhance its NDC, Unterstell, in partnership with 300 members of the scientific community and the private sector, presented a set of proposals to Brazil’s federal government that would bring to the country at least 60 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Meanwhile, she says Colombia is positioning itself by “somehow occupying the space that was left by Brazil under Bolsonaro’s government,” in that its delegation is seeking to show that there are countries in the pan-Amazon region that are working to control deforestation. Latin American countries such as Argentina and Costa Rica also demonstrated initiative and ambition at COP26, especially when it comes to sideline agreements on conservation and deforestation, she says, adding that COP26 can help the region as a whole to access more financing to move the needle on emissions and their economies.

Still, the entire region will have to mobilize more resources to keep warming to 1.5°C degrees. “Velocity,” concluded Unterstell, is what’s still needed in global climate action to reduce the potential catastrophic effects of more warming.

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Luisa Leme and Chase Harrison produced this episode. The music in this podcast was performed at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at