COP26: President Bolsonaro's no-show is no embarrassment, says Brazil's lead negotiator

The absence of President Jair Bolsonaro at the critical UN summit in Glasgow is not a problem, Brazil's top climate diplomat has told Sky News.

Asked if it was embarrassing that the President had not attended COP26, Paulino de Carvalho Neto said: "Not really. He had other things to do. We have a huge delegation here."

"We've joined important initiatives," he said in his first UK press interview since the talks began, citing promises to cut methane and end deforestation.

Brazil also boosted its 2030 emissions target, hinting at a change of tone under President Bolsonaro, who once threatened to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement.

During his administration, destruction of forests has soared.

"We recognize that we have a problem in terms of deforestation and we are acting in order to solve this," said Mr Carvalho Neto, adding it dropped in August and September compared with last year.

Bolsonaro has shifted his position following pressure from civil society and internationally, realising the climate cannot be made a "populist ideological issue", according to Ana Toni, director of Brazil's Institute of Climate and Society.

However the G20 nation was "notably absent" from last week's $1.7billion pledge to support indigenous and local communities (IPLC) in recognition of their crucial guardianship of land, said Clare McConnell, from think tank E3G.

Brazil's support would have "lent credibility" to its deforestation promise, she said, adding Bolsonaro had "emboldened land invasions through his repeated criticisms of indigenous reservations for occupying valuable land".

The Kokama people recently told Sky News they had been displaced from the Amazon by logging and mining.

Mr Carvalho Neto dismissed general claims of violence and displacement as "pure advocacy" and "much more complicated" than they appear. But he conceded "obviously, there are problems" which "we are trying hard to address".

The diplomat was "pretty optimistic" about a good outcome from COP26 but said it would be "up to the [UK] presidency of the conference" as well as "all parties to be as constructive as possible".

He also argued developed countries - like the US and nowadays China - have a "much greater role to play regarding climate change than Brazil" due to having greater cumulative emissions.

"Brazil is not really responsible," Mr Carvalho Neto said. The South American nation accounts for just 0.9% of global historical carbon dioxide emissions to 2017, according to Our World in Data, though that could be much higher if deforestation emissions were included, Carbon Brief analysis found.

The diplomat said his country was "giving ground" and "trying to be as flexible as possible" on what has been a major sticking point in previous negotiations: - the part of the Paris Agreement that governs the buying and selling of emissions cuts, known as "Article 6".

Proponents of such a carbon market say it can help the world reach net zero by balancing out pollution, helping rich countries who buy credits to meet emissions targets, and funding ways to slash emissions in developing countries.

The last two COPs have tried and failed to agree the rules on how this should work and Brazil was accused of disrupting talks - claims he calls "not quite precise".

Brazil, among others, had wanted to roll over poor credits from an old scheme into a new one, and it had been accused of pushing for double-counting, which means counting carbon credit both where it was generated and where it was bought.

The lead negotiator denied Brazil had ever wanted double-counting. But Gilles Dufrasne from Carbon Market Watch said the country had "effectively been promoting double counting for five years".

"Until Brazil clearly speaks out against the carryover of old credits... and in support of comprehensive accounting rules for all carbon credits, they will continue to be blockers in Article 6," said Mr Dufrasne.

Subscribe to ClimateCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Spreaker

For full coverage of COP26, watch Climate Live on Sky channel 525.

Follow live coverage on web and app with our dedicated live blog.

Get all the latest stories, special reports and in-depth analysis at