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Brazil just ratified the Paris climate agreement. Here’s why that’s a really big deal

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By Chris Mooney and Dom Phillips September 12 Wash Post

RIO DE JANEIRO–Brazil, the country that’s home to the largest tropical rainforest on Earth, ratified the Paris climate agreement Monday — making it the third-largest country for emissions, after the U.S. and China, to have done so… Brazil’s ratification is significant because in order for the climate agreement to enter into force, 55 separate countries, accounting for 55 percent of global emissions, must sign and then ratify or otherwise approve it. Currently, according to the World Resources Institute, 27 countries have done so, representing 39.08 percent of those emissions (this total does not include Brazil).

However, the majority of those are small countries that don’t contribute much global carbon pollution (though the total also includes a few moderate sized countries like Norway and Peru). And then there are the U.S. and China, which just joined the agreement and account for a whopping 38 percent. Brazil, however, accounts for a very significant 2.48 percent of global emissions — making it the globe’s 7th highest emitter, and also a rather unique one in that so many of its emissions are due to deforestation of the Amazon, rather than the burning of fossil fuels.

The country has reduced deforestation by 80 percent since 2004 — but significant portions of the vast Amazon rain forest are disappearing every year, and after a steady decline in deforestation rates from 2005 onwards, deforestation rose in both 2013 and 2015….The only remaining countries that emit more than Brazil, but have not yet ratified, are Russia (7.5 percent of emissions), India (4.1 percent), Japan (3.79 percent), and Germany (2.56). If all four of those countries also ratified this year, the agreement would easily enter into force. But other countries could also contribute to tipping the world into an officially active Paris regime, including Canada (1.95 percent), South Korea (1.85 percent), Mexico (1.7 percent), the U.K. (1.55 percent), Indonesia (1.49 percent), South Africa (1.46 percent) and Australia (1.46 percent).

Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, has called world leaders to the U.N. headquarters on the 21st of this month for a ratification ceremony for the Paris agreement. Some 175 have already signed, and along with the recent move by the U.S. and China, Brazil’s move just considerably increased the likelihood that there will be something to celebrate.

Staff writer Phillips contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro; Chris Mooney from Washington.

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