Brazil's carbon emissions surged last year because of rising deforestation in the Amazon, jeopardizing the country's commitments under the Paris climate accord, an environmental group warned Friday.
The South American country spewed a total of 2.17 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019, an increase of 9.6 percent from 2018, said the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental organizations.
That coincided with the first year in office for President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic who has presided over a sharp increase in deforestation and wild fires in the Amazon.
The world's biggest rainforest is a vital resource in the fight against climate change, as its trees suck carbon from the air. But when they are felled and burned, they release it back.
"The growth in (Brazil's) emissions last year was driven by deforestation in the Amazon, which surged," the Climate Observatory said in a report.
It said 72 percent of the country's emissions were caused by agriculture and land use, including deforestation, which rose 85 percent last year.
Under the 2015 Paris accord, Brazil agreed to cut its emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
But last year's emissions came in 17 percent over target, the Climate Observatory said.
It said the country was also on track to miss a 2010 commitment to cut emissions by at least 36.8 percent by the end of 2020.
The actual figure will come in nine percent higher, it said.
"Our 2020 goal was easy to reach. We were only going to miss it if there was a tragedy. And that's exactly what's happening," said Climate Observatory executive secretary Marcio Astrini.
The report came as Vice President Hamilton Mourao, the head of Bolsonaro's task force on the Amazon, led foreign ambassadors on a three-day visit to the region in a bid to improve the government's international image on the environment.
"We want them to see it with their own eyes... and draw their own conclusions," said Mourao.
But environmental groups condemned the trip as a whitewash.
"They are flying on a route that's strategically planned to hide the evidence of the destruction of the forest, even as deforestation and wild fires are at a 10-year high," Greenpeace said in a statement.