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Beyound the Urban: the role of rural areas in tackling the climate crises - Part I

Maria Eduarda Ardinghi Brollo

Tradução: Ligia Payão Chizolini

Increasingly contemporary, the topic of climate resilience in cities has been widely addressed in the Brazilian context. The tragic events in Rio Grande do Sul in 2024 propelled discussions about urban resilience to a new level, making the intersection of climate and cities more present in social debates.

However, this intersection is not new to international standards. Present at UN-Habitat meetings and central to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 11 of the 2030 Agenda, more resilient and sustainable cities are a focal point for various investments in solutions for coping with and adapting to global climate change (which, let us not forget, is itself an SDG, number 13).

Climate discussion, on the other hand, has been centered on the control and reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) since the Kyoto Protocol (1997), the primary cause of global warming and the resulting climate changes we are experiencing. Therefore, it is not uncommon for social actors to focus the climate discussion in cities on GHG emissions.

In this sense, this text aims to address the association between city, climate, and greenhouse gases, using data provided by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals Estimating System (SEEG) of the Climate Observatory to analyze the role of rural areas in addressing the climate crisis in Brazil today. I invite you now to delve into the first part of this exploration: a look at the emission data in Brazil today.

When we talk about GHGs, the classic mental image that comes to mind is of industrial emissions (we think of factories emitting that black, polluting smoke) or fuel emissions (we think of cars, trucks, and planes in large cities). However, the GHG system points to other and various issues that contribute to the excessive presence of these gases in the atmosphere.

This does not mean, for example, that the immense and disproportionate carbon emissions should not be a priority in addressing the climate crisis in urban areas, but rather that other factors, such as the natural reabsorption incapacity of these GHGs, also globally contribute to the calamitous state we find ourselves in.

At this point, it is necessary to remember that Brazil, in this scenario, is a Global South country, with a history marked by colonization and a milder industrialization process compared to Global North countries like England and Germany, for example, which means that this classic emission image does not best align with the measures that need to be implemented for GHG reduction by Brazil on the world stage.

Our GHG inventory on the SEEG platform regarding gross emissions (emission, without deduction of removals) even indicates that in 2022, the sector that most contributed to emissions was land-use and forest change, followed by the agricultural sector.

SEEG: Emissões brutas do Brasil em 2022/ Observatório do Clima

The vast majority of emissions in Brazil are not contained in the energy and industrial processes sector—which are modernly urban—as one might imagine from the classic image of emissions (an image that aligns much more with the reality of the Global North than with ours), but in the land-use and forest change sector and the agricultural sector, which, in this sense, are concentrated outside the large urban areas, but at the heart of rural territories.

With this reality in mind, the association between urban space, climate change, and GHG emissions seems unable to address the core of the issue. However, this association has been the main focus of political and economic efforts. This leads us to ask... are the efforts to improve the GHG inventory in Brazil focused on plausible solutions for our reality?

We will address more aspects of this question in part two of this text.


Sustainable Development Goals | The United Nations in Brazil. Available at: Accessed on: May 1, 2024.

SEEG - Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimating System. Available at: Accessed on: May 1, 2024.

UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION. Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Available at: Accessed on January 18, 2024

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