Amazonian municipalities dominate carbon emissions in Brazil

19 de March de 2021 | News

Mar 19, 2021 | News

Together, Brazil’s ten highest-ranking greenhouse gas (GHG) municipalities emit 172 million gross tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This is more than entire countries such as Peru, Belgium or the Philippines. And seven of these major emitters are in the Amazon, where deforestation is the main source of emissions. This has been revealed by the first edition of the SEEG Municípios project, an unprecedented initiative of the Climate Observatory, a Brazilian coalition from the civil society.

The SEEG project calculated greenhouse gas emissions of all 5,570 Brazilian municipalities. The survey includes each year from 2000 to 2018 and covers in detail more than a hundred sources of emissions in the energy, transportation, industry, agriculture and livestock, waste treatment, and land use change and forestry sectors. The complete data are available at

This is the first time that emissions are being looked at on the municipal level, and the first time that such a survey has been carried out for a large country. The goal is to increase awareness among mayors, city councils and local communities all over the country about the dynamics of emissions, and to provide a tool for the formulation of municipal development policies with the aim of reducing carbon emissions.

The municipality with the highest emissions in Brazil is São Félix do Xingu, in the State of Pará, with 29.7 million gross tons of CO2e in 2018. Of this total, land use change, mostly from deforestation, accounts for 25.44 million tons, followed by agriculture and cattle ranching, accounting for 4.22 million tons of CO2e, emitted mainly from cattle digestion. The municipality, located in the State of Pará, has the largest number of cattle in the country.

And if it were a country, São Félix do Xingu would rank 111th in the world in emissions, ahead of Uruguay, Norway, Chile, Croatia, Costa Rica, and Panama, according to data from Cait, the World Resources Institute’s global emissions ranking.

Deforestation also causes the per capita emissions of the Amazon municipalities to skyrocket. Each resident of São Félix do Xingu, for example, emits 225 tons of CO2e per year, almost 22 times more than the average gross emissions per capita in Brazil, 12 times more than in the United States, and six times more than in Qatar, the country with the highest per capita emissions in the world. Colniza, in northwest of the State of Mato Grosso, is even worse off: the sixth largest emitter in the country, with 14.3 million tons of CO2e emitted in 2018, Colniza has the highest gross per capita emissions in Brazil, at 358 tons. This level of emission is equivalent to each inhabitant of the municipality owning more than 300 cars and driving 20 kilometers per day.

On the other hand, there is good news from the survey, such as the finding that extensive Amazonian municipalities with many protected areas also have large greenhouse gas removals. This reduces so-called net emissions. The champion of emissions removal is Altamira, the largest municipality in Brazil by area, which has removals of more than 22 million tons of CO2e. São Félix do Xingu has removals of 10 million tons.

Of the top ten municipalities in the country by gross emissions, only three lie outside the Amazon: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Serra, in the State of Espírito Santo. The energy sector, especially transportation, stands out as the main factor of emission in large cities, especially in the capitals. The emissions in Serra, which is home to a steel mill, are mainly due to industrial processes.

Oil refining and processing increase emissions in cities like Manaus and Rio de Janeiro. And fossil fuel-powered power plants greatly increase emissions in the cities where they are located. The most glaring example is Capivari de Baixo, in Santa Catarina. Home to a group of coal-fired thermoelectric stations – the Jorge Lacerda complex, built in the 1960s – the city has three power plants, with an installed capacity of 857 megawatts. Capivari de Baixo is the largest emitter in Brazil by area: 85,633 tons of CO2 per km2.

Waste treatment, although accounting for only 4% of Brazil’s gross emissions, is an important source of emissions for cities – especially the more populous ones. Rio is the leader in this sector, with 5.6 million tons of CO2e, followed by São Paulo, which, despite having twice the population, emits 5.45 million tons, due to greater efficiency in waste treatment and methane capture technology used to generate energy in landfills.

“Up until today, less than 5% of Brazilian municipalities had some sort of inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. Now all of them will have the data for a 20-year series and we hope that this will serve as a stimulus to promote local development with emission reductions and climate change response”, explains Tasso Azevedo, SEEG’s general coordinator. “As the data are made available in an open and free way, they also mean huge savings in public resources, which can be focused on actions to reduce emissions,” he adds.

Below are other highlights from the SEEG Municipalities project.

Agriculture Sector

  • In 2018, this sector was the largest GHG emitting source in 65.8% of Brazilian municipalities, in total 3,666 municipalities.
  • Municipalities located in the states of Mato Grosso, Pará, and Mato Grosso do Sul are among the 20 municipalities with the highest emissions from the farming sector in 2018, due to having the largest cattle herds.
  • The municipalities in the South region lead in emissions from farming and ranching by area, due to their small territorial size.
  • Municipalities in the Midwest region lead in agricultural emissions per inhabitant, due to the sector’s appeal in the region, which is also less populous.

Energy and industrial process sectors

  • São Paulo leads the energy sector, with 12.4 million tons, followed by Manaus (6.2 million tons) and Rio de Janeiro (6 million tons).
  • For more populous municipalities, such as the capital cities, these sectors account for their main source of emissions, mainly due to the consumption of fossil fuels (diesel and gasoline) in transportation.
  • In industrial processes, Serra (ES) comfortably leads the ranking, at 10.4 million tons, followed by Vespasiano (MG), at 2 million tons, and Sete Lagoas (MG), at 1 million tons.
  • Excluding land use change, the energy and industrial process sectors are responsible for most of the emissions from 9 of the top 10 emitters.
  • Fuel refining increases emissions in municipalities such as Duque de Caxias, Paulínia and São José dos Campos, which are, respectively, the 6th, 13th and 14th largest emitters in the country when land use change is excluded.
  • Fossil fuel power plants are the main emission factors in Manaus (49%), Duque de Caxias, RJ (45%), Capivari de Baixo, SC (98%), São Gonçalo do Amarante, CE (95%), Santo Antônio dos Lopes, MA (95%), Macaé, RJ (82%) and Candiota, RS (95%).
  • The industrial process sector is characterized by a scarcity of data on activities, which would allow for more accurate estimates of their associated emissions.
  • Florianópolis is the ‘engine capital’: 62% of the municipality’s emissions come from transportation. Closely following on the list are Brasilia and Curitiba, tied at 59%.

Waste sector

  • Brazilian capital cities and municipalities with more than 1 million inhabitants are responsible for about 30% of all emissions in this sector.
  • Rio de Janeiro leads this sector, at 5.6 million tons, followed by São Paulo (5.45 million tons) and Fortaleza (1.8 million tons).
  • The main source of emissions in this sector is the final disposal of solid waste in sanitary landfills, controlled or open dumps (64% of the sector’s emissions) and this is the case in 60% of Brazilian municipalities.
  • In the municipalities where final disposal is not the main source of emissions, the data highlight the emissions associated with the treatment of liquid effluents, both domestic and industrial.

Land use change (LUC) and forestry sectors

  • The largest national emitters (gross emissions) are in the Amazon, mainly in the state of Pará.
  • The largest gross removals occur in large municipalities which have a large proportion of protected areas and forest area; this includes 9 of the 10 largest municipalities in the Amazon, located in the states of Pará and Amazonas.
  • Some of the smallest municipalities in the Amazon (< 140 thousand hectares) are the largest emitters by area in this sector.
  • In the Cerrado, municipalities in the region of agricultural expansion in Matopiba (agricultural frontier between Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia) are among the largest emitters.

Regarding the Climate Observatory: a network formed in 2002, composed of 63 non-governmental organizations and social movements. It works to advance dialogue, public policies and decision-making processes on climate change, both in the country and globally. Website:

About the SEEG Initiative: The System of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimates was created in 2012 to fulfill a determination of the PNMC (National Policy on Climate Change). The decree regulating the PNMC established that the country should produce annual emission estimates in order to monitor the implementation of this policy. The government, however, has not produced them. The national inventories, a fundamental instrument to understand in detail the country’s emissions profile, are published only once every five years.

SEEG ( was the first national initiative to produce annual estimates for the entire economy. Launched in 2012 and incorporated into the Climate Observatory the following year, it is one of the largest national databases on greenhouse gas emissions in the world, comprising Brazilian emissions from five sectors (agriculture, energy, land use change, industrial processes and waste.

The estimates are generated according to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) guidelines, based on the Brazilian Inventories of Anthropogenic Emissions and Removals of Greenhouse Gases, from the MCTIC (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations).

Researchers from the following NGOs participated in the SEEG Municipalities project: Ipam and Imazon (Land Use Change), Imaflora (Agriculture), Iema (Energy and Industrial Processes) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (Waste).

SEEG Municipalities is supported by the European Union through the Partnership Instrument of the EU and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (SPIPA/EU-BMU), the Climate and Land Use Alliance and through the Climate and Society Institute.

This project is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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