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3 million Brazilians at risk of extreme poverty, World Bank warns

Climate shocks could push millions of Brazilians into extreme poverty by 2030, a report by the World Bank on Thursday said, urging the country to accelerate investments towards renewable energy sources.

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The poorest of the South American nation would be affected by natural disasters, especially floods, and droughts, rising food prices, and reduced labor productivity, the report says.

“To take full advantage of its [low carbon] potential, Brazil would need net investments of 0.5 percent of its annual GDP each year between now and 2050,” said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Brazil, noting climate shocks could push between 800,000 and 3 million Brazilians into extreme poverty by the end of the decade.

The World Bank says the social and economic impact of this disruption would be high, with “serious consequences for agriculture, water supply in cities, flood mitigation, and hydroelectric power generation.”

The effects of climate change are already being felt in the country through changes in temperature patterns and rainfall, according to the report, adding that extreme weather events in Brazil cause losses of USD 2.6 billion a year on average.

Mudslides and major floods brought about by heavy rains have become more common in Brazil in recent years, underlining a lack of urban planning in low-income neighborhoods throughout much of the country, where shantytowns are often built on hillsides prone to collapse.

Brazil at the crossroads

In a report published last November, the World Bank said that “climate change poses a major threat to long-term development objectives, especially poverty reduction.” It has released numerous reports detailing costs to countries worldwide and suggesting mitigation efforts.

The report on Brazil mentions a study produced by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which suggests that Brazil may soon reach a tipping point beyond which the Amazon basin would no longer have enough rainfall to sustain ecosystems and ensure water supply and carbon storage.

In the most extreme case, with a combination of climate change, deforestation, and expansion of pasture areas, the cumulative impact on Brazil’s GDP by 2050 is estimated at USD 184 billion, equivalent to 9.7 percent of the country’s current GDP.

Brazil is in a strong position to source more renewable energy as the report added that almost half of its energy supply, including over 80 percent of its electricity, already comes from renewables, compared with world averages of between 15 percent and 27 percent.

Following the administration of former president Jair Bolsonaro, who slashed environmental protection efforts in the Amazon, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office this year with the promise of putting these efforts back on the government agenda.

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