In exchange for political support, the Brazilian government is signalling landholders to increase deforestation, putting the country’s contribution to the Paris Agreement at risk. The President of Brazil has signed provisionary acts and decrees lowering environmental licensing requirements, suspending the ratification of indigenous lands, reducing the size of protected areas and facilitating land grabbers to obtain the deeds of illegally deforested areas. This could undermine the success of Brazil’s CO2 emission reductions through control of deforestation in the previous decade. Integrated assessment models are tools to assess progress in fulfilling global efforts to curb climate change.

Using integrated assessment models developed for Brazil, we explore 2 °C-compliant CO2 emission scenarios estimating the effort needed in other sectors of the economy to compensate for the weakening of environmental governance, potentially resulting in higher deforestation emissions. We found that the risk of reversals of recent trends in deforestation governance could impose a burden on other sectors that would need to deploy not yet mature technologies to compensate for higher emissions from land-use change. The abandonment of deforestation control policies and the political support for predatory agricultural practices make it impossible to meet targets consistent with Brazil’s contribution to a 2 °C world.