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By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil will step up its Paris Accord targets at COP26 as it tries to recover credibility for its environmental policies and its stewardship of the Amazon rainforest, the country's top diplomat for climate talks said in an interview.
"I ask everyone for the benefit of the doubt and to look toward the future and not the past," Paulino de Carvalho Neto, the Foreign Ministry's secretary for multilateral political affairs, told Reuters before heading to the U.N. climate change conference starting in Glasgow on Sunday.
Brazil will formally lodge with the Paris Accord secretariat its commitment to bring forward to 2050 from 2060 its target for carbon neutrality, or net zero gas emissions, he said.
Environment Minister Joaquim Leite, who will head Brazil's delegation, is expected to raise to 45% from 43% the country's target for reducing emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Monday Brazil aims to end illegal deforestation https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/brazil-bring-forward-goal-end-illegal-deforestation-vp-says-2021-10-25 in the Amazon two or three years before the 2030 target promised by President Jair Bolsonaro at an Earth Day summit hosted in April by U.S. President Joe Biden.
"There has been a change of tack since April, not just in our targets but our actions. We have effectively begun to combat deforestation," Carvalho Neto said in an interview on Monday.
He said the government has increased its budget for fighting deforestation, which will help meet climate targets because destruction of the world's largest tropical forest is a major driver of Brazil's carbon dioxide emissions.
"If we can seriously combat deforestation, we will easily meet our Paris Accord targets, both the long-term 2050 climate neutrality goal and our (nationally determined contributions)," the diplomat said, referring to Brazil's individual goals for reducing emissions.
Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic backed by powerful farming interests, has faced criticism from environmental activists and some world leaders for the rise in deforestation during his presidency. He continues to push for more mining and commercial agriculture in the Amazon, including on protected indigenous lands.
While forest fires in the Amazon have dropped significantly this year, there is far more deforestation than before Bolsonaro took office and weakened environmental enforcement https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-environment-ibama-exclusive-idUSKCN1VI14I.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is hovering https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/brazil-vp-says-preliminary-data-shows-fall-amazon-deforestation-2021-10-08 near a 12-year high, edging down by less than 1% through September this year compared to the first nine months of 2020.
That improvement at the margin opened room for renewed climate talks with the United States, which hinge on Brazil showing an advance in fighting illegal deforestation. Carvalho Neto met briefly with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry in Milan this month at a preparatory meeting for COP26.
European diplomats have also recognized a change of attitude from Brazilian ministers involved in climate change issues and even in Bolsonaro's speeches.
"They have accepted that deforestation is a problem and it directly affects their targets in fighting climate change," said Ignacio Ybañez, European Union ambassador in Brasilia. "But we still have to see concrete results. We're not there yet."
Carvalho Neto said Brazil will have a constructive position in Glasgow, while defending its interests. These include getting wealthy nations to compensate its efforts to preserve the Amazon, which is a crucial bulwark against climate change.
Brazil will work for agreement on a framework to get carbon markets working effectively by regulating Article 6 of the Paris Accord, which is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Brazil also wants to see a share of the proceeds from carbon credit trading channeled to help less wealthy nations adapt to climate change, Carvalho Neto said.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Andrea Ricci)