Brazil Catches a Case of Oil Fever

The Fossil for today goes to Brazil, for proposing a bill that could give oil companies $300 billion in subsidies to drill its offshore reserves.

You heard that right, $300 billion.

Let’s think about that for a minute –  that’s roughly the value of one Eiffel Tower or six Towers of London. Basically, an insane amount of money. It's also about 360 times more than the entire world provides in annual support for climate and disaster resilience financing in Small Island Developing States, highlighting how puny current climate finance flows are in comparison to massive fossil fuel subsidies.

Brazil, the South American green giant, the land of sustainable biofuels, and the proud bearer of a low-carbon energy mix, is the newest victim of the oil fever.

An emergency bill sent to Congress by President Michel Temer, to be voted within the next weeks, opens up the country to an oil frenzy by giving companies a package of tax breaks that can amount to $300 trillion over the next 25 years. Brazil’s environment minister called the bill “preposterous”.

Temer’s public approval rate is 3%, about the same as the margin of error of the polls. But certainly, big oil thinks better of him now than Brazilian voters. 

Way bigger, on the other hand, is the number of Brazilians that think the government is either not doing enough or not doing nothing at all to effectively tackle climate change: 84%. 

The goal of the measure is to speed up the development of the ultra-deep pre-salt layer, an offshore oil province thought to contain 176 billion recoverable barrels. Should that oil be burned, Brazil alone would eat up 18% of the remaining carbon budget for 1.5 degrees, blowing our chance to steer the world away from climate catastrophe.

Funny thing is, the Brazilian government seems to be fully aware that it is playing foul. As one government official candidly put it, “the world is heading towards a low-carbon economy. There is going to be oil left in the ground, and we hope it’s not ours.”

The blatant cynicism of the Temer administration is at contrast with the fairly progressive stance taken by the Brazilian delegation at Fiji-in-Bonn. While diplomats here peddle biofuels as a climate solution and press for pre-2020 ambition, back home the attitude is “drill, baby, drill!”

Brazil, you put on a good face, but below that coat of green paint lies a petrocracy in the making. Time to take these mind-blowing payouts and put them to a better, greener use.


About CAN: The Climate Action Network (CAN) is a worldwide network of over 1100 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in more than 120 working to promote government and individual action to limit human induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. 

About the Fossils: The Fossil of the Day awards were first presented at the climate talks in 1999, in Bonn, initiated by the German NGO Forum. During United Nations climate change negotiations (, members of the Climate Action Network (CAN), vote for countries judged to have done their 'best' to block progress in the negotiations or in the implementation of the Paris Agreement

Fossil Brazil COP 23

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