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Brazil Profile

Country Facts

Full country name: Federative Republic of Brazil
Area: 8,547,403 sq km
Population: 195 million (UN, 2010)
Capital City: Brasilia
Language: Portuguese
Religion: Roman Catholic (73.6%), Pentecostal (15.4%), Other (11%)
Currency: Real

Major political parties: Following elections in October 2010, the Worker's Party (PT) became the largest party in Congress. It formed a coalition with some 10 other parties, giving it loose control of an overall majority in both chambers. However, in the 2006 elections the PT fell short of a majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The PT is a broad left party with close links to the trade union movement. The main opposition parties are the centre-left Social Democratic Party (PSDB), and the centre-right Democrats Party (DEM), formerly known as the Liberal Front Party (PFL).

Government: Brazil is a Federal Republic consisting of 26 States and the Federal District.  States have considerable autonomy, being responsible for such issues as security and education.  The President is both Head of State and Leader of the Government.  Elections for President and Congress take place every 4 years.

Legislature: The 1988 Constitution provides for an elective bicameral Congress consisting of a Federal Senate (81 seats) and a Chamber of Deputies (513 seats).
Head of State: President Dilma Vana Rousseff
Foreign Minister: Ambassador Antonio Patriota
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations, Organisation of American States, Mercosul, World Trade Organisation, G77, ALADI (Latin American Integration Association), Rio Group, ECLAC (UN Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean), Union of South American Nations.


    Brazil is larger than the continental US and Australia. It is the fifth largest country in the world. With a population of 195 million, Brazil is also the fifth most populous country and fourth largest democracy. Sao Paulo is the second most populous city in the world, with almost 11 million people and nearly 22 million in the metropolitan area. Brazil is also one of the most unequal societies.  5% of the population own 85% of the wealth.

Brazil is the world's largest exporter of iron ore and soya; it will soon be the largest exporter of frozen meat. Brazilian industry produces more cars than Mexico, more steel than Italy, the same amount as India.

Brazil is technically self-sufficient in oil and if recently discovered reserves are all proven, is likely to become a major oil exporter in the future. 

Brazil is the country outside the G8 with the best science base (as measured by the frequency its scientific papers are quoted).

Brazil has the world's largest reserves of tropical forest, freshwater and of bio-diversity.  Enough water flows out of the Amazon each day to keep New York City going for 10 years.

Environment and Climate Change

Brazil is the 4th largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, 75% of which results from land-use change, in particular deforestation. 18% of the Brazilian Amazon has been deforested since 1970 (an area three times the size of the UK) at an average rate of around one Wales every year. In May 2011, Brazil’s space agency (INPE) released deforestation figures from its satellite monitoring system. The figures showed that deforestation in March and April 2011 was six times higher than in 2010 and that deforestation from August 2010-April 2011 had increased by 27% on the same period the year before. Environment Minister Teixeira has launched an emergency response. Brazil is aiming to reduce deforestation by 80% by 2020.

The country is one of the most biodiverse in the world. Its six major biomes—Amazon rainforest, wetlands (including the world’s largest inland wetland, the Pantanal), semi-arid areas (caatinga), savannah (cerrado), Atlantic forest and marine and coastal areas—are home to between 20 and 30% of world’s biodiversity—1,300 species of fish (12 to 15 times the number found in Europe), more than 1,000 species of birds, more than 400 mammals, and 30,000 plants (10% of the world’s total). The Amazon represents over half of the world’s remaining rainforest (8.5 million square kilometres) and contains one fifth of the world’s freshwater. Brazil has 3.5 million square km of coastal and marine waters. Biodiversity is of economic importance—it provides ecosystem services: clean water, fertile soil and regional rainfall, as well as regulating the climate. It is also a potential source of pharmaceutical products and cultural and spiritual significance to Brazil’s people which include over 200 indigenous groups.

Brazil hosted the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (UNCED, the Rio Earth Summit) and played a key role in the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa (referred to as Rio plus 10 by Brazilians), especially in the area of renewable energy. Brazil will host the Rio plus 20 Summit in June 2012. Brazil is a world leader in the production of biofuels, bio-ethanol in particular. 46% of its energy is produced from renewable sources.

Despite this, incidences of environmental degradation remain high. The environment is a complex political issue in Brazil. This is partly due to Brazil’s growing commercial significance, but also to conflicting pressures resulting from poverty, social inequality and developmental needs. Brazil also suffers from corruption, red tape and a shortage of resources for policy implementation.

Brazil plays a crucial and active role in international negotiations on climate change, and was behind the original concept of a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  It is also active in building partnerships on biofuels fuels.

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