Latin America and the Caribbean would obtain substantial economic, environmental and social benefits if it transitions to a carbon neutral economy towards the middle of this century, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Program, UNEP, now available in Spanish.
The report Zero Carbon Latin America: A path to net decarbonization of the regional economy by the middle of this century, published by the UNEP-DTU Alliance research center based in Denmark, analyzes the route that the region should follow in four sectors that they represent 90% of greenhouse gas emissions: electricity generation, transportation, land use and industry.
The region contributes relatively little to global emissions, yet it is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change: it is estimated that the costs associated with the phenomenon reached 100 billion dollars in 2015.
The report makes recommendations mainly for Latin America in light of its emissions and its potential, however, many of them are also directly applicable to the Caribbean.
"Latin America and the Caribbean is not a large emitter, it produces about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, but it can make a great contribution to efforts to control climate change," said the Director and Regional Representative of UNEP , Leo Heileman, when mentioning the universal agreement that was officially signed this Friday, April 22, at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
"This report tells us that it is feasible to achieve a total elimination of these emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean, with concrete and bold actions that can drastically improve the quality of life of people," said Heileman.
In the energy sector, for example, decarbonization involves ensuring that all the new demand is met by renewables and integrating the national electricity networks. This is plausible, considering that the regional renewable energy resource amounts to an estimated 93 PWh, according to the publication.
Decarbonization has already started in our region, Heileman noted. "Let's take the case of Costa Rica, which has relied exclusively on renewable sources to generate electricity in the last year, or Brazil, Uruguay and Nicaragua, which are nations where the transition to renewable energy is taking hold," he said.
According to the Carbon Zero Latin America report, in countries such as Brazil or Uruguay, public tenders for generation in the last two years have been obtained by solar or wind plants, which shows that these technologies are already at a low enough cost to compete with other sources, and that public policies are being applied that facilitate the profitability of investments.
The report also projects the massive electrification of means of transport - road, rail and river - and concludes that this transformation is possible, given technological evolution and the 14% annual reduction in storage costs (batteries. This change could generate new jobs in the region, increase productivity and reduce hundreds of thousands of deaths from respiratory diseases, due to the radical improvement in air quality that new technologies would produce.
Regarding land use, the study concludes that a transformation is key to turning the countryside into a sink rather than a source of greenhouse gases by mid-century. The challenge is enormous since the area deforested each year in the region is equivalent to more than two thirds of the surface of Costa Rica. To achieve this, the need to completely eliminate forest deforestation and promote the reforestation of 50 million hectares and the restoration of some 200 million hectares of degraded land is identified.
Zero Carbon Latin America illustrates how each industrial subsector in Latin America and the Caribbean could reduce its emissions by mid-century, despite the absence of a carbon market (only countries such as Mexico or Chile have progress in this area). The report indicates that one of the main barriers to decarbonization in the region are fossil fuel subsidies that add up to a value of $ 1 billion a year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Finally, the publication also identifies the important regulatory and political barriers faced by this development alternative. "We show that, despite the obstacles, a zero-emissions economy is good business for our communities, for governments, for private companies and for the planet," said Walter Vergara, the study's lead author.
For more information, please contact the UNEP Communications Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean, [email protected], (507) 3053115.