Alison Kirsch, the report’s author, says, “Despite some Latin American countries playing important roles at the U.N. to push forward the process, there is a real challenge back home to actually live up to promises being made.”
Latin American environmental policy has focused on land-use change, including deforestation, which has been a key source of emissions for the region. In recent years, there have been some important advances in reducing deforestation — especially in Brazil.
But as the report emphasizes, the energy sector plays an increasingly important role in the region’s emissions portfolio. National policy making to curb increasing emissions in the energy sector has received scant attention compared with policies to curb deforestation. Since 1990, Latin America’s emissions from deforestation have decreased by 44%, while energy emissions increased by 77%.
Given the tendency to emphasize the link between climate change and the emissions associated with land-use change such as deforestation, fossil fuel developments in the region have not been linked to climate debates, but rather to more traditional debates on development.
The exploitation of fossil fuel reserves in Latin American countries is being presented as a key motor for economic development, which clashes with these countries’ stated voluntary emissions reduction pledges. In the energy sectors of Brazil and Mexico, climate change concerns are yet to overcome the lure of fossil fuels. This is increasingly apparent with pre-salt oil exploration in Brazil and the recent energy reforms in Mexico.
The Dominican Republic and Nicaragua have ambitious renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, yet are also the most dependent on imported energy of the countries studied. Renewable energy incentives are in force, including tax breaks and net metering policies. However, the overall energy mix of these small developing countries will only become cleaner if the pace of renewable development exceeds increasing energy demand.
Peru has produced a great amount of research and plans on hypothetical responses to climate change. Yet without a legislated economy-wide emission reduction target or updated renewable energy goals, Peru is the laggard of the countries analyzed in the study.
All countries, including those from Latin America, will be required to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in 2015 as part of the U.N. climate change negotiations. These national contributions will be key elements in a new climate agreement to be agreed in Paris this December.
The report offers some recommendations for the energy-related content of the INDCs for the countries included in the study, such as a comprehensive economy-wide emission reduction target for Peru, a national carbon market in Brazil, a stronger carbon tax in Mexico, increased ambition in emissions reduction from the Dominican Republic contingent on international assistance, and energy efficiency measures in Nicaragua.
Kirsch suggests that the energy sectors of these Latin American countries present promising opportunities for national governments to put forward ambitious INDCs to support the transition to low-emission economies, while positively contributing to the U.N. climate negotiations and an equitable deal in Paris.
She says, “Latin America’s renewable energy potential remains largely untapped, which leaves room for creative policymaking in the energy sector to contribute to the fight against climate change.”
For more information:
· Read and download a summary brochure in English.
· Read and download a summary report in Spanish.
· Read and download the full report.