Latin America has made bold pledges to boost renewable energies in the near future, but is failing to incorporate local communities along the way. This oversight will hamper its ability to foster sustainable change, argues Rebecca Bertram.
To face social and environmental problems generated by fossil energies, market-based solutions have emerged to tackle these challenges on a broader scale. These proposals are often also framed as a “green” approach to economic growth. They include e.g. regulatory disincentives for emitting CO2 through a form of carbon pricing or more specifically, emissions trading systems (ETS) and carbon taxes. Although their rationale sounds adequate, their design and implementation are flawed from different points of views and subsequently result in a minimal decrease of CO2 emissions. The following analysis will focus on the main causes of this (political) deficiency with a focus on Latin America. Maximiliano Proaño has the details.
During the last months, Latin America has become the main COVID-19 focus worldwide. In early September, the region concentrated more than 27% of the COVID-19 cases globally and 31% of its deaths. High rates of inequality and poverty, failures in the health system and political instability are the main reasons for this dramatic situation. And it seems to get worse in the upcoming years: according to the UN COVID-19 will result in the worst recession in the region in a century, causing a 9.1% contraction in regional GDP in 2020. Consequently, the number of poor could increase by 45 million (to 230 million in total) and the number of extremely poor by 28 million (to 96 million in total). As political and social instability has already characterized 2019, the risk of a period of human rights violations and a lack of democracy is real. Maximiliano Proaño reports
The transportation sector in Latin America is still largely based on fossil fuels and responsible for 35 percent of the continent’s carbon emissions. Greening public transportation systems is an issue predominantly for a few wealthier cities. But many remain highly inefficient, insecure and in the hands of powerful transportation mafia-like groups, which make them a difficult subject for reform. Yet the main hurdle for developing a sustainable transportation concept in many Latin American countries is the disconnect between national and municipal policies on transportation and energy policy. Rebecca Bertram reports
In the run up to the Madrid-based COP25 international climate talks set to begin in early December, former Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Energy and Environment program, Rebecca Bertram, conducted a series of interviews with Latin American officials and activists. In Part 3 of the series, Bertram meets with Samuel Leiva, environmental policy consultant with the Terram and Heinrich Böll Foundation’s office in Chile.
While the causes of rapid political change in Bolivia are currently being sought within the accusation of the electoral fraud-related presidency of Evo Morales, more and more voices in Latin America denounce to see a connection between the national lithium industry and the changing power structures. Kathrin Meyer evaluates the multiple facets of this conflict.
Costa Rica enjoys widespread international fame for being one of the “greenest” countries on earth. The small Central American state has repeatedly been praised for its outstanding efforts in combating climate change, for its reforestation efforts and for generating almost all its electricity from renewable energy sources. Though the government has adopted an ambitious economic plan to make the country carbon neutral by the middle of the century, “green” policies are sometimes not as rosy as they seem. Rebecca Bertram reports from San José.
While in North America and Europe more hydropower plants are being dismantled than built, many countries in Latin America continue to invest in the controversial renewable energy source. In Colombia, two hydropower plants are to be installed in the Amazon region. Social-ecological and cultural costs of the project are not taken into account. Kathrin Meyer reports about the serious impacts that hydropower could have on the zone.
The energy transition, and especially the increased electrification of transportation sector, moves forward at great speed. Its new center is Latin America’s lithium triangle, where new batteries of electric vehicles will be sourced. But there is an inevitable conflict coming between water availability and mining, says Rebecca Bertram.
One widespread objection to renewables is the fact that they need some kind of backup, such as gas or hydro power. But as technologies advance, the possibility of storing electricity generated by renewables seems like not-a-too-distant future. The new concentrated solar power plant in Chile is bringing Latin America to the forefront, says Maximiliano Proaño.