Latin America needs stronger climate pledges – analysts

Brazil and Peru get a “medium” rating, while Chile and Argentina emissions targets are “inadequate”, says Climate Action Tracker

(Pic: UN Photos)

(Pic: UN Photos)

By Megan Darby

Climate pledges by Latin America’s major economies do not go far enough to hold warming below 2C, analysts warned on Thursday.

Climate Action Tracker awarded Brazil and Peru a “medium” rating for their targets, being at the weaker end of a “fair” contribution to global efforts. That is the same category as the EU, US and China.

Offers from Chile and Argentina were branded “inadequate”, in line with 3-4C of temperature rise from pre-industrial levels.

“None of these countries will be immune to the effects of climate change. An increase in warming of 2C would have severe impacts on all four of them, and on the rest of the continent,” said Marcia Rocha, head of climate policy at Climate Analytics.

“Yet instead of taking action commensurate with the size of the threat, these governments are largely sticking with their current policies, which are heading in the wrong direction.”

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To date, 155 countries have submitted national contributions to a UN climate deal to be finalised in Paris this December.

CAT, an alliance of four European research institutes, estimates the aggregate effect is to limit warming to 2.7C. That is an improvement on the 3.6C under business as usual, but far from the ultimate goal.

It judges only four countries to be making sufficient efforts: Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco and the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

The latest assessments suggest Latin America needs to up its game on clean energy, saving forests and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Brazil, the continent’s biggest emitter, made much of its hard target to cut greenhouse gases 37% from 2005 levels by 2025 and 43% by 2030.

It was the only developing country to propose absolute reductions from a historical year, rather than taking a business-as-usual baseline.

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But this actually represents a slight increase from the latest emissions figures, which tumbled in recent years due to a crackdown on deforestation.

The main source of pollution has flipped to energy, where rising demand is set to outweigh plans to get 45% from renewable sources by 2030.

“Brazil needs to be careful it doesn’t recarbonise its electricity sector,” said Rocha.

In Peru, rapid expansion of mining, agriculture and illegal logging jeopardise a goal to reach zero deforestation by 2021.

“With its current deforestation rates, it is difficult to see how Peru is going to meet its climate target,” said Juan Pablo Osornio, researcher at Ecofys.

Even if global warming is held to 2C, Peru is expected to lose 90% of its glaciers, raising the risk of water shortages.

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Chile trumpeted its democratic approach to developing a climate plan, involving a broad grassroots consultation.

That appears to have resulted in a watered down plan, however. Its 30% emissions intensity cut by 2030 is weaker than options in a 2014 draft and “far from a 2C pathway”, CAT said.

As for Argentina, its 15% cut from business as usual in 2030 will allow absolute emissions to rise by a quarter. CAT projects it can meet the target without any further action.

What is more, Buenos Aires reserved the right to change its mind, raising uncertainty over its commitment going into Paris.

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Experts on a webcast panel discussion from Brown University said the lack of green ambition was symptomatic of a wider economic malaise.

Kevin Gallagher, professor of global development policy at Boston University, said: “The fundamental economic model for Latin America is inherently unsustainable and there is no real sign of that shifting.”

The region is overly reliant on commodities, financial services and low-skilled work, he argued. Meanwhile it is not investing enough in innovation, structural transformation and natural capital.

“They are vulnerable to boom and bust cycles in the south related to commodity prices and in the north to manufacturing demand. Social and environmental conflict is at an all time high.”

Isabel Cavelier, a Colombian envoy to the UN, agreed: “We need an economy that is more diversified – that is the main challenge.”

She was more upbeat about the national climate plans, welcoming them as a better way for the UN to drive action than the previous top-down approach. “They are more owned by governments, they are more inclusive,” Cavelier said.

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