Latin America, A New Leader in Renewable Energy

Latin America’s progress in tackling climate change is excelling and showing that its ambition plans are positioning this region as a new leader in renewable energy. In response to the threats of climate change, Latin America is taking bold climate actions to invest in renewable energy projects and adopting new energy policies to mitigate climate change impacts. As one of the most vulnerable regions to the effects of climate change, many Latin American countries showed their desire for a greener world at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) developing strategic plans to increase the deployment of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse emissions.

First, investment in renewable energy is on the rise as a result of the frequency of natural disasters in the region. In 2017, Latin American countries experienced catastrophic floods, droughts, and storms. Hurricanes like Irma and Maria caused major impacts on the Caribbean islands like Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Hurricane Irma devastated Cuba, 158,554 were displaced from their homes, 980 health facilities were affected, and 95,000 hectares of agriculture land was damaged. Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic dropping 20 inches of rain flooding hundreds of houses. In countries like Peru and Colombia, the number of fatalities caused by natural disasters linked to climate change was even higher than previous years. In Peru, more than 100 people have died as a result, of the magnitude of this year’s floods. In October 2017, Colombia faced the deadliest flood in South America where at least 254 people died in Mocoa town.

Second, many Latin American countries like Uruguay are increasing the deployment of solar and wind energy supporting the reduction of global emissions of carbon dioxide. Scientists predict that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels will rise by 2 percent by the end of this year. The rise in use of coal in China this year has been a contributor to this problem. According to National Geographic, there are positive trends showing that Mexico and other Latin American countries are decreasing their emissions. Costa Rica was the first Latin American country to run entirely on renewable energy for more than 250 days, leading by example as the greenest countries in the region.

Read: How Uruguay Became a Wind Power Powerhouse

Third, Latin America demonstrated leadership at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. Countries like Brazil, Mexico and Chile are heavily investing in solar and wind energy. Brazil invested 7.1 billion in renewables in 2015 demonstrating its high potential to transit to a low-carbon economy. While Chile is proudly leading solar energy with the implementation of the biggest photovoltaics plant (El Romero) in the region that has the capacity to produce energy for 240,000 Chilean homes. Chile is also promoting renewable energy at the commercial level as Google Chile gets 100 percent of its energy from this solar power plant. Argentina and Mexico showed their interest in being part of a meaningful change by setting renewable energy targets, adopting support policies and providing fiscal incentives. Mexico excelled by being the first developing country to submit a climate pledge to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and the first one to address adaptation to climate change in its pledge. Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina expressed his support to renewable energy and issued a decree at the beginning of this year to make Argentina generate 8 percent of their electricity from renewable sources for the entire current year.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), main Latin American cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Quito, Caracas, Mexico City, and Santiago de Chile participated in global alliances among 25 global cities, where they committed to work harder and implement projects to address climate change impacts before 2020. Colombia and Ecuador were awarded at COP23 for their thriving initiatives. Colombia won the Momentum for Change award for its work with young scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and Ecuador received the Impulse for Change award for the initiative, Sustainable Agriculture with Inclusion and Participation of Gender.

Latin America’s actions are showing to the rest the world that it is a regional leader for scaling up the use of renewable energy. Latin America appears to be home for some of the most promising renewable energy projects. Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are already taking advantage of green funds. As we see the world being impacted more frequently by natural disasters caused by climate change, we will see more pro-renewables actions from Latin America.

Read: Enel to Bid in Mexico Power Auction After Raising $1.35 Billion

Lead image: Latin America Map. Credit: Pixabay.

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Katherine is a Masters candidate at New York University Center for Global Affairs, with a concentration in Energy Policy and Environment. She is interested in sustainable development and renewable energy investment projects.

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