Understand why Latin America is key to plans

The UN Climate Summit (COP26) debates different proposals on how to contain the global climate emergency, the great Western economic powers try to advance with the Green New Deal, on the part of the United States, and the Green Pact of the European Union, while the peoples of the regions most affected by global warming denounce the urgency of stopping the environmental destruction.

Latin America and Africa are responsible for less than 10% of polluting gas emissions and, however, they are the regions most affected by climate change, both in the environmental and socio-political aspects.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), around 30.7 million people have been displaced from their homes by floods, fires, deforestation or other effects of climate change – and the majority of climate refugees come from Africa and the Caribbean .

Since 1990, there has been a 45% increase in heat retention in the atmosphere due to the concentration of polluting gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), according to a United Nations report. Although the UN has set a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030, the estimate for the end of 2021 is to reduce between 4% and 7.5% daily emissions across the globe.

In the last century, there has been a 1.5ºC increase in global temperature, which causes changes in air currents, sea currents and the development of animal and human life as a whole.

The situation gives urgency to the States to implement new environmental policies and Latin America is key to developing the two proposals of the Western powers.

Green New Deal and Green Pact

The new green deal or Green New Deal of the United States suggests replacing the use of fossil fuels by other forms of energy. Industry automation and the use of electric cars are two examples of actions that the US is seeking to promote.

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The European Green Pact also proposes to reduce dependence on oil, gas and coal for clean energy. In addition to increasing reforestation, based on carbon market mechanisms, investing in the “blue economy” to increase profitability from the seas and oceans, as well as reducing the use of pesticides based on nitrate and phosphate.

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The European bloc predicts that 25 billion euros (about R$ 150 billion) would be needed to transition to climate neutrality. The United States, on the other hand, indicate that US$ 18 trillion (approximately R$ 99 trillion) would be needed to eliminate CO2 emissions by 2050 and implement the new green agreement.

Part of the economic resources to create the new infrastructure would come from a global tax on transnational corporations – a topic under debate at the G20.

For this, they need to control the sources of natural resources that are the raw material for the technologies that the green economy requires. Bolivia (21 million tons of lithium), Argentina (17 million tons) and Chile (9 million tons) concentrate around 60% of the reserves of lithium – essential mineral for batteries for electronic equipment – existing in the world.

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Chile and Peru have about 60% of copper reserves. While Brazil is the largest producer of iron ore in the world, with the fifth largest reserve.

Professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) Monica Bruckmann assesses that the “intensive and growing consumption” of minerals from the energy transition, such as lithium and copper, may result in an increase in extractivism and harmful effects such as rural exodus, territorial expulsion and increase in socio-environmental conflicts.

“This process needs to be seen in a systemic and planetary way. It is not possible to have as an agenda the decarbonization of the world economy at the top, in developed countries, and an expansion of environmental devastation at the base, which are the underdeveloped and emerging countries”, evaluates Bruckmann in an interview with Brazil in fact.

The researcher also emphasizes that it is not about opposing the changes necessary to face the climate emergency, but having on the horizon a sovereign development of the region that does not involve subordination to developed countries.

Latin America still concentrates around 40% of the planet’s fresh water sources.

“There is a lack of investment in the green sectors in our region. There are few companies and sectors with investments. During the pandemic, governments reduced the budget for the environmental issue. For us it is worrying”, said the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ( Cepal), Alicia Bárcena.

Only 18% of post-pandemic economic recovery funds are directed to projects based on the green economy, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

However, Bárcena herself warns of the risk of reprimarizing the Latin American economy with the imposition of the demands of the green economy of the great powers.

Edition: Thales Schmidt

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