April 22 is Earth Day and it is a reminder of one of the most pressing issues we face today: climate change. This year’s Earth Day coincides with the just recent launch of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report on climate change, making it a particularly significant occasion. The report’s findings highlight the urgent need for action to address the climate crisis and protect our so-at-risk planet.
Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary cause of climate change and without immediate and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth will experience more frequent and severe heatwaves, droughts, floods, and storms. Therefore, it is of vital importance to take action to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In order to do so, it requires immediate and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a transition to renewable energy sources, preserving biodiversity and leaving no one behind. The IPCC report stresses the need for collective action from governments, businesses, and individuals around the world to address the climate crisis and protect our planet.
What is the IDB doing to promote development opportunities while tackling climate change?
As part of its commitment to promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and fostering social inclusion, the IDB has worked with client countries to address climate change and promote sustainable development. At the IDB, we firmly believe climate action brings many economic opportunities to Latin American and Caribbean countries.
- From Black to Green Energy
One of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon emissions is to shift to renewable energy sources. Renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydropower, emits little to no greenhouse gases and has become increasingly competitive in cost compared to fossil fuels. Governments and businesses need to invest in renewable energy infrastructure and promote renewable energy adoption. Additionally, individuals can switch to renewable energy providers and install solar panels in their homes. The IDB is committed to support this transition in the region. For instance, in 2019, the Costa Rican government announced its ambitious Decarbonization Plan, which aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan outlines a roadmap for transitioning the country’s economy to one that is powered by renewable energy, promotes sustainable practices, and preserves natural resources. Costa Rica has long been a leader in renewable energy, with over 99% of its electricity generated from renewable sources. The Decarbonization Plan aims to build on this success by increasing the share of renewable energy in the country’s transportation and industrial sectors. The plan also includes the promotion of energy efficiency measures to reduce energy consumption across all sectors. The IDB approved two loans to underspin Costa Rica’s Decarbonization Plan and an IDB study suggests that decarbonization brings $41 billion in net benefits to Costa Rica between 2020 and 2050.
- Decarbonizing the Transport Sector
Reducing carbon emissions from transportation is also crucial to addressing climate change. The transportation sector is responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels in cars, trucks, and airplanes. Governments and businesses need to promote electric vehicles, public transportation, biking, and walking. Additionally, individuals can reduce their transportation emissions by driving less, carpooling, and using public transportation. Moreover, this transition could yield significant health benefits and result in reduced transportation costs. The IDB, with the support of its UKSIP Program and the NDC Pipeline Accelerator, is working with national and local governments in the region to unlock the potential of clean technology buses through technical support, financing, management of risks and access to concessional loans. The objective of this regional support is to help countries and cities overcome the barriers that prevent further adoption of electric buses.
- Investing in Adaptation and Resilience is more Cost-Benefit
Another way to fight climate change is by investing in adaptation and resilience. Even with mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the climate will continue to change, and adaptation will be necessary to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. The IPCC report emphasizes that adaptation efforts are essential to address the challenges that climate change poses to food security, water resources, human health, and biodiversity and highlights the potential for significant increases in extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires, which can have devastating impacts on communities and ecosystems. In 2022, the IDB launched the Long-term Adaptation Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean publication. The Bank and the Agence française de développement (AFD) partnered with the World Resource Institute (WRI) to realize the state of the art of adaptation mainstreaming in planning exercises and collect lessons learned from eight countries: Argentina, Barbados, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, and Uruguay.
- Preserving Nature’s Wealth
Addressing biodiversity loss could help us combat climate change. Due to the region’s extreme biodiversity and natural wealth, we have a fantastic opportunity to address the climate change climate crisis and promote sustainable development in the region. For every dollar invested in ecosystem restoration generates up to $30 in economic benefits. At the IDB, due to its intrinsic correlation, we work on the biodiversity and climate change agenda. We are working with nine countries to mainstream biodiversity in governments and national agendas. To institutionalize the biodiversity agenda, we are working on the launch of the Biodiversity Action Plan, which represents our roadmap to making the Global Biodiversity Framework a reality.
In conclusion, Earth Day is a reminder that we need to take urgent action to address climate change. We need to shift to renewable energy sources, reduce transportation emissions, and protect and restore ecosystems. We already have the technology and resources to address climate change, but we need the political will and collective action to make it happen. Let’s use Earth Day as an opportunity to recommit to protecting our planet and securing a sustainable future for generations to come.