By Amal-Lee Amin y Amy Lewis
Imagine a bridge that has been built to withstand the effects of a hurricane. Crossing it is a constant flow of pedestrians, cyclists and electric vehicles charged by a power grid ran on 100% renewable energy.
This vision may seem a long way off, but the transition to a net zero emission, climate resilient and sustainable economy is underway globally as countries work to deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Climate change is a significant threat to social and economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rising sea levels threaten islands and coastal areas while higher temperatures risk undermining vital ecosystem services and wiping out countless species.
Despite the risks, confronting the climate crisis also presents various opportunities to build a more sustainable and prosperous economy including the shift to electric mobility, which could revolutionize our public transport systems and reduce costly and deadly air pollution.
To deliver on the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, we must transform our economy across a multitude of sectors. This is not only a task for environment ministries but also finance ministries and others as well. Here we list 7 sectors which have vital contributions to make.
- Transformations are required across the energy sector, which globally represents the largest source of emissions due to our dependence on fossil fuels. In our region, we have achieved significant results by financing renewable energy projects ranging from hydropower in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Venezuela to geothermal and wind projects in Chile and Argentina, some of which include participation from the private sector. As the transition to electric mobility gathers speed, the region is well placed to connect its incredible potential for renewable energy to power electric vehicles.
- Transport is one of our region’s fastest growing sources of emissions. Campaigns that promote the use of public transport are beneficial, but their impact is higher when we invest in clean transport fleets, such as Bogota’s hybrid buses or Chile’s electric buses. However, for electric vehicles to work, countries must invest in infrastructure, such as Uruguay’s electric highway that provides several charging points along the route. Bike share programs can also have an impact in reducing emissions, but for them to be widely used, governments need to expand their cycling lanes and paths.
- The urban development and housing sector is important because construction is highly energy intensive, but also because interventions allows for the incorporation of elements that promote green growth and the sustainable use of resources.
- A focus on tourism is crucial, particularly for Caribbean nations whose economies are heavily dependent on it. Increased tropical storms, coastal flooding, eroding beaches, rising sea levels, coral bleaching and loss of biodiversity are all climate-change related factors that threaten the tourism industry. Last week, the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas demonstrates the vulnerability of Caribbean nations. The development of adaptation policies and programs that lead to more resilient destinations is key.
- Food security will be deeply reliant on implementing climate-smart agriculture techniques and technologies given that 22% of the world’s cultivated land is expected to experience negative impacts from climate change by 2050.
- Waste management needs to be considered because reducing landfill disposal and promoting recycling and composting can greatly reduce emissions.
- Overall, investing in sustainable infrastructure has a prominent role to play in the fight against climate change. The good news is that it is not too late as 70% of the forecasted increase in emissions from developing countries is set to come from infrastructure that has yet to be built. This means integrating infrastructure strategies and plans with countries national climate change agendas. This is why the IDB Group has developed a sustainable infrastructure framework that can be applied upstream to prioritize investments that are consistent with the Paris Agreement while delivering other social, economic, financial, environmental and institutional priorities.
The transformation to a net zero emission and climate-resilient economy could be our region’s next growth story. For example, the transition can be a massive source of new employment and create the jobs of the future especially in areas such as renewable energy. The right education and training will be important to access these jobs and the IDB Group is supporting the policy changes needed to get there.
This will entail working across government, develop new types of public-private partnerships and the active involvement of citizens. Only an inclusive and collaborative approach to deliver transformation across all sectors will enable countries to achieve the inclusive and prosperous economies they need.
In many ways our region is also leading and as the transition picks up speed, Latin America and the Caribbean countries should be confident that building net zero emission and climate-resilient economies is very much aligned with generating prosperity for all.
If you want to learn more about the priorities of the IDB Group to support Latin America and the Caribbean, download our Institutional Strategy.