Argentina has pledged its conditional commitment towards combating climate change, communicated through the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted last week. The document details the country’s action plan to combat climate change ahead of the COP21 conference in Paris this coming December.
The ten-page report stipulates certain broad parameters and goals in order to combat climate change, namely:
- – Reducing emissions by 15% by 2030.
- – Reducing emissions by 30% by 2030 if financial aid is received.
- – Making a move towards renewables by investing more in nuclear and hydroelectric energy.
Environmental groups, though, are not convinced by the plan. As Hernán Giardini from Greenpeace Argentina told The Argentina Independent: “there’s what the document says, and what it leaves unsaid.”
‘A Lie From the Get-Go’
Argentina is among the top 25 greenhouse gas emitting countries in the world.
According to The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s report last year, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, rising temperatures will affect Argentina’s agricultural productivity. The country will likely face changing rain patterns, with increased rainfall – and potential flooding – in the pampas and east (including Buenos Aires), and droughts in the west, as glacier retreat and lower rainfall lead to decreased run-off in the rivers.
The effects of some of these changes made headlines just one month ago as freak rainfall led to floods that forced hundreds of people to evacuate and left some 160,000 hectares of farmland underwater. Three people died during these floods, but one that swept through the city of La Plata in 2013 ago took with it 89 lives.
Yet the country has been largely inactive when it comes to tackling climate change. Environmental policy did not even feature as a subject as a topic for discussion in the country’s first presidential debate last week.
The INDC proposal was found wanting by Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA), which points out that the it does not “demostrate a commitment nor its will to confront the problem of climate change head on, nor does it take advantage of the country’s potential to mitigate its effects.”
Eduardo Abascal, a spokesperson for the Environmental and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), said the estimates were “conservative and lacking” when taking into account that Argentina’s CO2 emissions have steadily risen along the years. He says the proposed target of 15% would contribute to tapering off the intensity of emissions, but not to lowering the emissions themselves. The current plan would only manage to lower emissions if the secondary 30% target were reached.
But the latter, as Argentina’s INDC report clearly points out, would be dependent on external financial support from developed countries. While FVSA and other groups support this approach in theory, it remains a prickly issue in international negotiations over climate change.
Hernán Giardini says that for Greenpeace, the country’s main problems lie with its energy matrix proposal and a lack of effort in combating deforestation. “The document simply states that Argentina will comply with the Ley de Bosques [which combats deforestation]. That is an obligation, not a goal.” He explains that the first instance of non-compliance by the Argentine government is approaching fast. The national budget for 2016 was recently approved, and the amount devoted to the is 23 times small that the quota stipulated by the Forest Law. “The INDC document is a lie from the get-go,” he adds.
As a sign of the importance of this issue, the IPCC’s 2014 report highlighted that 4.3% of global deforestation now occurs in Argentina.
The Renewable Potential
On Wednesday the U.S. Amabasador to Argentina, Noah B. Mamet, offered a talk on climate change at AreaTres in Buenos Aires. Ambassador Mamet reminded that 1% of electricity in Argentina comes from renewable energies, such as solar or wind. “I hope that the delegation that goes to Paris from here thinks big, there’s a lot to do here,” he extolled. “I think Argentina can be a real leader. Other countries would come along and join them if Argentina we a real leader.”
Vida Silvestre, on the other hand, reminds that Argentina’s goal was to raise this number to 20% by 2025, which is why it passed the Law for the Promotion of Renewable Energies. Yet it warns that those good intentions will not materialise without a serious boost in financial investment in that sector.
FVSA published a report that offers several alternatives for more significant action in terms of emissions-reduction. The document outlines all the potential that Argentina has for deriving energy from eco-friendly sources and offers pointers on how it could reduce emissions by investing in renewable energies or implementing energy-efficiency policies.
Abascal, from FARN, agrees and adds that investment in the renewable energy sector would contribute both social and economic benefits. This new sector would not just help protect the environment, but create jobs and generate savings by cutting down on fuel imports.
Greenpeace, on the other hand, would like to see a push towards cleaner renewable energy alternatives, such as wind and solar energy, rather than the current focus on nuclear and hydro-election power. “Nuclear leaves toxic waste which is impossible to get rid off and poses a danger to humans and the environment,” says Giardini. “Meanwhile, the mega-hydroelectric projects they propose are also damaging to the surrounding flora and fauna.”
Argentina may be taking small steps in the right direction with the report, but environmental groups remain concerned that it is too little, too late.