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Kimberly and Scott Sheffield
Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries are among the most vulnerable in the world to climate change, experiencing at least one extreme weather-related event per country, on average, every three years over the past two decades. As signers to the Paris Agreement, LAC countries established nationally determined contributions (NDCs), pledging to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 and become net zero by 2050. Over the last two years, many LAC countries, including the six largest economies—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru—have updated or submitted new NDCs, raising their climate mitigation ambition. While public opinion surveys show support for climate-related policies among citizens in the region, the transition to a low-emissions economy is extremely challenging, and even out of reach, for LAC countries under current policies.
Financing this transition is a key question for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference. As part of the ongoing research on energy transition at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, this report analyzes the challenges of climate mitigation in LAC countries. The region has a unique composition of emissions: the Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector accounts for 40 percent of the region’s total emissions, almost double the global average. Deforestation and land-use change, which drive this sector’s emissions, release vast quantities of nitrous oxide and methane emissions in addition to carbon dioxide. Another characteristic of the region is its heavy dependence on fossil fuel revenues, which raises transition costs and risks of financing a low-carbon future.
This report outlines the trade-offs facing the region as well as market-based solutions that could help finance climate mitigation initiatives. The main findings are as follows:
Nearly 775 million people around the globe are estimated to have no access to electricity. In 2022, that number rose.
While tens of millions of people work in formal energy jobs around the world, another group that comprises a massive and key labor segment in this sector is often overlooked: women and girls producing biomass
This commentary contextualizes the scale of persistent energy burdens in both emerging and developed economies.