Renewable Commitments at COP28 Pose Stiffer Energy Challenges for Latin America — Global Issues

The so-called “Green Zone” at COP28, which brings together pavilions of non-governmental organizations and companies that are not officially accredited by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, features a clean energy area showcasing progress made on the ground, at the climate summit in Dubai. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy / IPS
  • by Emilio Godoy (dubai)
  • Inter Press Service

However, it is difficult to find solar panels on the many buildings that populate this city of nearly three million inhabitants, host to the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – an unlikely venue for a climate summit at a site built on oil industry wealth and at the same time highly vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis.

But it is not unusual considering that this Gulf country, made up of seven emirates, is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, which it is trying to compensate for by hosting the annual climate summit, which began on Nov. 30 and is due to conclude on Tuesday, Dec. 12, with the Dubai Declaration.

That is why the Dec. 2 launch of the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, endorsed by 123 countries and consisting of tripling by 2030 the alternative installed capacity to 11 terawatts (11 trillion watts) and doubling the energy efficiency rate to four percent per year, along with other announcements, comes as a surprise in a scenario designed by and for crude oil.

Governments, international organizations and companies have already pledged five billion dollars for the development of renewable energy in the coming years at the Expo City Dubiai, the summit venue.

For Latin America, a region that has made progress in the transition to alternative energy, although with varying levels of success depending on the country, these voluntary goals involve financial, regulatory, social and technological challenges to make real progress in that direction.

Peri Días, communications manager for Latin America of the non-governmental organization, said the existence of a declaration on renewables at COP28 is essential for the phasing out of fossil fuels, the burning of which is the main cause of global warming.

“It is fundamental that the energy transition be fair, include affected communities and the most vulnerable. We have to ask ourselves why generate more electricity and for whom. What we see today is a complementary growth that does not replace fossil fuels, it is not what we need,” the activist told IPS in the summit’s Green Zone, which hosts civil society in its various expressions.

In the Latin American region, Brazil has emerged as the undisputed leader, developing an installed capacity of 196,379 MW, 53 percent of which comes from hydroelectric plants, 13 percent from wind energy and 5 percent from solar power.

In Chile, solar energy contributes 24 percent of energy, wind 13 percent and hydroelectric 21 percent, although thermoelectric plants still account for 36.9 percent.

Despite the lag since 2018 due to the current government’s outright support for hydrocarbons, which has halted the transition to low-carbon energy sources, Mexico is next in line, with 7000 Mw of solar power capacity and 7312 Mw of wind power, although its energy mix still depends 70 percent on fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, 73 percent of renewable energy comes from wind, 15 percent from the sun, 6 percent from bioenergy and 5 percent from mini-hydroelectric plants.

The Climatescope 2023 report, produced by the private consulting firm BloombergNEF, found that Brazil, Chile and Colombia are the most attractive countries in the region for investment in renewables, while Mexico is one of the least attractive.


While it is true that most Latin American nations have set renewable generation targets, they also face hurdles to reaching them. Around the world, this segment suffers from high interest rates for financing, a bottleneck in the manufacture of wind turbines that affects producers, and slow delivery of environmental permits.

Ricardo Baitelo, project manager of the non-governmental Brazilian Institute of Energy and Environment, said the maintenance of policies plays a central role in the evolution of renewables, which require higher generation speed, integration in the electric grid and the reduction of energy losses by moving them from one point to another.

“In recent years, Brazil has intensified the regimentation of renewables, expansion has been steady, but planning is important. And it is necessary to improve processes and build infrastructure, which costs more money,” he told IPS.

The deployment of renewable energies involves concerns about respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and communities, water use, deforestation risks and the impacts of mining for elements such as copper, tin, cobalt, graphite and lithium.

Several reports warn of both the demand for these materials and the consequences.

The demand for copper and nickel would grow by two to three times to meet the needs of electric vehicles and clean electricity grids by 2050. The extraction of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could rise by 500 percent by 2050 to meet the requirements of energy technologies, according to the World Bank Group.

Chile and Mexico produce copper; Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, lithium; and Brazil, iron – all of which are necessary for the energy transition, which is not innocuous because it leaves environmental legacies, such as mining waste or water use and pollution.

In this regard, Rana Adib, executive secretary of the non-governmental Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), said the evolution of renewables depends on the conditions of each nation.

The declaration “must clearly include routes for implementation and for a just and equitable transition. Financing is the number one priority. The transition must be fully funded, with access to affordable long-term funds. Technology transfer is vital. Renewables are the most recognized and affordable solution for climate mitigation and adaptation,” she told IPS.

The Dubai commitment implies a greater effort than Latin American countries had in mind.

By 2031, renewables are to account for 48 percent of primary energy and 84 percent of electricity generation, which means wind and solar would double in Brazil.

Argentina, meanwhile, plans to add 2,600 gigawatts (Gw) of renewables by 2030 and Chile has set targets of 25 percent renewable generation by 2025, 80 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2050.

Under its 2015 Energy Transition Law, Mexico is to generate 35 percent clean energy by 2024 and 43 percent by 2030, although these goals are in doubt due to stagnant supply of renewables.

Jorge Villarreal, climate policy director of the non-governmental Mexico Climate Initiative, said Dubai’s commitment is feasible, but argued that there must be a radical change in the country’s energy policy.

“It is not oriented towards renewables. On the contrary, we have invested in gas. Permits (for renewable plants) are at a standstill. Mexico has the potential to expand the penetration of renewables. That is where new investment in energy should be directed,” he told IPS.

Mexico committed at COP27, held in Egypt a year ago, to add 30 Gw of renewable energy and hydropower by 2030, although there is still no clear pathway towards that goal.

While governments, NGOs and academia make their calculations, it is not yet certain that the commitment made on day 2 at Expo City Dubai will translate into a clear message in the final COP28 declaration.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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