WASHINGTON, DC – Relations between the United States and much of Latin America are recovering after hitting rock bottom under former US President Donald Trump. But while President Joe Biden’s administration is focusing on the Central American migration crisis, it must not miss the opportunity to drive urgently needed climate action to help the region rebuild after the pandemic.
Given the scale of Latin America’s economic collapse in 2020 – its 7.4% GDP contraction was the worst of any region – most of its national leaders did not dwell much on climate change. Argentina, Mexico, and Peru have yet to direct a single dollar of recovery spending toward reducing greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution, according to the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project. Instead, vast sums have gone to the region’s fossil-fuel industries.
Today, as Latin America inches toward recovery, it is vital that the region’s governments align their rebuilding strategies with their commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The US could help make that happen.
To limit global warming this century to below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, Latin American countries, along with the rest of the world, must halve GHG emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. While this is a tall order, we have most of the necessary technology. The region’s ample renewable energy sources, together with electrification of transport, could largely replace reliance on fossil fuels, which accounted for most of Latin America’s GHG emissions in 2018. Such a transition would reduce air pollution and attract the investment needed to help reverse a surge in joblessness and poverty over the past year.
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