‘LatAm is making important progress’

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Buenos Aires Herald, Latin America

In an interview with the Herald, Helen Mountford, programme director of the New Climate Economy project, said countries need to think broadly about their infrastructure and energy plans with a focus on decreasing costs on renewables.

Will the effects of climate change — already evident around the world — worsen if governments fail to take action?

We are already feeling the effects of climate change and that’s why discussions in Lima were not focused about what to do in the future but what to do now. Many people still see climate change as something in the distant future and they don’t realize it’s affecting them today. Argentina, for example, has seen a large number of storms that have been very costly — the urgency to take action is here today.

What changes are needed in infrastructure to deal with the effects of climate change?

We are building infrastructure now and we have a choice on how to do it. Either we do it on a polluted and inefficient way or in a low carbon and climate resilient way. If we delay taking action, it will be much more expensive later.

Argentina has a large potential for renewable energy sources but now seems to be focused on tapping shale resources. Does it have its priorities backward?

Costs and benefits have to be taken in consideration. People used to only consider how much energy will they get but a more broad analysis is needed. For example, if you use fossil fuels you have to think about the air pollution that it generates. There are real concerns of the potential impact of shale on water and lands. Those elements needs to be included in the cost of the projects.

How do Latin American governments fare in the fight against climate?

They are making some serious progress and starting to show real leadership. Several announced pledges to the Green Climate Fund and agreed to participate on the 20/20 initiative to save 20 million hectares of forest land.

Latin American leaders have asked developed countries to step up and assume responsibility for tackling climate change. Is that a sensible approach?

We need to decarbonize the economy and reach zero emissions in the second half of the century, but we won’t do that if only some countries act. There are countries that will need financial and technological support and that needs to happen. But we need to work together.