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Introduction to Net Zero in Argentina: A Guide for Journalists

 A wetland and a carbon sink

This tipsheet was created to introduce journalists to key net zero policies, principles and laws in Argentina. This resource is also available in Spanish here. 


The Paris Agreement and Argentina

In December 2015, the international agreement known as the Paris Agreement was reached with the goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C—with a more ambitious target of 1.5°C—to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on global health, livelihoods and economies.

That objective is stated in Article 2 of the Agreement as follows: "To maintain the global average temperature increase well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change."

This agreement, in force since November 2016, replaced the Kyoto Protocol and established voluntary national commitments (known as NDCs) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These commitments, although not mandatory, are subject to assessment every five years to monitor and increase the ambition of national targets.

All Parties must regularly report on their emissions, actions and implementation, and update their Nationally Determined Contributions.  Argentina, which ratified the agreement in September 2016, complies with this by regularly submitting its inventories and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Argentina submitted its Second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in December 2020 and updated it in 2021. In it, it committed not to exceed net emissions of 349 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) by 2030. This absolute and unconditional target applies to all economic sectors, in line with the targets set.

In 2020, the latest available data, the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (INGEI) determined that Argentina emitted a total of 376 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). In 2018 that value was 366 MtCO2e and in 2014 it was 368 MtCO2e.

What is net zero?

Net zero (also known as carbon neutrality or carbon neutral) refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and the amount that is offset, removed or absorbed. Achieving this state of equilibrium involves a considerable challenge that requires specific actions.

Net zero involves matching the emissions released with those that can be absorbed, eliminated or offset. Actions to achieve this are diverse and include the significant increase of renewable energies in the energy matrix, the preservation of forests or the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices, among other complementary strategies.

The term net zero is closely related to other concepts, such as mitigation and decarbonization.

Mitigation is a broad term that includes all actions aimed at reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit climate change and its effects. It involves both the reduction of GHG emissions and the implementation of strategies to prevent or reduce their impact on the climate.

Decarbonization refers to the reduction of dependence on energy sources that generate CO2, such as fossil fuels, and the promotion of the adoption of clean and renewable energies. The net zero concept focuses on the balance or equilibrium between greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere and those that are eliminated or compensated. Through this balance of quantities, net zero emissions are achieved. Both concepts are framed within the set of climate change mitigation strategies.

Importance of achieving net zero

Achieving net zero is essential to curb the climate crisis and its most negative impacts, such as rising temperatures, extreme weather events and biodiversity loss. The main objective is to halt the increase in greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change to manageable levels.

Net zero is of utmost importance for Argentina and the world in general. Why? Because climate change is generating increasingly evident and worrisome impacts. These include extreme weather events, such as intense droughts, flash floods and heat waves, directly affecting agriculture, food security and people's health.

Moreover, achieving net zero could not only curb the worst consequences of climate change, but also presents economic opportunities. The transition to a more sustainable economy can generate jobs in sectors such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable mobility and waste management.

Global context

Globally, net zero became a crucial target due to the increasingly evident challenges of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions recorded in 2019 must be reduced by 40% by 2050 to keep the global average temperature increase below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and by 84% not to exceed 1.5°C of warming (IPCC, 2022).

Net zero in Argentina

Argentina has a total surface area of 3,669,711 km² (including the Antarctic sector and the South Atlantic islands) and ranks seventh among the countries with the largest surface area in the world. It also has a population of 46,044,703 inhabitants (ranked 34th) and is the 23rd largest economy in terms of GDP. It is a member of the G-20, an international forum made up of twenty industrialized and emerging countries from all continents.

Argentina faces several challenges to achieve the net zero goals. One of the main challenges lies in the need to make significant investments in infrastructure and clean technologies to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote the use of renewable energy sources.

In addition, it is essential to address energy efficiency and promote changes in consumption and production patterns. Diversifying the energy matrix, improving the efficiency of industrial processes and promoting more sustainable agricultural practices are key areas that require immediate attention and action.

The Argentine government recognizes that decarbonization is essential to achieve the net zero goal. This implies restructuring the value chain to eliminate emissions, establishing investment plans in sustainable projects to offset residual emissions and implementing carbon elimination processes to achieve neutrality.

Achieving net zero involves not only reducing emissions but also increasing carbon sequestration through different actions, such as forest conservation and the implementation of more sustainable agricultural techniques, such as regenerative agriculture, among many others.

GHG emissions in Argentina

Although Argentina's GHG emissions are relatively low compared to other countries (0.8% of total global emissions and 49th out of 198 countries in terms of per capita emissions), the energy matrix dependent on fossil fuels and the intensity of certain agro-industrial sectors poses significant challenges in terms of mitigation.

Argentina's total net emissions were estimated at 376 MtCO2e, according to the latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (INGEI) of 2023 with 2020 data. The preponderant sectors in emissions are Energy and Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AGSOUT).

Total GHG emissions in 2020—a year marked by the pandemic and restrictions resulting from Preventive and Mandatory Social Isolation (ASPO) - were higher than previous measurements (366 MtCO2e in 2018 and 368 MtCO2e in 2014).

Infographic demonstrating different causes of greenhouse gas emissions
Data resulting from the new Biennial Emissions Update Report

 

The energy sector relies heavily on fossil fuels (mainly natural gas), which generates the largest amount of carbon dioxide emissions (45% of total emissions).

Despite advances in renewable energies, such as wind and solar energy, the energy matrix still relies heavily on fossil fuels, which contribute substantially to total emissions. Gas and oil account for almost 85% of the primary matrix.

The agriculture, livestock, forestry and other land use sector accounts for another 45% of emissions. Agricultural and livestock activities generate considerable methane and nitrous oxide emissions. These emissions represent a challenge due to the very structure of agricultural production in the country.

In addition, it is important to consider emissions associated with deforestation and forest degradation, as well as emissions from waste management.

Long-term policies and commitments

In Law 27.191, Argentina established goals to increase the proportion of clean energy sources in its electricity matrix to 20% by the end of 2025. The worsening economic situation at the beginning of this decade—pandemic, historic drought, heavy external indebtedness and uncontrolled inflation, among other interrelated aspects—slowed down the push that renewable energies such as solar and wind had had in previous years.

Meanwhile, the National Energy Transition Plan for 2030 establishes that Argentina should generate 57% of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of this decade.

On the other hand, as countries seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, natural gas is presented as a transition fuel, generating less GHG emissions than other fossil fuels, such as oil and coal. In the case of Argentina, with the Vaca Muerta field, this becomes even more relevant. In this regard, the country expects to increase gas production by 30% by 2030 with respect to current levels.

In 2022, 13.9% of the total electricity demand was supplied from renewable sources. As reference data of the gradual advance of renewable energies in the national energy matrix, it can be mentioned that, according to the State of the Environment Report 2020, during that year, on average, 9.7% of the country's electricity demand was supplied by renewable sources. In 2019, this value was 5.9%. In 2015, renewables covered only 2.3% of the total electricity demand.

Within the energy area, emissions from the transportation sector represent 13% of Argentina's total emissions. In this regard, the National Transportation Sector Mitigation Plan (2017) plans vehicle renewal, opting for cleaner options, such as the transition from diesel and gasoline utility vehicles to electric and CNG options by 2030. In addition, the adoption of electric technologies in the government fleet and additional purchases in other geographic areas are planned.

Argentina has also set goals to reduce its emissions and move towards net zero. These goals are part of the commitments established in the Paris Agreement and are linked to the development of renewable energies, the promotion of energy efficiency, the protection of forests and ecosystems, among other policies. It is worth mentioning that the country did not quantify the goal, but committed to "make efforts to achieve GHG emissions neutrality by 2050".

In its 2050 Long-Term Low Emissions Resilient Development Strategy (ELP), Argentina made a commitment:

The goal will be achieved through the progressive reduction of GHG emissions and the promotion and strengthening of sinks. The path to neutrality will be defined in a way that is compatible with the needs of human development, social inclusion and poverty eradication.

  • Decrease vulnerabilities by improving institutional capacities and strengthening infrastructure and services, and increase the adaptive capacity of productive systems.
  • Strengthen the resilience of the different social, economic and environmental sectors, through measures that integrate and prioritize communities and social groups in vulnerable situations and incorporate a gender approach and intergenerational equity.
  • To generate the necessary conditions to increase knowledge and improve the perception of Argentines regarding the impacts of climate change, promoting a cultural change towards a responsible, participatory and involved citizenship that allows us to respond in solidarity to the urgent challenge of protecting the planet.

Strategic lines of the ELP of Argentina (excerpt)

  • Transformation of the energy system: achieve a cleaner and more efficient energy matrix through a structural change in the energy supply and use systems. This transition must be fair, affordable and sustainable, and must simultaneously be socially, economically, fiscally, financially and debt-wise consistent.
  • Transformation of the food and forestry system: Actions to be promoted should prioritize safeguarding food security and sovereignty, as well as reducing the vulnerability of their production systems to the impacts of climate change.
  • Transformation of the transportation system: Promoting the transformation of the transportation system requires a systemic and circumstantial analysis, which contemplates its management, review and planning based on the avoid-change-improve approach and on increasing its resilience.
  • Transformation of the industrial productive system: This strategic line aims to integrate the macroeconomic, social and environmental components, implementing policies and improvements in the competitiveness of national productive development that promote the reduction of GHG emissions and increase the resilience of the national productive system.
  • Transformation of the urban and territorial system: This requires policies that incorporate climate change criteria in the planning and execution of public works; that contribute to the consolidation of inclusive, compact, resilient and biodiverse cities; that promote integrated water resource management, guaranteeing access to water and sanitation services, both for populations and for productive systems; and that promote actions and instruments for territorial and environmental planning, contemplating the improvement of habitability, energy efficiency and possible impacts linked to climate change in the development of cities and the territory.
  • Protection and restoration of natural systems: Natural systems and their biodiversity play a fundamental role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, through carbon sequestration and storage and the buffering of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts and heat waves.

 

Cauchari solar plant in the province of Jujuy in Argentina
Cauchari solar plant in the province of Jujuy in Argentina, one of the biggest in the country/Credit: Manuel Arequipa via Wikipedia 

Net zero: Key sectors and story ideas

In this section, we present key sectors and relevant topics related to the net zero objective. The purpose is to provide journalists with a perspective on areas that are directly related to a possible reduction of emissions and the transition to a climate-sustainable economy in the context of Argentina.

These thematic points are intended to provide ideas for the production of journalistic articles focused on net zero. In addition, journalistic articles are linked that can serve as inspiration or a starting point.

1. Energy and transition to renewable sources:

Energy production and consumption account for a substantial part of Argentina's greenhouse gas emissions. The transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, small-scale hydro and biomass, is essential to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The expansion of renewable energy generation capacity, together with policies that encourage its adoption, is essential to achieve carbon neutrality.

Argentina has great potential in solar and wind energy, and their development plays a decisive role in the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy matrix.

Story ideas: Progress and potential of renewable energies in the country and their impact on emissions reduction/ Regulatory and economic challenges in the energy transition.

2. Sustainable transportation and emissions reduction:

The transportation sector is another significant contributor to GHG emissions. Promoting sustainable mobility through the adoption of electric vehicles, efficient public transportation systems, and the necessary infrastructure to support these changes is crucial. Reducing vehicle emissions, improving transportation efficiency, and promoting alternative modes of transportation directly contribute to emissions reductions in this sector.

Story ideas: Public policies and challenges in the implementation of electric vehicles and environmentally friendly public transportation/ Environmentally friendly public infrastructure (streets, roads, etc.) and its contribution to carbon neutrality.

3. Agriculture and land use:

Agriculture and land use have a considerable impact on GHG emissions. Adopting more sustainable agricultural practices, efficient soil management, reducing deforestation and promoting reforestation are key strategies. In addition, addressing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture and livestock is essential to achieving emission reduction targets.

Sustainable agricultural practices: Argentina, as a major agricultural producer, has the opportunity to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices.

Waste management and effluent treatment: proper management of agricultural waste and treatment of livestock effluents are central to reducing emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases more potent than CO2.

Forest conservation and ecosystem restoration: the protection of existing native forests and the restoration of degraded areas are essential elements for increasing carbon sinks.

Story ideas: Agricultural techniques that reduce or offset emissions/ Innovations and challenges in the livestock industry in search of a lower carbon footprint/ Biogas production from organic wastes as a strategy to reduce emissions in agriculture. Successful projects, their impact and feasibility on a large scale/ Experiences of climate-smart agriculture to reduce emissions.

4. Industry and clean technologies:

Industry accounts for a significant share of GHG emissions. Implementing clean technologies, improving energy efficiency, using sustainable raw materials and adopting greener manufacturing processes are critical.

Energy efficiency: It is very important to improve energy efficiency in industries. This involves adopting more efficient technologies, modernizing equipment, implementing energy management systems, and promoting cleaner and more sustainable industrial practices.

Energy diversification: Promoting the transition to cleaner and renewable energy sources in industrial processes is essential. The promotion of alternative energy sources, such as biomass or solar thermal energy for industrial processes, can reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Circular economy and waste management: the implementation of circular economy practices in the industry, such as the reuse of by-products, recycling and efficient waste management, can reduce the amount of waste and reduce associated emissions.

Story ideas: Look at most polluting industrial sectors and how clean technologies can mitigate their impacts/ Technological innovations developed or applied in Argentina that are contributing to the decarbonization in the industrial sector/ How adopting circular economy principles can transform waste management and reduce emissions.

Reference materials

Laws of interest

  • Law 27,424: Regime for the Promotion of Distributed Generation of Renewable Energy integrated to the Public Electric Grid.
  • Law 27,191: National Promotion Regime for the Use of Renewable Energy Sources for the Production of Electric Power. Modification.
  • Law 26,190: National Promotion Regime for the use of renewable energy sources for the production of electricity.
  • Law 25.019: National wind and solar energy regime.
  • Law 26.093: Regulation and promotion regime for the sustainable production and use of biofuels.
  • Law 25.675: General Environmental Law.
  • Law 26.331: Minimum requirements for the environmental protection of native forests.
  • Law 26,639: Regime of minimum budgets for the preservation of glaciers and the periglacial environment.
  • Law 24.051: Hazardous waste.

This tipsheet was produced by Damian Profeta in collaboration with Claves21, Earth Journalism Network and Periodistas Por El Planeta. 

Banner image: Ibera National Park in the province of Entre Ríos Argentina, a wetland and a carbon sink / Credit: Silvina Frydlewsky / Ministerio de Cultura de la Nacion via Wikipedia