Is Latin America prepared for the effects of climate change?Carmen P. Flores
Climate change is the greatest challenge that humanity has faced. A problem that requires global solutions. The effects of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. If drastic measures are not taken now, it will be more difficult and expensive to adapt to the effects in the immediate future. The effects are already being felt.
Following the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, countries pledged to present targets to reduce emissions, the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, but perhaps they are not being implemented as quickly as the issue requires.
In the coming years, experts expect an increase in the amount of hurricanes, storms, heat waves and tornadoes. Our climate will become more extreme: zones that suffer droughts will become arid and the wet areas will have a greater volume of rainfall. The increase in sea level, the melting of glaciers and the spread of diseases that were virtually eradicated, are among the other effects.
Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its geographical location, territorial distribution of its population and dependence on its natural resources.
In areas such as south-eastern Argentina, southern Chile, southern Peru, Costa Rica and much of Colombia, a decrease in rainfall is expected, and in the Caribbean an increase in the intensity and frequency of hurricanes. Likewise, in the southern end of Patagonia and in the Andes, particularly in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, a decrease in glacier coverage is expected.
As an example, Argentina is taking action on the issue with the support of CAF -the Latin American development bank- through the construction of a climate change adaptation project. This is the Comprehensive Management Plan of the Luján River Basin, in the Province of Buenos Aires, which will help prevent the worst effects of extreme weather events such as floods, and will benefit more than 2,800,000 people representing 17% of the province's total population.
Chile is another example in the region with its “Mitigation and Adaptation Plan for Infrastructure Services to Climate Change, 2017 - 2022”.
It is the developing region with the highest urbanization rate on the planet. Today, the urban population in the region represents more than 82% of the total and this percentage is expected to reach 90% in 2050. Consequently, the region's cities constitute a significant concentration of economic activity. The cities of more than 10 million people, or mega-cities, have become the focal points of Latin American development. These play a key role in innovation, concentration of specialized labour, development of dynamic economic activities and output of education, culture and recreation services. However, this accelerated growth imposes significant environmental and social sustainability challenges.
Faced with this unappealing panorama, the question that needs to be asked is: does the region have sufficient essential infrastructure? Is waste water treatment adequate? In Chile a great effort has been made in recent years that has allowed it to happen, with private collaboration, to position itself in the global honour roll of urban sanitation. It has 100% coverage of drinking water provision in urban areas and 100% coverage in waste water treatment in cities.
Public-private collaboration is particularly important to be able to implement all the projects that are necessary to meet the challenges posed by Climate Change, and for which governments do not have sufficient funding.
Public institutions have to develop favourable frameworks for the contribution of the PPP (public-private partnerships) in financing against climate change.
The articles that you are going to read in this issue of TEJ will help you to obtain information from true experts in the field.