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SEI at COP20 in Lima
Gauging what's possible: Modeling climate action in Latin America
A side-event co-hosted by SEI at COP20 showed how analytical tools such as SEI's LEAP, and integrated analyses like the ongoing CLIMACAP/LEAP project, can help raise mitigation ambition in the region.
In the lead-up to the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015, countries around the world are exploring what role they could play in global emission reduction efforts, which will be communicated as pledges called "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs).
As evidenced by the heated debates in Lima, which stretched the conference well past its scheduled ending, multiple factors will play into the scope and ambition of INDCs – most notably what governments perceive as fair and in their citizens' interests.
But at least as important is what is actually possible: some countries have ample renewable-energy potential, for example, while others do not; some still have large populations without electricity, and cooking with firewood; others are middle-income countries where increasingly, emissions are driven by the consumption of burgeoning middle classes.
Two major interlinked projects, CLIMACAP and LAMP (Latin America Modelling Project), sponsored by the EU and the U.S. government, respectively, have been exploring the potential for mitigation in Latin America – both across the region, and specifically in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. SEI is part of the CLIMACAP team, and it has also worked extensively with Latin American countries using the LEAP (Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning) tool.
On 12 December, SEI and the CLIMACAP/LEAP coordinators co-hosted a side-event to share project findings and discuss more broadly how international and national-scale models can inform more ambitious climate policies. Mónica Araya, co-founder of NIVELA and Costa Rica Limpia, two NGOs focused on low-carbon and sustainable development, moderated the event.
"The framing question is: What happens when you look at what is possible in the region?"she said. "As you know, our countries are looking at making long-term commitments, and we need to know where the potential is, and what happens once we have these numbers."
Bob van der Zwaan, coordinator of CLIMACAP, began by introducing the two projects, which aim to strengthen climate change mitigation modelling in Latin America, improve the representation of Latin America in global models, develop national models, and encourage the development of low-carbon policies.
Leon Clarke, coordinator of LAMP, noted that almost all models show greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America continuing to rise without new climate policies, due to rising GDP and growing populations. The energy-intensity of most economies is declining, but not the GHG-intensity of the energy supply.
Global models suggest that by 2050, emissions have to drop by 50% for adequate climate protection, Clarke said, but Latin America's trajectory suggests the region will likely not need to reduce emissions quite so sharply. CLIMACAP and LAMP considered a wide range of mitigation scenarios, including carbon taxes and other efforts to cut emissions by as much as 50% of emissions by 2050, economy-wide or just from fossil fuel use and industry. The model results span a considerable range, however, particularly for land use.
Overall, van der Zwaan said, "if one starts imposing a significant carbon tax, then low-carbon technologies will be significantly enhanced" – particularly solar and hydropower. Yet fossil fuels are also expected to continue to play a large role through 2050. In Mexico, for example, the question is how much renewable technologies will be able to grow on top of existing fossil fuel use. It also appears that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is likely to be needed, he said.
SEI's Charlie Heaps, developer of LEAP, focused his presentation on how national planners can develop similar studies in their own countries. To show key aspects of a useful national model, Heaps briefly demonstrated LEAP, showing how different policy levers could be adjusted to immediately gauge the impact of a measure on emissions, energy security and other factors.