Are we reducing energy emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Emisiones de energía

Climate change is one of the great challenges of the 21st century and one of the priorities of the IDB’s 2025 vision. The Paris Agreement encourages all the signatory countries to have a common cause to undertake commitments (nationally determined contributions, NDC for its acronym in English) that mainly allow stabilizing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reach zero emissions. carbon stocks by 2050, along with greater adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change. Recently, in November 2021, COP-26 was held, where at least 75% of the countries in the region have presented an updated version of their NDCs.

But, which sectors are the ones that mainly generate emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean? In the Energy Hub we asked ourselves this question and we have developed a visualization to help us answer it. When it comes to emissions, commonly what comes to people’s minds are the gas emissions that are generated in industries by the use of fossil fuels, or those that are generated by transportation. However, the use of fossil fuels is not the only cause.

According to data from CAIT Climate Data Explorer- WRI World Resources Institute Emissions from energy use represent 44% of the total greenhouse effect emissions generated by the region. A smaller indicator, when compared to that of the European Union (87%) and the World (76%). Other sectors that generate emissions are agriculture and land use change, the production of cement and chemical substances, and the generation of waste, which together represent 56% (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. How much do energy emissions contribute to the region’s total greenhouse gas emissions? Year 2018

Are we reducing energy emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Source: Prepared by the Energy Hub using CAIT’s Climate Data Explorer database – WRI World Resources Institute

Now if we only consider CO2 emissions, the energy sector represents 65%. This shows the weight of the sector if we consider only this type of gas. On the one hand, electricity in LAC tends to be cleaner and the share of energy uses in total emissions is lower than in the rest of the world. On the other hand, like all places in the world, the energy transition is at the center of strategies to achieve net zero emissions targets. We must take advantage of the availability of renewable resources in our region to efficiently advance decarbonization efforts. So what are the energy subsectors that generate the most emissions? (Figure 2) In the regional aggregate, CO2 emissions are generated mainly by:

  • The transport sector with 40%. They consider emissions from national aviation, road transport, trains, and national navigation
  • The electricity sector and energy industry with 36%. Includes heating, and fuels used in oil refineries, hydrocarbon extraction, mining, and coal
  • Manufacturing and construction industries with 18%,
  • Fugitive emissions 2%. Due to the burning or venting of natural gas associated with oil extraction.

Something of particular interest to note is that, for example, the percentage of emissions from the electricity sector and energy industry in the region (36%) is lower than the percentage in other regions, as in the European Union (47%) or the world indicator (51%). However, the region’s transportation sector has a higher proportion when compared to both examples (Figure 2). This gives us an indication that the countries’ decarbonization policies should not only consider efficiency measures and greater use of renewables in the energy industry, but also modernize and electrify energy uses that reduce gas emissions. According to a new IDB publication, the electrification of transport can play an important role and this will require new investments in charging infrastructures, new business models for vehicles and charging equipment at home, and a regulatory policy. and effective incentives.

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Figure 2. How are CO2 emissions from LAC energy made up? Year 2020

Are we reducing energy emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Source: Prepared by the Energy Hub using CAIT’s Climate Data Explorer database – WRI World Resources Institute. Data for 2020 are estimated by the Energy Hub

On the other hand, analyzing the trend since 1990, energy CO2 emissions have been growing, but marginally decreasing. In other words, in the 1990s there was an average annual increase of 3.6%, in the decade of 2000-2010 an increase of 2.4%, and since 2015 emissions begin to decrease to 2.5% prepandemic. In the Energy HUB we estimate that in 2020 there was approximately a 12% decrease in CO2 emissions due to energy use, mainly related to the sharp drop in energy consumption due to COVID-19, and to a lesser extent it can also be explained by a compensation of renewable energies in the demand for electricity that showed greater resilience to respond to power generation needs .

From a comparative perspective, in the last 5 years, LAC’s energy CO2 emissions contributed around 4.5% of the world’s total energy emissions.. When comparing the energy emissions per inhabitant of the region to 2020, this indicator is one of the lowest in the world with 2.5 tCO2 / inhab, if compared to the European Union – 6.2 tCO2 / inhab, the World – 4.0 tCO2 / inhab, and with North America – 15.1 tCO2 / inhab (Figure 3). In contrast, from an economic growth perspective, our region shows a higher level of emissions intensity for every US $ 1000 of GDP it generates (0.27 tCO2) when compared, for example, with the European Union (0.17 tCO2), North America (0.24 tCO2), but lower with the levels of emerging economies such as BRICS. This gives us indications of the relationship that emissions have with the heterogeneity of the different levels of energy use in the region, for productive use, transportation or for consumption at home.

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Figure 3. Which countries generate the most CO2 emissions per capita from energy use? Year 2020

Are we reducing energy emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Fountain. Source: Prepared by the Energy Hub using CAIT’s Climate Data Explorer database – WRI World Resources Institute. Data for 2020 are estimated by the Energy Hub.

Therefore, making a structural monitoring of the emissions of the energy sectors with data such as the ones we have in the Energy Hub, will be key to identify improvements and opportunities, warning signs, that allow the government and the private sector to take effective measures to meet its NDCs commitments in the medium and long term. If you are interested in learning more about these indicators for your country and comparing them, we invite you to review our visualization

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