Addressing climate change: actions to mitigate carbon footprint

Por: Esteban Cabrera, Shirley Moya and Joaquin Quispe


In the fight against climate change, the individual progress of each country is extremely important. The most efficient way to achieve this is to first recognize how much each country contributes to global warming. This is measured by the carbon footprint, which is defined as “the measure of impact of all greenhouse gasses produced by our activities” (Schneider & Samaniego, 2019, p. 16). Through this measurement, it is possible to estimate how much a country is contributing to the climate crisis through the emission of these gasses.


In Latin America, this issue has been little explored, so few countries have taken action to quantify the carbon footprint of their exportations (Schneider & Samaniego, 2019, p. 34). Nevertheless, the situation in the region shows that it will be one of the hardest hit by global warming, and therefore their carbon footprint will have a clear impact.


According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) entitled Global Warming of 1,5°C, an increase in temperature of just 1,5°C would reduce yields for maize, rice, wheat, among other cereals, in regions in the global south, including Central and South America, whereas an increase of 2°C would have severe consequences for food availability in the Amazon region (IPCC, 2018, p. 15).


A study by Sebastian Bathiany, researcher scientist of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, shows that poor countries will not only receive the greatest increase in average temperature, but also the higher variation (The Economist, 2018). This means that there will be more extreme temperature peaks, both high and low. Again, the most affected region would be the Amazon forest, meanwhile, northern regions, including the United States and Europe, would be little affected by this phenomenon (The Economist, 2018). Thus, a disparity is evident in those countries that contribute most to climate change, and those that will be most affected.


Currently, the climate crisis is causing multiple adverse effects in different populations across the peruvian territory, and these effects are expected to worsen over time. In principle, it has been noted that changes in climate patterns have caused problems of water supply, change in precipitation and an increase in temperature.


There are multiple reports, studies and complaints in different zones throughout Peru that demonstrate this causal relationship within climate change and drastic consequences for the ecosystems in these areas. Several communities of Caylloma, Arequipa, have recently reported, both to state institutions and to NGOs, the loss of glaciers, the drought of springs, the decrease of water levels in rivers and the erosion of soil (Stensrud, 2021, p. 100). In Devil's Creek, Tacna, an increase in precipitation, as well as in surface temperature, is expected over the next 30 years (Pino-Vargas. & al., 2021). There is also evidence that the increase of temperature has caused the retreat of the glacier area in the Huaytapallana mountains, Junin (Bulege-Gutiérrez y Custodio, 2020, pp. 247-248).


For this reason, it is extremely important to our country to take action by reducing our carbon footprint and therefore our ecological damage. In this way, we can mitigate the effects of climate change. In the following section, we will show some projects, first to global then to local level, that seek solutions to these problems.


Global initiatives to mitigate ecological footprint


At the regional level, in Latin America, there have been some advances in Chile related to carbon footprint measurement through national digital platforms.

Sebastián Garín, head of the Huella Chile platform, said that this tool began operating in 2015 to encourage the participation of the private sector in the country's climate commitment. "Today there are more than a thousand organizations registered in this platform that allows them to quantify, report, verify the carbon footprint and apply for recognition to obtain a seal of quantification, reduction, neutralization or declaration of excellence, as the case may be" (Ministry of the Environment, 2020).


In the case of Brazil, progress has been made in the waste sector, which is a very important source of emissions for cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.


A municipality that uses energy from waste is Lauro de Freitas, located in the metropolitan region of Salvador. The Aterro Metropolitano Centro, in the seaside resort of Bahia, built a thermoelectric plant to generate energy from biogas (methane) resulting from the decomposition of waste. The energy is injected into the electricity grid and sold to companies. (ICLEI, 2021)


Another important step was taken in Spain with the use of renewable hydrogen in the energy sector, which plays an important role in the decarbonization of sectors that are difficult to electrify.


Aldo Pérez (2022) refers that the objective set by the Spanish Government marks four gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity of electrolyzers through renewable energy sources by 2030. To achieve this, the Council of Ministers has already approved the proposal of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, which will mobilize an investment of more than 16.3 billion euros.


National initiatives to mitigate carbon footprint


The Peruvian government has also contributed with initiatives to counteract our ecological footprint. The Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) implemented the digital platform "Carbon Footprint Peru" so that public and private organizations can quantify their impact, in order to encourage a commitment from companies to achieve sustainable development. MINAM gives official recognition to organizations for environmentally responsible performance through four awards, according to the progress reported by them.


These recognitions are divided into First Star, when the organization generates its carbon footprint report; Second Star, when, in addition to calculating the ecological footprint, it accredits it in NTP ISO 14064; Third Star, if the organization has calculated and verified for two consecutive years its carbon footprint and the difference between the two shows emission reductions in absolute and/or relative terms; and, finally, Fourth Star, if the organization acquires carbon credits to neutralize the CO2 emissions calculated in the carbon footprint.

A total of 14 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted, equivalent to the carbon stored in 38,000 hectares of Amazon forest, have been reported in the Carbon Footprint Peru tool (Ministry of Environment, 2020).


Conclusions


Evidence suggests that, while the climate crisis will have an effect on the entire world, the regions most affected will be those located in the global south. In particular, areas close to the equator and the Amazon region will be hardest hit, both by an increase in temperature and by greater temperature variation. This will cause water and food supply problems.


While the most developed countries bear the greatest responsibility for the current climate crisis (but will be affected the least), it is clear that they are not the only ones that need to act. Every country, without exception, must reduce its contribution to climate change. This means reducing the ecological or carbon footprint. Latin American countries have initiatives underway and are seeking to continue supporting them.


In Peru, although we have made progress in recent years in reducing GHG emissions, and therefore our carbon footprint, we are still far from achieving the goal of zero emissions. The Peruvian government through MINAM has contributed through initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. However, these efforts are insufficient. According to our possibilities, we can have a more active role by adapting our habits and betting on sustainability, adding our small contribution to the challenge faced.


References


Astrid B. Stensrud. (2021). Watershed Politics and Climate Change in Peru. Pluto Press.


Bulege-Gutiérrez, W., & Custodio, M. (2020). Cambio climático y retroceso glaciar en la Cordillera Huaytapallana, Perú. Tecnología y Ciencias Del Agua, 11(2), 229–261. https://doi-org.ezproxybib.pucp.edu.pe/10.24850/j-tyca-2020-02-06


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