Climate change at home: Peru readies for global negotiations

Caretas | 28 January 2014

Translated, with permission, from Caretas' article on climate change in Peru.

The next UN climate summit (COP 20), to take place in Lima at the end of the year, presents Peru with serious challenges.

The figures don’t lie: according to the UN’s global ranking of countries by CO2 emissions, Peru is in 72nd place (with 25,000 tons), above Ecuador (73rd) and releasing more than five times as much as Paraguay and Uruguay. The accumulation of greenhouse gases is leading to global warming, causing glacial melt, rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions (heavy rains, ferocious hurricanes, floods and droughts).

In the middle of this maelstrom, Lima will host the next UN Climate Change Conference, which in December will bring together representatives of 194 countries, as well as around 15,000 attendees – from activists to climate experts. The gathering aims to recover lost ground in terms of the global consensus on a carbon-free economy post-Kyoto Protocol, which expires in December 2015. The last summit, in Warsaw in November 2013, was a damp squib in this regard as the US, China and Russia – the leading emitters – remained on the sidelines of the agreements.

In December, environment minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal spoke of the crucial importance of the Lima summit as an opportunity to show progress in updating the National Climate Change Strategy, to channel investment to clean technology and to raise awareness of the effects of climate change.

Top environmental concerns

Among the key issues to resolve in the next few years, according to the minister, is the discharging of waste water (read sewage) into the sea. “Barely 30 per cent of waste water is treated because of the lack of infrastructure (works on the Taboada plant in Callao and La Chira in Chorrillos are still not finished). Part of the problem is that issues relating to water and sanitation are in the hands of municipal-level companies that are bankrupt. With the implementation of the Law on Modernizing Sanitation (30045) decreed by the government, these companies will have to undergo assessments and bailouts,” he explains.

Another issue to address is the cloud of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide that pollutes Lima thanks to the low quality of fuel. According to the minister, Peruvian diesel contains 100 times as much sulphur as international standards permit (5000 ppm and 50 ppm respectively). The problem is due to the growth of car use and lorry transport, mainly in the Santa Anita area. “Faced with this,” he says, “a law to modernise the Talara refinery has been passed, which involves reducing sulphur from diesel, which will save over 40 million kilos of sulphur dioxide within three years.”

Indiscriminate logging and burning of trees, mainly in the jungle, is also having tangible effects, such as the loss of 40 per cent of glaciers and the resultant risk of flooding of communities living near hillsides. For Pulgar Vidal, the answer is reforestation of the Andes and the Amazon, as well as the implementation of programmes like the Water Ministry’s ‘My Irrigation’, which aims to build reservoirs to deal with water shortages.

“A further step is the approval of the law on payment mechanisms for ecosystem services, presented by the Congressional Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment, which aims to protect forests in an efficient, ecological way. In this framework, an example is the agreement signed by Seguros El Pacífico to conserve 274,690 hectares of forest in Tambopata, Madre de Dios, as a way of offsetting the company’s emissions.”

Reforms such as this seek to reduce the Peru’s carbon footprint, looking ahead to the 2015 climate summit in Paris. The initial results will be presented this year in Lima, the first COP – experts say – to be hosted by a country that is one of the true ecological treasure chests of the world.

Dark horizon: Official emissions data puts Peru on the ropes

Peru approaches COP20 with a tarnished record on carbon. The last national report on greenhouse gases, produced by the Environment Ministry in 2009, showed a dangerous rise of 15 per cent in emissions compared to 2000. Just over 40 per cent of emissions came from forests, where logging and burning of trees for illegal mining and agriculture are threatening to turn the Peruvian Amazon to savannah, as has happened in parts of Brazil. Mining released 1.9 million tons of greenhouse gases, while on the coast, rotting waste generates 8.6 megatons.

Read more about why Peru is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change.

 

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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