Climate change is one of the key challenges of our time. It is undeniable that human activities are significantly changing the climate of our planet, increasing our vulnerability and the climate risks faced by humanity.
Fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are the main source of energy today, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, transport, industrial production and supply of electricity. This energy system generates about 80% of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change.
Climate change is a threat to human development that exacerbates the existing economic, political and humanitarian stresses. Countries and populations with fewer resources are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, since they depend more directly on the ecosystem resources that are being affected, therefore are less able to respond to climatic shocks. Among these effects are the availability and access to clean water, soil fertility, pollination of food crops, pest control, growth and reproduction of edible species, natural mitigation of storms, climate regulation and waste assimilation, resulting in droughts, floods, sudden changes in temperature and increase of infectious diseases, among others.
Likewise, deforestation of large areas of habitat for urbanization and agriculture have become another catalyst of climate change, given that woods and forests are needed to absorb carbon in the soil, hence decreasing the amount of gas that accumulates in the atmosphere. In addition, habitat destruction has contributed to the endangerment and extinction of numerous species of flora and fauna, affecting biodiversity and ecosystemic networks that sustain life in our planet.
Thus arises the need to take serious and immediate measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Governments should develop and implement climate-resilient development and low emissions of greenhouse gases (LECRDS) to disassociate economic growth from GHG emissions, prepare countries to withstand climate impacts, and contribute to sustainable human development.
At the same time, there is a need to promote sustainable energy systems from the economic, environmental and social standpoints, in order to ensure permanent access to clean modern energy for all. Likewise, there is a need to develop effective, low-emission transport systems using clean technologies and promoting public transport patterns that minimize the use of private vehicles.
What has been done?
UNDP supports country governments in the formulation and implementation of development and climate-resilient, low-emission strategies. These efforts help to reduce vulnerability and reduce GHG emissions in developing countries. Our labor is comprehensive and multi-sectoral, working with countries in activities ranging from strengthening institutional capacities, policy development, and promoting exchange of experiences, to providing technical support and facilitating access to financing sources, in order to help countries cope with climate change.
Sustainable energy and transport systems are essential components of the work conducted by UNDP in support of LECRDS. Although energy consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean accountes for approximately 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the region, energy demand is expected to increase in over 60% by 2035. For this reason, it is important to ensure that this growth fully use the potential of renewable sustainable resources in the region. The 48 projects carried out in Latin America and the Caribbean have contributed to the goal as follows:
- Support on the formulation of sustainable and renewable energy policies and regulations in 20 countries.
- Provisioning of viable and sustainable energy services to more than 40,000 rural households in 10 countries.
- Promotion of public and private investments in the development of more than 300 MW of renewable power grids such as wind, biomass and small hydroelectric centers.
- Promotion of sustainable public transport policies in 5 rapidly growing cities, resulting in the improvement of public transport, pedestrian sidewalks, and promotion of non-motorized vehicles.
- The direct result of these actions is the reduction of over 20 million tons of CO2 over a lifetime of 20 years.
- Help build and strengthen of countries’ capacities to reduce emissions from deforestation by the UN-REDD programme.
- Supporting countries on the elaboration of their development low-emission and climate-resilient strategies (LECRDS), and promote awareness on the connections between planning and financing processes and national policies through the Climate Policies Programme 2012.
Additionally, adaptation to climate change involves many complexities and scope for action by national and sub-national governments, for urban, rural and indigenous people in particular, as well as new challenges for the creation of synergies between actors.
UNDP's work in this emerging field has been to provide technical expertise in implementing initiatives that increase the adaptive capacity of various sectors. Below is a sample of UNDP's work on adaptation in the region:
- Development, design and strengthening of early warning systems.
- Technical support in the analysis of climatic and hydrometeorological information for development of vulnerability maps.
- Integrating climate information into national and regional development plans.
- Development of adaptation measures based on the effective participation of the community.
- Development of adaptation measures regarding water resources and their integration into regional plans and integrated management.
UNDP efforts with regard to climate change focus on three main areas:
- Strengthen capacities of developing countries to achieve a transition to a low carbon future. Improving energy efficiency and promote greater use of renewable energy sources and provide access to essential energy services for all.
- Promoting adaptation to climate change and support countries to integrate climate risks and opportunities into national planning and poverty reduction, while attending to the needs of vulnerable groups such as women and indigenous peoples.
- Strengthen countries’ capacities to access, manage and account for climate financing.