Net-zero could bring billions in benefits to Latin America

Scientists warn that greater ambition is needed in green development, to erase the "false choice" between a cleaner future and a more prosperous one.

Many controversial issues emerged at the recent COP28 climate summit that caused concern among some observers. Perhaps most surprising, the conference president, Sultan Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates, noted that phasing out fossil fuels “would send the world back to the caves”. While his comments may be controversial, there is still considerable debate about how to achieve Net-zero emissions while supporting economic development in poor countries that have been left behind by the era of fuel-based growth. fossils.

But what if Latin America and the Caribbean – a region with higher levels of income inequality than any other region in the world – could benefit from achieving Net-zero? New research shows the region could reap potential benefits of up to $2,7 trillion over the next 25 years, even after taking into account the costs of decarbonization.

While older coal-based development models may be familiar to regional leaders, they have not proven to be particularly effective or equitable in Latin America and the Caribbean. This course has led to a decline in air and water quality, overcrowded cities, destroyed landscapes and ecosystems, and the rise of societies that serve the interests of a few but cause harm to many people.

There is a growing awareness that a better path includes liveable cities, protecting ecosystems, providing healthier diets for all and meeting climate goals towards Net-zero.

Economic disparities in Latin America and the Caribbean, towards Net-zero

The study, carried out in collaboration with the Caminos 2050 Platform, RAND Economic and Social Wellbeing, the Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Inter-American Development Bank, is the first to evaluate the economic disparities in Latin America and the Caribbean between a traditional development route and an effort that seeks to achieve Net-zero emissions throughout the economy.

A number of actions have been considered, from improving energy efficiency in industry to capturing biogas from waste and agriculture, as well as changing agricultural models towards low-carbon foods.

Net zero

Despite the fact that there are many specific ways in which countries in the region can be related to economic development, three changing fields are basic to any way to reduce carbon:

  • Renewable energy sources from the production of electricity and hydrogen.
  • The electricity of transportation
  • And return the Earth to a Net-zero carbon sink, protecting forests and changing agricultural practices.

With a focus on these three areas of action, we find that the benefits are likely to reach $4 billion: from saving energy costs across the economy, avoiding pollution, improving health and productivity to caring for ecosystem services. among other..

These benefits would also exceed the estimated investment costs of $1,3 trillion, yielding a net benefit of $2,7 trillion.

Importantly, these economic benefits have proven to be resilient in the face of uncertainty. Of the thousands of decarbonization scenarios that were analyzed, 90% of the scenarios proposed by the study generate positive net benefits, with an average benefit of $1 trillion.

Given these results, it is reasonable to ask why such transformations do not occur at a pace commensurate with the level of these great benefits.

Unfortunately, a number of barriers, including financial, regulatory and information systems, prevent changes that could lead to greener development. These range from fossil fuel subsidies, to urban environments that favor personal vehicles over walking and cycling, to a lack of funding.

Furthermore, many of the increased costs are borne up front by those who should make the changes (for example, factory and farm owners), while many of the benefits, such as fuel cost savings, accrue over time or The quality of air and water that is widely used by the entire society is not perceived.


The research clearly shows that different debates and more ambitious discussions are needed than those that took place in the COP28. They must focus on how countries can break down regulatory barriers, secure climate finance, and engage leaders, stakeholders, and citizens at all levels to eliminate the wrong choice between a cleaner future and a more prosperous one.

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