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FEATURE: Mapping a low-carbon future

Also posted in Spanish

Leaders of the Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) processes in Peru, Chile, Colombia and Brazil shared experience yesterday in Lima. They talked about what really happens when stakeholders get around the table to propose mitigation options. CDKN’s Mairi Dupar reports.

If anyone thought embracing climate compatible development at national level was an easy process, Ms Lupe Guinand on Tuesday 9 December described the “shock, anguish, anger and frustration” her team has gone through to compile a set of options for Peru to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Ms Guinand is leader of Peru’s PlanCC (Planificación ante el Cambio Climático) which aims to kick-start the country’s low-carbon development.

Peru’s quandary cuts to the very heart of the United Nations climate change talks, which are taking place in Lima this week.

Governments are considering how to strengthen their national economies while facing the harsh realities of climate change: melting glaciers, rising sea levels, high temperatures and erratic rainfall. Climate change can only be stopped from reaching dangerous levels if society radically cuts its greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that emissions are growing faster than ever before and the global economy must transition to zero net emissions by the end of the century at latest.

Meanwhile, governments “need to know the macroeconomic and social implications of the transition to a low carbon economy,” said Emilio La Rovere, a Brazilian expert. “They need to know the impact on GDP growth, on their public deficit, on income distribution, social inequalities, and access of low income people to improved consumption.” Each government representative at the negotiating table of the UN climate talks has a similar calculation in mind.

Few countries have yet been through such an intensive process of national-level debate on climate compatible development options before they reach the global climate talks, as Peru has;  but Peru’s experience in mapping a green economic future offers something from which other countries can learn.

Ms Guinard shared the PlanCC teams’ rollercoaster experiences and “can-do” approach at a gathering of Latin American countries in Lima yesterday, chaired by Pablo Badenier, the Minister of Environment for Chile. Ms Guinard joined counterparts from Colombia, Chile and Brazil who have all been trialling the Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) process.

MAPS is a facilitated process, first created in South Africa a decade ago, by which scientists, government agencies and businesses work together to establish the greenhouse gas  emissions levels for each sector of the national economy. Once they have ground-truthed the information and agreed the most accurate figures possible, then a forum representing different stakeholder interests  weighs up the options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and presents its recommendations. For instance, in Peru, the stakeholder forum includes indigenous people’s groups and the private sector.

Even before climate mitigation options are discussed, the process of agreeing the country’s greenhouse gas profile can be contentious or at least, technically difficult. “Peru, just like many countries, lacks systematic information that is updated and official,” said Ms Guinand.  “We had to send out thousands of letters from the Ministry of Environment to request updates for our emissions inventory. We asked them information that Peru didn’t have and they helped us find it. They committed to having more robust data.”

The entire process is heavily facilitated and aims to inject scientific credibility into what is inevitably  a politically-charged conversation. Expert facilitation is required to  keep stakeholders in the room and on cooperative terms.

In Peru, “the energy , mining, and petroleum associations have been very active in letting us know their opinions,” said Ms Guinand. “It led to a series of meetings and an attitude of dialogue. The most important part is that we have to answer with transparency and we have to be humble and know that we are always improving the work.”

To date, PlanCC has generated 77 mitigation options for Peru, which run the gamut from conserving and restoring forests (forest loss is one of Peru’s principal sources of greenhouse gas emissions) to off-grid renewable energy and improved waste management.

Learning from each other

Alongside Peru, Tuesday’s event showcased tenacity of climate leaders from Colombia, Chile, and Brazil who are also aiming to nurture frank dialogue about the climate choices ahead and their implications for society.

The countries have learned from each other in what one hopes could be a virtuous circle – where one country is an early mover on embracing the new green economy and others see the advantage in following suit. Barbara Oliveria, the lead facilitator of Brazil’s MAPS process, said that her team had learned much from Colombian colleagues who were one or two years ahead in trialling this approach.

The MAPS methodology – notwithstanding the proverbial blood, sweat and tears it involves – is producing actionable proposals in all four countries. Naturally, the legal and policy frameworks for low-carbon development are quite different from one country to another. Speakers acknowledged that integrating the mitigation options into their countries’ broader development visions, laws and policies is an ongoing task.

The mood of the diverse audience in Lima suggests that MAPS is an approach that will run and run. Audience members had one pressing question: how quickly can the MAPs approach spread to even more countries?

Stefan Raubenheimer, the director and founder of the MAPS Programme, based at SouthSouthNorth, South Africa, said the programme is in early dialogue about working in other Latin American and African countries.  Mindful of how intensive the process is, he said the MAPS Programme has to be cautious about spreading its resources too thinly and ensure that each national process acquires the richest learning from the others. The future could even see a “MAPS Academy” where Southern countries exchange experiences and gain the confidence to go farther, faster, on the low-carbon agenda.

 

Image:Peru, courtesy SPDA.

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