Peru unveils 2050 Climate Change strategy amid fracking plans

Peru’s Environment Ministry reveals Climate Change strategy with plans to curb emissions, but elsewhere the government continues to prioritise economic growth from extractive activities, including a new dash for fracking.

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peru andes flickr oxfam international
Climate Change is poised to affect many parts of Peru, including its rural highlands that are home to many indigenous communities. Photo courtesy of Oxfam International via Flickr.

The government of Peru, which this December will host the COP 20 UN climate change summit in its capital Lima, has unveiled a detailed blueprint on how the Andean country will plan for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. The Planning for Climate Change (PlanCC) project, elaborated by the Environment Ministry, contains information on how emissions of toxic and greenhouse gases affect the country, with the hope that this will help governments implement “cleaner” development policies that help to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change up to the year 2050.

According to the study, the population of Peru will grow from its current 30m inhabitants to as many as 46m by 2050, and if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, by this time Peru will emit the equivalent of eight tons of carbon dioxide per capita. Carbon emissions are currently around 5.7 tons per capita (according to 2010 figures), but if the country were to adopt sustainable mitigation measures this figure could drop to 4.3 tons per capita by 2050.

Eduardo Durand, head of Climate Change, Desertification and Water Resources within the Environment Ministry, explained to reporters in Lima that “the aim of this report is to help us build policies that give our climate change strategy greater clarity; and above all, that it can help our economy find an affordable route towards sustainable development”.

Durand also explained that the report, which has been several years in the making and was facilitated by a foreign cooperation budget of US$3m and the work of 400 experts, has enabled the Ministry of Economy and Finance “to see that, as well as bringing about a reduction in carbon emissions, (the PlanCC) gives us the opportunity to save through energy efficiency”.

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Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the Peruvian Environment Minister, has been promoting this year’s COP 20 summit in Lima. Photo courtesy of La República (Peru).

However, Durand weighed in with the view – already expressed by others in Peru – that the recent economic stimulus package passed by the government of President Ollanta Humala could have an adverse impact on Peru’s environment due to a slackening of regulations imposed on mining and extractive industries. “It would seem that there is, once again, a swing towards favouring economic growth” over care for the environment, Durand claimed.

He also suggested that this would end up damaging the government itself through a rise in environmental-social conflicts. According to figures from Peru’s public Ombudsman, there were 214 social conflicts in the country in the first half of the year, of which 54% were to do with mining and hydrocarbon projects. These are often found in the more rural and remote parts of Peru, either high up in the Andes or deep in the Amazon rainforest, meaning that local indigenous and peasant communities all too often find themselves in the firing line and up against foreign companies.

Peru is also gearing up to host December’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, which is seen as crucial to hopes that a global deal on reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change can be reached at the follow-up summit in Paris in 2015. The Peruvian Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, has been in Europe recently promoting the summit and calling on richer countries to pull their weight in mitigation and adaptation efforts. Speaking at the Fifth Petersberg Dialogue in Berlin, he called for “common but differentiated responsibility” between richer and emerging countries, meaning that all the world’s countries have a responsibility to contribute to the fight against climate change, but that some countries (mainly those who have historically emitted more carbon emissions and contributed to local and global environmental degradation) should shoulder a larger share of the burden.

MDG : Peru : An aerial view of the Pagoreni-B gas well operated from the Malvinas distribution plant
Oil and gas concessions, such as this one which is part of the giant Camisea gas project, are becoming more and more commonplace across the Peruvian Amazon. Photo courtesy of AFP via The Guardian.

However, there is a risk that Peru is being hypocritical when it comes to calling for global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Not only does the recent economic stimulus package raise the prospect of placing economic growth over longer-term consideration of the environment and reducing carbon emissions, but in the last few days the Ministry of Energy and Mining has announced plans to explore unconventional oil and gas fields across the country, such as shale gas.

Peru already has considerable hydrocarbon reserves at its disposal, and experts warn that if the world is to avoid runaway climate change it must leave the majority of its proven fossil fuel reserves underground, so a push to exploit shale gas in Peru not only carries the risk of substantial environmental hazards on the local scale, but also calls into question the country’s commitment to reduce its long-term carbon emissions. The situation is the same in Peru as it is around the world: fighting climate change has to mean leaving already-proven hydrocarbon reserves underground where they cannot be burned, and not finding new ways of extracting every last drop by ever more unconventional means.

In a year when Peru officially presides over the UNFCCC, hosting a summit which, in the words of Pulgar-Vidal himself, provides ‘a golden opportunity to forge a new global climate pact’, it should be aiming to lead by example, rather than giving the impression that it is still hell-bent on placing hydrocarbon extraction-fuelled economic growth over longer-term considerations for both its environment and that of the whole planet.

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