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Argentina refuses to give ground at summit

French President François Hollande, left, greets Vice-President Amado Boudou as he arrives for the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Paris yesterday.
By Fermín Koop
Herald Staff

No changes to agriculture, says VP Boudou, as he calls on developed countries to shoulder burden

PARIS — Argentina is rejecting the call to cut emissions from agriculture, which accounts for about 50 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases, Vice-President Amado Boudou said yesterday as he presented the country’s official position on the issue yesterday at the global climate conference taking place in the suburbs of the French capital.

In what was likely his last speech as vice-president, Boudou also made clear that Argentina had no intention of changing its strategy of pointing the finger at developed countries for being the main contributors to climate change.

Boudou was one of the last speakers on the opening day of the COP21 United Nations climate change summit yesterday. Highly guarded, approximately 150 leaders arrived at the summit. Most left quickly after giving short speeches.

Countries that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) now have two weeks to agree on a new deal to reduce emissions to avoid temperature from growing two degrees Celsius by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. If the warming exceeds that level, the consequences would be devastating, scientists across-the-board have agreed.

“There isn’t a unique path to be followed by all countries. Any agreement to be signed has to take into account the differences between developed and developing countries, which need to receive funding to deal with climate change” Boudou said. “The human dimension has to be at the centre of a climate deal, considering policies like the ones implemented by Argentina to reduce poverty.”

Argentina’s VP said President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was unable to attend the summit due to the “imminent”change of administration in the country. He expressed his condolences for the recent Paris terrorist attacks and offered his solidarity, claiming terrorism has to be dealt with as a “global issue” from a wider perspective.

Boudou described Argentina as a “vulnerable” country to climate change, recalling recent floods in Buenos Aires province and forest fires in Patagonia. Nevertheless, he rejected the idea of reducing emissions from the agricultural sector, the country’s main culprit according to recently published figures detailing an inventory of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Asking Argentina to mitigate emissions from the agricultural sector would be against UN regulations and could even affect world food supplies. The agricultural sector isn’t the main source of emissions on a global scale,” Boudou said. “Countries should be allowed to choose from which sector they want to reduce emissions, looking for a balance with economic development.”

In Argentina, the agricultural sector as a whole accounts for 50 percent of the country’s emissions, although a large part of that includes deforestation. Meanwhile, the energy category — including transportation and manufacturing industries — is responsible for 43 percent of the emissions. Argentina has about 50 million animals regarded as cattle, a number that has remained relatively flat over the last few years.

Lower emissions?

The country as a whole is only responsible for 0.88 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases and the government has repeatedly pointing the finger at developed countries as the main historic polluters saying they must do the most to mitigate the effects of global warming. However, if analyzed per capita, Argentines have the same carbon footprint as Europeans, according to World Bank figures.

Brazil ranks highly as the region’s foremost producer of greenhouse gases, emitting an estimated 1.5 billion tonnes a year of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Mexico follows close behind with 608 million tonnes, trailed by Venezuela with 401 million tonnes. Colombia is repsonsible for 75 million tonnes and Chile 72 million tonnes.

Before the summit, Argentina pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, a figure that could be increased to 30 percent if the government receives extra funding from international agencies.

This objective has been criticized by environmental NGO’s as not ambitious enough, when compared to other countries. Brazil has vowed to lower emissions 37 percent by 2025, Mexico says it plans to cut emissions 25 percent by 2030 (which could grow to 40 percent with extra international funding) and Peru has promised to reduce emissions 31 percent by 2030.

Climate change is being felt most directly in the Patagonia region, where the average temperature has risen by one degree Celsius over the past 50 years — the highest in the country, where the average increase over the period has been half a degree.

Annual rainfall has also increased nationwide, with eastern provinces being the most affected by the 10- percent increase in figures over the last half-century.

Most of the country saw fewer days of frost too, while the number of days that registered heatwaves and tropical temperatures also increased, particularly in the northern and eastern provinces. Extreme weather events have also become more frequent and intense across Argentina.

And the effects of climate change are only going to get worse. The government’s Environmental Authority expects that over the next 25 years the average temperature will continue increasing. Northeastern provinces are likely to be the worst hit with an increase in temperatures of around 1.5 degrees Celsius.

@ferminkoop

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