A vision for fighting global warming in Latin-America

"Action on climate change must go hand-in-hand with the fight against poverty," says Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

alberto moreno 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
alberto moreno 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Action on climate change must go hand-in-hand with the fight against poverty, Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said on Wednesday at the Tel Aviv University Conference on Alternative Energy. Moreno, formerly a Columbian politician and diplomat, spoke of the difference between global warming activism in wealthy countries and in the mostly poor nations of Latin America. Latin America has as much reason, or more, to be worried about climate change, Moreno said. The poor are more likely to be affected by weather effects and increased food prices that scientists say are liable to result from an increase in global temperatures. Although Latin America uses relatively less energy than the developed world, due to low income levels, the region's energy needs are growing fast, Moreno said. Energy use in the region will increase by 76 percent by 2030, according to IDB forecasts, requiring a significant investment in capacity. Understandably, poorer nations are reluctant to invest in expensive alternative energy technologies, but Moreno said alternative energy could actually help the region fight poverty. One well-known example is Brazil's investment in ethanol production, which has been an economic boon. Brazil's example sends somewhat of a mixed message, though, as ethanol production has raised the price of food, making life very hard for many poor people. Next-generation biofuels may find ways of avoiding what Moreno calls the "food-fuel-wilderness" tradeoff. Latin America has been investing in other areas of alternative energy as well. Brazil has seen a nine-fold increase in wind power production, while Mexico has recently geared-up capacity to some 500 MW, (though still a paltry amount compared to tens of thousands of total electric capacity in the country). Hydroelectric power, generated from the energy of river flow, has already been a significant player in Latin America. The construction of dams in such areas as Costa Rica and elsewhere has brought electricity to many rural communities, as well as reduced dependence on energy imports. Due to the high cost of building dams and turbines, the IDB has been looking at "micro-hydro," smaller dams with shorter construction times, less capital investment, and, hopefully, mitigated environmental effect. Programs such as micro-hydro, supported by international development money, can strike a formula for fossil-fuel reduction on rural development that is a winning equation for Latin American governments. After the meeting, Moreno told The Jerusalem Post he had met with officials in Israel, including Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, and that Israeli opportunities in Latin America could include both renewable energy projects, as well as the spread of modern agricultural techniques. The recent rise in global food prices means that investment in agri-tech will be more lucrative for farmers, and help solve a dire need for the region's poor.