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Latin America

Implementing a green recovery agenda

by José Siaba Serrate

In brief

Nature-based solutions are an often-neglected component of a green recovery: mangroves in Panama.

Nature-based solutions are an often-neglected component of a green recovery: mangroves in Panama.

Governments in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have only scratched the surface when it comes to implementing a green recovery agenda.

Key areas for promoting this agenda include using nature-based solutions, digitalising sectors, and improving transport and energy infrastructure. The region’s governments have room for improvement in all three areas.

The use of nature-based solutions is an oft-neglected component of a green recovery. This involves managing and restoring ecosystems to reduce the effects of flooding, drought and extreme heat. A good example is restoring mangroves – shrubs or trees growing along ocean coasts or in slightly salty inland waterways – to help safeguard the surrounding land. Such measures also protect infrastructure such as bridges and buildings against extreme weather. They also create jobs, promote public health and purify water resources.

Nature-based solutions offer untapped potential for environmental improvement. According to the United Nations Global Compact – a UN-sponsored agreement among businesses to adopt sustainable policies – nature-based solutions can deliver one-third of the mitigation needed to meet global climate targets by 2030.

Digitalisation – using digital technologies to create value and improve efficiency – is another often-neglected contributor to a green recovery. At its best, digitalisation enables socially inclusive transformation by making information more accessible and easing communication. Digital technology has nearly infinite applications, from strengthening payment systems to enabling financial inclusion and fostering education and health care. Properly implemented, digitalisation can create business opportunities for small and mid-sized enterprises on electronic platforms. It can also help to integrate a region into the global economy.

Improving transport and energy infrastructure would also speed progress toward a green recovery. Transport and electricity generation are responsible for 65 % of LAC’s CO2 emissions.

Air quality in the region’s cities would benefit from greater availability of electric and non-motorised transport. If electric vehicles were available to all drivers in five major LAC cities – Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; San José, Costa Rica; Mexico City, Mexico; and Cali, Colombia – more than 435,000 premature deaths could be avoided by 2050.

The connection between economic recovery and more sustainable energy and transport infrastructure is clear. Adopting green technologies in these sectors creates jobs in the short term and promotes a livable environment in the long term. The LAC region could create 15 million net new jobs by 2030 in renewable energy, construction, manufacturing and sustainable agriculture by backing a transition to net-zero emissions, according to a joint study in 2020 by the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Labor Organization.


José Siaba Serrate is an economist at the University of Buenos Aires and at the University of the Centre for Macroeconomic Study (UCEMA), a private university in Buenos Aires. He is also a member of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI).
josesiaba@hotmail.com