The burning issue: Our world is on fire

The world as we know it is under threat. A climate crisis is taking place in front of our very eyes: floods and tropical storms escalating, forest fires, heat waves, desertification and rapidly melting polar ice caps, to name a few of the impacts.

Over the past few years, we have experienced record-breaking weather in all parts of the world. As UN Secretary General Antionio Guterres said recently, ‘we are now facing a dramatic climate emergency’. July 2019 was the hottest month on record, and the period 2015 to 2019 is on track to be the five hottest years on record. At the same time, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest during human life.

Greenland, the second largest ice cap, experienced unprecedented melting during July 2019. Simultaneously there was a spike in fires in Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland in the Arctic Circle. More recently, the the Amazon region saw a dramatic surge in fires in the tropical dry-season, with more than 80 000 fires across Brazil alone recorded by the end of August 2019, a 77% increase compared to the same period last year.

Hurricane Dorian became the worst ever hurricane to hit the Bahamas when it made landfall in September 2019, almost obliterating whole parts of the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. Extreme flooding has impacted many countries, devastating lives and livelihoods.

If you look around you — really look — you’ll see that our world is, unequivocally, on fire.

In December 2015, 196 countries agreed to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, pledging to fight the climate crisis and intensify the actions and investments needed to save our world.

Its goal is to keep this century’s temperature increase well below 2°C — and further, to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

However, the pace of implementation of this Agreement by key countries has been far from what is needed to change the situation. The climate catastrophe we are facing has been set into motion, and our hope is to change our ways, or face the end of the world as we know it.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with 1.5°C of global warming Arctic summers are projected to be ice-free once per century, and with a 2°C increase, once every 10 years.

An increase of 2°C also means a 170% increase in flood risk and  three times as many people exposed to extreme heat waves across the globe.

The unprecedented natural disasters and heat waves seen across the globe are a picturesque postcard compared to what the world will face if we continue on our current path.

Further climate risks can be seen in this infographic.

The current pledges in the Paris Agreement will see us continue on our trajectory towards increases of 3°C — and hotter.

Something has got to give — we do.

Short, mid and long-term solutions are needed to secure our future; significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are crucial and global carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 (and they need to reach net zero by around 2050).

We have to invest in renewable energy sources, change the way we use land and the oceans and choose more sustainable lifestyles, or this climate emergency will be the end for us.

The clock is ticking …

Everything you need to know about climate ambition:

Under the Paris Agreement, each country has to put together a plan of action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the impacts of climate change. These are called nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Revised NDCs have to be submitted by 2020 and will have to be updated every five years to ensure that each country’s efforts towards limiting temperature increases will grow and become more ambitious (the so-called Paris Agreement ratchet mechanism).

Each country’s NDC has to outline their plan of action for lowering emissions in various spheres or sectors. Essentially, it explains exactly what actions the country will take to combat the climate crisis.

Want to find out what a specific country’s NDC covers? Find out here.

What kind of things should NDCs cover?



Phasing out fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies

To ensure that we are on the road to a greener — and sustainable — planet, the use of fossil fuels and their subsidiaries need to be phased out.

As these are limited resources that have caused immense damage to the planet, each country needs to highlight how they plan to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.

Renewable Energy

NDCs must showcase a country’s plans to develop and invest in power sources that do not deplete when being used. Solar, wind and hydroelectric are the most common forms of renewable energy that also do not damage the environment. Brazil, for example, plans to have 45% of its energy supplied from renewable sources by 2030.



Protected Areas

These are areas set up to protect natural resources. They maintain habitats, offer refuge, allow for migration and ensure that natural processes can continue across the country’s landscape. Not only that, but protected areas secure the well-being of humanity itself. NDCs need to include any plans for creating and maintaining protected areas.


Forests are an important resource for many species on earth — including humans – and a massive carbon store. They remove CO2 from the atmosphere, improve the quality of air and water, as well as reducing soil erosion. The math shows that mitigating climate change is impossible without forests. Ending forest conversion, preserving forest carbon sinks and restoring forests has the potential to avoid approximately 30% of global emissions.  Consequently, forests bear a huge potential to ramp up climate ambition by including ambitious NDC, that are aligned to national policies, clear, quantifiable and based on sound science.


Conservation of marine eco-systems – including those such as mangroves and sea grass beds that store carbon – is of vital importance for humans. To do this, we have to create marine protected areas, coastal regulation zones and ensure that sustainable fishing practices are put into place.

Land and Agriculture

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the population is set to reach nine billion by 2050 — and by that time, the demand for food will have doubled. The increased population will put more strain on land and agriculture, which can lead to over-cultivation and nutrient-stripped soil. NDCs need to include the policies that will be put in place to regulate agriculture and manage arable land.


Only 3% of the water on Earth is drinkable, fresh water — and it is vital to all life on Earth. This finite resource is threatened by overdevelopment, pollution and the climate crisis. Water management systems have to be put in place to ensure there is adequate water available for people and ecosystems alike. NDCs need to state the policies and procedures that will be put in place to ensure water security.



International Cooperation

The Paris Agreement has formalised a framework to ensure that all countries work together to achieve the long-term temperature goals. Without international cooperation, the 1.5°C goal will never be met.

Non-State Actors

It’s not only governments who have a role to play in NDCs — non-state actors like businesses, cities, investors and even citizens have important work to do. To achieve the Agreement’s long-term goals, non-state actors will need to collaborate with their governments to accelerate climate action.



The rapidly changing climate means that both people and ecosystems need to adapt to the changes. Each NDC needs to outline the country’s plans to adapt to the changing environment. The WWF has also produced numerous materials that offer guidance on adapting to the changing climate.



Cities are home to over half the world’s population, and are responsible for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. This means that city-living needs to become more eco-friendly — and fast. NDCs need to include plans for sustainable city solutions.



While there is still a lot of work to do to slow the damage to our planet, significant damage has already been done and many species have been lost. Sea-levels are rising, glaciers are melting and more intense disasters like typhoons and flash floods are happening each and every day. Putting policies in place to deal with loss and damage caused by climate change is essential if we are to reach the Paris Agreement goals.



Science-based targets is an initiative that encourages big businesses to use climate science to set their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. To have a sustainable business, it is imperative to have goals and practices that are consistent with the way that the world is moving.

Committing to science-based target gives corporations a strong call-to-action and encourage them to go beyond just having good intentions.



To really see a change in the world, innovative technologies need to be developed.

Clean energy sources — like wind, solar and hydro power — often require expensive technology that many developing nations simply cannot afford. But to ensure that all nations can work towards a greener future, energy innovations are needed.


Interested in finding out more about NDCs? Why not check out some of these NDC reports under Resources

One-hundred and eighty-four countries or parties have already submitted the first draft of their NDCs, and one — Marshall Islands — has already submitted their second draft.

Wondering if your country’s NDC is in line with the Paris Agreement? Find out here.

If every country fully implements the commitments set out in their NDCs, global temperatures are expected to rise between 2.7°C and 3.7°C this century alone. That’s nowhere near the 1.5°C goal set out in the Paris Agreement. 2020 is the date set for the ratchet mechanism to formally start, so countries have a chance to review their NDCs and submit stronger ones.


There is still much more we have to do — and it has to start now.


In the run-up to 2020 there are some important events on the horizon: the 2019 Climate Action Summit,  the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) and COP 26.



UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on all leaders to join the event, which will be held on 23 September 2019 in the United States of America.

The Secretary General Guterres says that the Summit will be a place to “hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.”

The Summit will see governments, businesses, civil society, local authorities and other international organisations come together to develop solutions regarding:

  • Global transitioning to renewable energy;
  • Sustainable infrastructure and cities;
  • Sustainable agriculture and management of oceans and forests;
  • Adaptation to climate impacts; and
  • The alignment of public and private finance with a net zero economy.


COP 25

The Conference of the Parties is the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC), which is the international response to climate change. Each year, the Parties come together to review the progress made by the UNFCCC.

COP 25 will be held from 2 to 13 December 2019 in Chile.


COP 26

COP 26 is the big upcoming event that marks the deadline for revised NDCs. Each country that is part of the Paris Agreement has to submit their new NDCs before the conference, which is expected to take place from 9 to 19 November 2020.

The sooner countries bring their NDCs in line with the long-term Paris Agreement goals, the sooner they can be on track to a better — and safer — future.


Other events that will lead-up to 2020 include:

  • Latin American and the Carribean (LAC) Climate Week: 19 – 23 August 2019 
  • Asia-Pacific Climate Week: 2 – 6 September 2019
  • New York City Climate Week: 23 – 29 September 2019

Under the Paris Agreement countries are also expected to have plans and strategies focusing on what needs to happen by 2050 to achieve net-zero emissions (a balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere). While NDCs are  plans for the short-term that need to be revised and strengthened every 5 years, long term strategies are the road maps to reducing warming to ‘well below 1.5°C’.  To achieve this, countries will have to embark on transformational change of their economies. Together with new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs), countries have to submit their long-term strategies to the UN by 2020.

So far, only 12 of the 196 countries who approved the Paris Agreement have submitted their long-term strategies to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. They are:

Japan (Jun 2019)

Fiji (Feb 2019)

Marshall Islands (Sept 2018)

Ukraine (Jul 2018)

UK (Apr 2018)

Czech Republic (Jan 2018)

France (Dec 2016)

Benin (Dec 2016)

US (Nov 2016)

Mexico (Nov 2016)

Germany (April 2017)

Canada (Nov 2016)

How different sectors can contribute to NDCs

With the impending climate catastrophe literally hot on our heels, now is the defining moment for the human race. 

But while it may seem like a big job to set the world on the path towards net zero emissions, there are small things that each and every person can do to help make a difference.

At the highest level, governments need to have a vested interest in ‘greening’ their countries if we are to have any hope of a better future.



Governments around the world still spend Trillions on subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel extraction and use.



Governments can start by creating and constantly revising their policies for curbing emissions. Each country’s NDC will guide their policies, and governments need to continually make their policies more ambitious.



To ensure that businesses and citizens start playing an active role in the fight against a climate catastrophe, regulations need to be put in place. Government-imposed recycling plans, fossil fuel energy taxes and other legislation can get countries on board with a green agenda.



Entering into regular conversations with country stakeholders can go a long way to inspiring more green initiatives. When businesses and citizens are encouraged to join their government in reaching ambitious climate goals, there is a stronger uptake. Governments should reward and encourage ingenuity in renewable energy practices to see their countries remain motivated to ‘go green’.



What better way to encourage national ‘greening’ than by supporting suppliers who use sustainable methods? By favouring tenders that come from ‘green’ businesses, governments will be able to lead by example.

Since businesses make up the majority of each country’s GDP, changing business practices to support the planet will make a huge difference.



These targets offer companies clearly defined pathways to future-proof their growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. You can find more information on science-based targets here.



By joining a business coalition aimed at championing more ambitious climate reactions, your business can enhance your county’s climate goals. Why not join a group like Alliances for Climate Action or We Mean Business?



Want to prove just how serious your business is about combating the climate crisis? Why not drive polity ambition and accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy? Find out more about what net-zero is here.

As individuals, there are many small things we can change to help lower the rate of warming and work towards lowered emissions.



Try to steer clear of energy-heavy appliances like air conditioners or heaters. Cool off with a cold drink or warm up under a blanket instead.



Why not install some solar panels to power your home? Even a solar-powered geyser will help to lower the pressure on high-emission electricity. Plus, you’ll lower your monthly bills!



Why not carpool with a friend or start using public transport?



Going vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian — or even just eating less red meat and dairy — can help to lower the amount of global emissions. Livestock account for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas each year.



By recycling items, fewer raw materials need to be extracted, refined and processed — meaning less air and water pollution, plus reduced greenhouse gas emissions.



Encourage those around you to live more eco-friendly lives. Share your story of ‘going green’ and inspire others to do the same.



know your government and candidates’ proposals for combating climate change and make this a criteria for your choices.

NDC Ambition

Click on a country

Case studies



To protect the world’s most valuable rainforests, there are often two key conditions that need to be met: finding the finance necessary to protect them, and ensuring that local people have a stake in their conservation. A project underway in Peru seek to meet these two objectives.


Where Peru is now


With almost 60% of its territory covered by forests, Peru accounts for the second largest part of the Amazon rainforest, after Brazil. The main source of its emissions comes from land use in the Peruvian Amazon, which accounted for 51% of the country’s GHG emissions in 2012, and with the conversion of forests to pastures as its major component – these represent over 90% of the sector emissions and over 45% of the country’s total emissions. Peru has pledged in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce its emissions by at least 20% in 2030 compared to 2010, or by up to 30% conditional on international assistance.


Each year, an average of more than 150,000 hectares is deforested in the Peruvian rainforest by natural-resource dependent economic activity such as illegal or unsustainable agriculture, gold mining and logging. Addressing this deforestation will be central not only to Peru meeting its climate targets, but also in defending the livelihoods and lifestyles of its 300,000 indigenous people, protecting its rich biodiversity, and ensuring that its forests continue to provide vital ecosystem services such as providing clean water.


Indigenous peoples as a living barrier to deforestation: DGM Saweto Peru


Saweto is a small village, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, whose people – the Ashaninka – have been battling to protect its forests from the pressures of illegal logging. It is in recognition of their efforts that the Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities – funded by the World Bank’s Forest Investment Program (FIP) — is named by the national Amazonian indigenous organizations.


DGM Saweto Peru provides legal, educational and financial support to help indigenous and local communities to improve forest management practices, thus helping reduce deforestation. This support includes establishing legal rights of indigenous peoples over their lands, supporting indigenous governance and community forest management and underwriting economic ventures to provide employment.


Specifically, DGM Saweto Peru seeks to protect 780,000 hectares of indigenous peoples’ territories. It funds field actions undertaken by local and regional indigenous organisations, working in close coordination with national and subnational governments, contributing towards better territorial governance, halting rampant deforestation, and training local people in forest management.


The five-year project is led by the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) and the Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru (CONAP), both Indigenous Peoples organizations, with the support of WWF. Within two years of its 2015 launch, it had achieved 60% of its objectives: over 200 indigenous communities recognised by the National Registry of Native Communities, 80 communities in the process of establishing legal title over their land, and with the process to undertake land-title registration speeded up, from 10 per year to 10 per month. The project also formalised 17 indigenous organisations, empowering them to manage their own resources, and trained more than 100 of their representatives to help them do so.


In addition, it is funding 70 sub-projects to enhance food security, including agroforestry, fish farming and non-timber forest management, five sustainable timber sub-projects, and has US$500,000 allocated to sub-projects launched and/or managed by women.


The governance of the project has been recognised as a model for replication in other social processes, and inspired AIDESEP to develop a broader strategy to contribute to Peru’s NDC named Minga NDC-Peru involves 11 transformative actions to help indigenous communities draw up alternative development strategies to address climate mitigation and adaptation.


Lessons learned from Peru


The Paris Agreement recognises the role of indigenous people in the protection of forests and preventing changes in land use and land cover. In the Amazon region, 90% of deforestation takes place in unprotected lands, while only 8% of indigenous lands are subject to deforestation. Fostering indigenous land security and its optimal management by local communities offers opportunities to tackle deforestation whilst generating sustainable development outcomes.


Public and private sector investment can be aligned to strengthen and expand protected areas to both protect nature and promote the well-being of those who depend on it. By establishing participatory management committees that represent local communities and other stakeholders, sustainable finance mechanisms can be designed and managed to provide opportunities for local people to benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources and tourism, giving them an incentive to protect the rainforest.



Protected areas, and other effective conservation measures, provide one of the most promising examples of nature-based solutions that can help mitigate climate change, by preventing emissions from deforestation or by allowing natural systems to absorb more carbon. They can also build climate resilience through adaptation plans that strengthen the effective and adaptive management of these areas. Expanding protected areas provides opportunities for countries revisiting their NDCs to boost their climate targets.


Colombia has set clear and measurable targets for increasing its protected areas, offering an example to other countries seeking to increase the ambition of their NDCs. 


Where Colombia is now


Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth, with natural forests that cover more than half its landmass home to close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity, with 55,000 animal and plant species. Despite a domestic economy revolving around extractive industries, Colombia has had a strong political role in the global effort to combat climate change and decarbonise the global economy. Its NDC sets a target to reduce its per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 20% compared with 2010 levels by 2030, and, with international support, to increase this target to 30%.


Scaling up protected areas in Colombia


The expansion of the National System of Protected Areas (SINAP) is one of Colombia’s priority mechanisms for both mitigation of climate change – given the consolidation of natural carbon stocks involved and for avoiding emissions from deforestation – and for adapting to a changing climate, not least in protecting the availability of clean water.


During the first five-year period of the Paris agreement (2015-20), the Alliance for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Territory and Culture – co-led by WWF, National Natural Parks of Colombia, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Argos Foundation and the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation – has helped Colombia exceed its NDC target for protected areas. The country had initially pledged to declare 2.5 million hectares of new protected areas; by 2019, that figure exceeds 4 million hectares.


In coordination with the Government of Colombia and other organisations, WWF has been working on four areas : (i) updating policies for planning and management of the SINAP; (ii) increasing knowledge about and improving monitoring of climate risks and the capacity to adapt to such risks; (iii) strengthening SINAP’s governance processes, ensuring the specific inclusion of climate mitigation and adaptation in its planning; (iv) seeking financing to maximise the role of SINAP in the climate agenda through mechanisms to secure funds for long-term protection of natural areas.


Fundamental to this process was the recognition that protected areas provide vital, valuable services for people as well as nature. Rainfall in SINAP areas feeds rivers used by water utilities, benefiting approximately 50% of the current population, while forests help reduce floods and landslides, especially during El Niño and La Niña phenomena. These areas also protect biodiversity, benefiting communities that derive income from ecotourism, sustainable timber, and agroforestry.


Lessons learned from Colombia


Actions to integrate the climate agenda into the SINAP are the result of an inter-institutional effort, which includes different parts of Colombia’s government (including national ministries and regional and municipal governments), civil society, non-governmental organisations, and financial and technical support from international actors. Efforts that bring together multiple actors are needed to tackle climate and biodiversity issues in a coordinated manner.


While many countries have committed to adding or expanding protected areas, NDCs could be strengthened to include specific, measurable targets, with timetables, to track progress, such as those adopted by Colombia.


Colombia’s approach involved elevating the important role played by protected areas in reducing deforestation and habitat destruction and helping people adapt to climate change. Natural ecosystems, conserved and managed in an adaptive way, and taking climate resilience into account, can maximise the contributions they make to human welfare, which in turn encourages local communities to continue to protect them.



Addressing climate change will require new coalitions to emerge – at the local level, among sub-national governments, and between civil society groups, within countries and internationally. Enormous resources, experiences and analysis are being generated around the world – and a key challenge we face is making the connections to allow these to be shared, rather than requiring everyone to start from first principles. 


Alliances for Climate Action (ACA) is a global network of domestic multi-sector coalitions committed to supporting the delivery and enhancement of their countries’ climate goals. ACA connects cities, states, the private sector, investors, universities and civil society at the domestic level so that they can work with each other and with their national governments to drive climate action. The founding partners of the network are WWF, Avina Foundation, CDP, C40, CAN, The Climate Group and We Mean Business. As of mid-2019,  ACAs have been launched in Argentina, Mexico, Japan and the United States.


Below we review the work of two ACAs in Latin America: Alianza para la Acción Climática de Guadalajara, in Mexico, and Alianza para la Acción Climática Argentina.


Mexico: Alianza para la Acción Climática de Guadalajara


Mexico’s NDC commits the country to reducing emissions to at least 25% below business as usual by 2030, with a pledge to increase that goal to 40%, conditional on international support. It also includes a target to “increase the adaptive capacity and reduce vulnerability in 160 municipalities”, creating an opportunity for sub-national, private sector and civil society groups to work with the national government to help fulfil its climate goals. One sub-national government which has seized that opportunity is the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area (GMA), comprising nine municipalities and making up the second largest local authority in Mexico, with a population of 5 million people.


GMA has been undertaking ambitious action on climate change for some years, with the participation of the state and municipal governments, academia, businesses and civil society. These actors have been working together to build a liveable, resilient and sustainable city in the context of a changing climate.


To increase their impact, the Alianza para la Acción Climática de Guadalajara (ACA-GDL) partnership was launched in 2018. The alliance, supported by WWF, includes 35 Mexican entities, including the IMEPLAN, the metropolitan planning institute, the University of Guadalajara, the State of Jalisco’s Ministry of the Environment and Territorial Development (SEMADET), and business and civil society stakeholders.


By strengthening local participation, ACA-GDL engages different actors to build local social power based on the unity trust, cooperation and commitment of its members with a focus on improving energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy, handling solid waste properly, promoting sustainable urban mobility, sustainable production and responsible and moderate consumption, as well as creating highly resilient societies in Guadalajara.


The alliance has identified collaborative projects addressing energy efficiency and renewable energy in buildings, promoting urban forests and improving waste management. It is supported by experts on climate change, urban development and sustainability, who help identify untapped opportunities. In the near future, this will mean the creation of a portfolio of actions to be implemented by members of this alliance.


This strategy serves as an inspiration for other cities in the country to meet national climate commitments and, importantly, to encourage greater climate ambition in Mexico.


Argentina: Alianza para la Acción Climática Argentina


In Argentina, agriculture, cattle ranching, forestry and other land use are together responsible for 39% of the country’s GHG emissions, representing the second largest source after energy.


Climate change impacts are a global threat to food production and, given Argentina’s position as a major food exporter, this is an area of priority for its government. Over the last two decades, agricultural production in the country has decisively shifted towards genetically modified soybeans, maize and cotton, which in most of the country are produced without irrigation, making food production more resilient to climate impacts and representing an opportunity for its agricultural production in global markets.


This is the context for the creation in 2018 of the Alianza para la Acción Climática Argentina (ACA-ARG). It brings together Argentinian local governments and non-state actors, including a number involved in the agricultural sector. The coalition seeks to create a national platform through the design and implementation of joint and coordinated actions that contribute to accelerate climate action in Argentina.


The alliance is starting a conversation about what kind of development is needed for those parts of the country that face changes to rainfall and resulting impacts on agricultural production. It involves Argentina’s Environmental Protection Agency, a number of key municipalities and regional governments, foundations and NGOs, and no fewer than 2,000 private producers of agro-commodities across Argentina.


What lessons can be learned


The collaboration between subnational and non-state actors can help spread lessons learned in one jurisdiction to another. The participation of international NGOs, foundations, businesses and other organizations can facilitate the exchange of lessons, insights and analysis that local organisations can find difficult to access on their own.


However, the key members of these alliances are domestic actors, who have local knowledge, networks and contacts that are invaluable for enhancing climate ambition. Multi-sector alliances are also important, bringing different perspectives and helping to manage trade-offs that are inevitable with mitigating and adapting to climate change.


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Deforestation never takes place in a vacuum; it is often a response to demand for commodities that can originate many thousands of miles away.

Raising awareness along international commodity supply chains – and extracting commitments to change behaviour from traders, consumer goods companies and retailers – can help protect invaluable natural habitats, such as Brazil’s Cerrado.


Where Brazil is now


Brazil’s NDC commits the country to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 37% below 2005 levels by 2025 and 43% by 2030. Deforestation is the major source of Brazil’s emissions, with that in the Amazon accounting for 52% of total emissions from its land use sector. Brazil made enormous progress in reducing deforestation; with the creation of the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) in 2002 and the implementation of the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm), included in its 2009 National Policy on Climate Change, rates of deforestation in the Amazon declined from more than 27,000 km2 in 2004 to less than 5,000 km2 in 2012.


However, in recent years, such progress has gone into reverse. In 2018, deforestation in the Amazon increased 13.7% from 2017 levels, and 72% from the historic low reached in 2012.


Although less well known than the Amazon, the Cerrado biome is the second largest in Brazil.  Covering 21% of the country, the Cerrado savanna is home to 5% of the planet’s biodiversity and is where the most important rivers in South America originate. Since the 1950s, the expansion of soy and beef production has driven the loss of almost half of the original native vegetation. Conversion of the Cerrado is the second largest source of Brazilian GHG emissions, about 17% of its total emissions.


The Cerrado Manifesto


The conversion of Cerrado native vegetation to crop and livestock production makes the Cerrado one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, and leads to decreased water flows, reduced rainfall and prolonged droughts, in turn contributing to more frequent fires and threatening the livelihoods of smallholders and indigenous communities alike.


In 2017, in an effort to reduce the pressure on the Cerrado, 60 civil society institutions, environmental organisations and research centres, such as WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Greenpeace Brazil, IPAM and Imaflora, came together to launch the Cerrado Manifesto. It calls on companies that purchase soy and meat from the Cerrado, and investors active in these sectors, to act immediately to protect the biome by adopting and implementing effective policies and commitments to eliminate conversion of native vegetation and to refuse to buy commodities sourced from recently deforested areas.


Since its launch, more than 130 companies have signed the Manifesto. Additionally, in November 2017, the China Meat Association and 64 leading meat companies signed the Sustainable Meat Declaration, including an explicit pledge to avoiding deforestation and conversion of natural vegetation in livestock production and feed value chains.


In parallel, The Cerrado Working Group, a spin-off the Grupo de Trabalho da Soja (Soy Working Group), has become an important forum for discussion on how the soy sector can eliminate conversion of the Cerrado from its supply chain. This group brings together commodity traders, end-customers, researchers, government and civil society, with an objective of reaching an agreement on how to eliminate deforestation from the Brazilian soy value chain.


Lessons learned from Brazil


The Cerrado Manifesto and related initiatives demonstrate the value of innovative partnerships: civil society groups can work with those whose economic decisions can cause – or prevent – deforestation. It shows the importance of working not just locally or nationally, but also at the international level, given that the vast majority of the commodities produced in Brazil is exported to Asia, Europe, and the US, and regionally to other countries in South America.


It is fundamental to engage market actors to drive the development of commodities production to those areas that have already been cleared. In Brazil’s cultivated pasturelands, increasing productivity from 30 to 50% would be enough to meet the growing demand for beef and crops without conversion of natural ecosystems. Traders and meatpackers can play an important role in supporting farmers to improve their practices. International and local NGOs, as well as governments, can stimulate and facilitate such partnerships.



Transport accounts for almost a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions, with urban transport making up about 40% of the energy consumed by end-users. As well as impacting climate change, vehicles are a major source of local air pollution that causes respiratory diseases, especially in cities, which increases the attractiveness of switching to electric vehicles. 


Chile has positioned itself as a leader in promoting electric mobility in Latin America, launching in 2017 its National Electric Mobility Strategy, which has a goal of reaching 40% private electric vehicles and 100% electric public transport by 2050. It has also set a shorter-term goal, through its Energy Route 2018-22, and is bringing together public and private sector actors to support the process.


Where Chile is now


Chile’s NDC commits the country to a 30% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) levels by 2030. Currently, almost 40% of Chile’s electricity is generated from coal. The transport sector is responsible for one-third of energy consumption in Chile, making it responsible for 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and with strong impacts on local air pollution, especially in urban areas.


Decarbonization of public transportation in Santiago de Chile


Scaling up electric transport not only helps to decarbonise the economy, it also brings important benefits in air quality and public health and, potentially, less vehicle congestion and better urban transport. But electrification requires cooperation between government and non-state actors.


The 2017 Electric Mobility Strategy is the product of cooperation between three ministries – energy, environment and transport – and its long-term goal is supported by a near-term plan. Energy Route 2018-2022 was presented in May 2018 by the Ministry of Energy of Chile with the goal of increasing by 10 times the current fleet of electric vehicles in the country by 2022, and introduce regulation to standardise the charging of electric vehicles and ensure their interoperability.


In common with most countries, Chile is starting from a low base, with fewer than 100 electric vehicles in 2017. However, by the end of 2018, the total fleet in Chile had reached 525, including the roll-out of 103 new electric buses by Red Metropolitana de Movilidad, the public body which runs the bus system in the capital, Santiago, and with 60 electric taxis operating in the streets of the capital. In addition, the number of electric charging stations was doubled, from 22 in 2017 to 44 in 2018, with the support and individual commitments of 20 local organisations related to electric mobility and the training of 30 bus drivers.


A public-private electric mobility consortium has been established with the objective of creating the conditions for Chile to become a leader in electric transport, with the support of the Ministry of Transport, the Mario Molina Research and Development Center, Chilean business association Sofofa, private electric company ENEL, government economic development agency CORFO, UN Environment, and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. Specifically, it is aiming to identify barriers to electric transportation in Santiago, build a technological consortium with the goal of developing strategies to create a supportive market, and set up an innovation platform around electric mobility. The consortium has an overall goal of ensuring that, by 2025, 25% of Red’s fleet is electric.


By mid-2019, 6.5 million trips had been made on Red’s electric buses, each of which displaces 60 tonnes of CO2 each year, as well as reducing local air pollution. Chile is expected by the end of 2019 to have installed at least 150 public chargers, with a least one per state.


Lessons learned from Chile


Scaling up electric transport is key to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, while it also offers opportunities to make cities more sustainable. It also requires integrated planning action by different sectors of government (in the Chile case, energy, environment and transport).


It is crucial that critical mass is achieved, both in terms of electric changing infrastructure and overall fleet size. As well as subsidies – which can be expensive – there are numerous non-economic incentives that can be pursued, such as ensuring regulations favour electric vehicles, and imposing standardisation on charging, etc. to ensure interoperability.



Some developing countries have considerable renewable energy resources, but face challenges in decarbonising transport sectors which rely on fossil fuels.

Costa Rica, a leader in environmental sustainability, has made great progress in green power and is turning to emissions from its transport sector.


Where Costa Rica is now


In 2016, Costa Rica made a bold commitment to become one of the world’s first decarbonised economies by 2050, a goal that was first established under its National Climate Change Strategy (ENCC). In its NDC, Costa Rica committed to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 44% by 2030 and source all its energy from renewables by the same date.


Since the creation in 1949 of Costa Rica’s state-owned electric utility – the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) – the country has sought to increase its use of renewable energy in a diverse, sustainable, optimised and cost-effective system that guarantees electricity supply. This model, mainly based on hydropower, has resulted in electrical coverage of 99.4% of Costa Rican households and industry, with over 95% of power emissions free, making the country a leader in the energy transition.


However, Costa Rica faces two challenges: increasing its renewables penetration to 100% without building more large-scale hydro dams – because of their social and ecological impacts and to reduce the exposure of its power supply to changing patterns of rainfall; and reducing emissions from transport, which is still mostly petrol- and diesel-fuelled, and which accounts for more than 60% of the country’s emissions.


From clean power to clean transport


By 2014, renewable sources supplied almost 90% of Costa Rica’s power, with hydropower accounting for two-thirds, geothermal 15%, wind 7%, biomass less than 1% solar just 0.01%.


In 2015, Costa Rica published its VII National Energy Plan 2015-2030, which establishes policies and strategies to achieve 100% renewables by 2030. This plan also includes concerted efforts between the transport and energy sector, to enable a transition to electric public and private transport.


Since the implementation of the plan, Costa Rica has notched up some significant milestones: from 2015 to 2017, the country totalled 904 days where electricity was generated solely from renewables; in 2018, the country celebrated 300 consecutive days when no fossil fuels were used to generate power. During this period, almost 99% of the country’s electricity has been generated from renewable sources, according to the National Centre for Energy Control (CENCE), with fossil generation used only when weather events prevent sufficient renewable production.


However, one of Costa Rica’s main problems on the road to a carbon-neutral economy is ICE’s continued reliance on large-scale hydropower developments. Climate change, which is causing shifts in rainfall patterns, is the biggest threat to the power system, and, in recent decades, a broad social movement comprised of environmentalists, local community organisations, and indigenous groups has repeatedly opposed these mega projects.


The Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica (MINAE) has addressed these concerns in its National Energy Plan, with a goal to diversify the energy matrix with increased participation of non-conventional renewable sources.


In 2017, ICE stated in its latest Generation Expansion Plan (2016-2035), published in May 2017, that installed capacity already meets projected electricity demand for the next decade. This led to the suspension of planned large hydro projects, avoiding impacts on ecosystems, water reservoirs and indigenous communities.


A focus on transport


However, while the picture for power generation is good, transport is more complex. In 2018, electricity only accounted for around a quarter of the country’s energy consumption, with oil and gas products making up the rest. The transportation sector, which consumes two-thirds of this oil and gas, is a particular challenge.

This led to the launch in 2018 of a new National Plan for Electric Transportation and a law to promote and incentivise the electrification of the transportation sector. This includes a target of replacing at least 5% of bus fleet with electric buses every two years, and ensuring that at least 10% of new taxi concessions are given to electric vehicles, among other measures.


Extending ambition


The experiences of the country since 2015 on its energy transition encouraged the government to publish in February 2019 its National Decarbonisation Plan 2018-2050. This increases the ambition of Costa Rica’s 2030 and 2050 NDC targets, and extends its moratorium on the extraction and exploitation of oil and gas from 2021 until the end of 2050, setting out a clear road map to achieve a carbon-neutral country.


Lessons learned from Costa Rica

New policies and initiatives to incentivise public and private electric transportation technologies and to create the infrastructure to electrify the transport sector would lead to a 2030 emissions reduction equivalent to 19% of GHG reductions compared to business as usual. This demonstrates the potential of promoting electric vehicles within developing countries.


In the face of the climate emergency, most of the world’s fossil fuel reserves cannot be extracted and burnt. Costa Rica has shown restraint in declining to exploit its potential oil and gas resources, instead focusing on renewable resources, notably hydropower.


However, here too are lessons for other countries. Costa Rica now faces threats to its energy security from the effects of rainfall variability and droughts on its hydroelectric plants. It has responded with investment in alternative renewable technologies to diversify its energy mix.




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