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26 de March de 2018Latin American cities reduce climate footprint
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Fourteen Latin American cities are participating in the Huella de Ciudades [Footprint of Cities] initiative, which supports local governments in identifying actions, designing and implementing development plans based on mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

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A quick tour through Bogota, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima, Quito and Sao Paulo gives us an overview of the main issues that virtually all Latin American cities currently face. Traffic jams, sharp social inequality, urban sprawl, insufficient utilities, noise and environmental pollution or environmentally unfriendly industries, are just some of the biggest problems.

This quick assessment is a reflection of one of the main obstacles to the region’s development: most countries rely on non-sustainable economic models to grow, which has a strong impact on global warming. In fact, cities worldwide exact a heavy toll on natural resources and generate 70% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, while consuming 66% of the energy produced. 

Cities worldwide exact a heavy toll on natural resources and generate 70% of Greenhouse Gas emissions #Environment
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“To reduce the negative impact of the activity of cities, we need to implement projects for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change, in order to cut its contribution to global warming, but especially to achieve more efficient and climate-compatible cities,” explains Ligia Castro, Director of Environment and Climate Change at CAF – development bank of Latin America.

In this connection, CAF has promoted initiatives to gauge the environmental footprint of cities, supporting local governments in the design of environmentally friendly, sustainable development strategies and growth models. To this end, carbon and water footprint are measured in cities, identifying and prioritizing, through these initiatives, projects for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, which enable a transition to resilient and sustainable economies, with lower emission levels.

By implementing these measures, cities will improve the quality of life of their residents, raise the potential of economic and social development, reduce poverty, improve resilience and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, thus improving the environmental quality of the cities.

To date, 14 Latin American cities have made progress in measuring their carbon and water footprints: La Paz, Lima and Quito, Guayaquil, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Fortaleza, Cali, Loja, Tarija, Santa Cruz de Galápagos, Recife, Cuenca, as well as El Alto and Cochabamba, where implementation is underway.

As a result, these cities have included their footprints as governance indicators, have assumed commitments to reduce their footprints, have added the climate change variable to their strategic planning across all sectors, and have forged alliances with stakeholders in the region.

As part of this effort, we have developed the “Footprint Management Cycle,” which was used to make an assessment of the current situation of municipal governments and cities by evaluating carbon and water footprints, based on which projections are being made for the short, medium and long term under “reduction” and “no reduction" scenarios.

We subsequently prepared a project portfolio focusing on reduction of both footprints in cities, which includes a cost-benefit analysis of the measures proposed, and allows us to define a reduction target scope, promoting the transition to an implementation stage, which will be executed by entities in each city.

We have engaged in local capacity building, with tutorials, manuals and the design and transfer of footprint calculation tools tailored to the characteristics of each city, with a view to transferring the necessary capacities to municipal government officials and ensuring sustainability of the initiative.

This cycle revisits the assessment stage in order to evaluate regularly the effectiveness in footprint reduction of ongoing projects, and to consider new reduction scenarios and targets.

Pilot projects

The footprint reduction pilot projects were implemented in La Paz, Quito and Lima:

  • La Paz: Integrated system for fertilizer and power generation and wastewater reuse in the “Vesty Pakos” Municipal Zoo, based on the installation of biodigesters.  Waste management and urban agriculture system in the Kenanipata district (solar tents + compost pens)
  • Quito: Strengthening of the Eco-efficiency Committee. Carpooling system in selected municipal units.
  • Lima: Support to the green schools program with energy-efficient light bulbs and development of footprint calculators. Design and implementation of a water footprint measurement and compensation mechanism for Quito and calculation of TESALIA’S water footprint.

 These initiatives were developed in partnership with CAF, CDKN – Climate and Development Knowledge Network –, Futuro Latinoamericano and SASA Servicios Ambientales,  Carbon Feel  and the Water Footprint Network. The French Development Agency (AFD) is also a contributor.

Footprint results enable the implementation of new tools and instruments for environmental planning and management, which are useful for municipal governments, private and business sector and citizens in general.

How to adapt to these changes requires mechanisms for cooperation and coordination among all sectors, by implementing initiatives and programs that improve resilience in different sectors, such as integrated water and solid waste management.


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