For the first time in recent memory, candidates are talking about the environment
The presidential campaign has turned green for the first time in the country’s history, with several of the main candidates placing the long-relegated issue under the spotlight.
There is little controversy though as the top contenders for the country’s highest office express more similarities than differences when it comes to their environmental plans, with renewable energy, climate change and the need to have an environment ministry as the main issues on the top of everybody’s list.
Presidential hopefuls Daniel Scioli, Mauricio Macri and Sergio Massa were likely at least pushed to take up an environmental agenda after Pope Francis released his landmark Laudato Si encyclical on climate change. Rallies were specifically organized to discuss the environment and many speeches focused on the issue.
With help from the Buenos Aires province Sustainable Development Organism (OPDS), Victory Front (FpV) presidential hopeful Daniel Scioli organized a climate change summit last week and was the main speaker, the third time since March he attended a high-profile rally about the environment.
The Buenos Aires governor’s promises focus on two key issues: boosting renewables and setting climate change as a top issue.
“The climate problems that were supposed to take three decades to show up suddenly have started to become evident. Climate change and its devastating effects are a reality,” Scioli said, saying his mind “opened wide” after listening to a speech by former United States vice-president and environmental activist Al Gore. He vowed to carry out infrastructure works to adapt to climate change and improve recycling efforts across the country.
The Herald contacted OPDS and the Dar Foundation, Scioli’s think-thank, but officials refused to speak for Scioli. Yet a close analysis of his recent speeches reveals how Scioli has called for a national environmental agreement between all provinces and has said there must be a a balance between development and environment.
“I want Argentina to be a leading country on renewable energy,” Scioli said recently. “All clean energies have to be encouraged, including solar, wind and biofuel.”
After using the “green city” slogan in Buenos Aires City, PRO head Mauricio Macri is also pushing for environmental agenda if elected president, with allies of his think-tank, the Pensar Foundation, drawing up proposals. Turning the current Environment secretary into a ministry, increasing the number of protected areas and encouraging renewable energy are among the main goals.
Juan Carlos Villalonga is Macri’s key environmental adviser, a former Greenpeace member, current head of the City’s Environmental Protection Agency (APRA), lawmaker candidate and head of the Green party.
“If Macri is elected president, he will end his term in 2019 with renewable energy accounting for 10 percent of the energy matrix,” Villalonga told the Herald. Renewables currently represent about 1.5 percent of the country’s energy source, despite a law saying the figure should reach eight percent in 2016.
“We hope to do a call to tender for renewable energy projects in 2016, which would start operating in 2017,” Villalonga said. “We also want to work on the country’s protected lands. We should have 17 percent of the country’s land protected and we are far from that. We should double the number of national parks, creating new ones and expanding the existing ones.”
Renewal Front head Sergio Massa also has his green agenda, which he unveiled a few months ago in Mendoza alongside his main adviser Sergio Federovisky, journalist and head of La Plata’s Environmental Protection Agency. Like Macri, Massa wants to create an Environment Ministry, develop renewable energy and strongly implement the Forest and Glacier Laws, which have some aspects pending.
“The environment has to be an issue taken in account by all ministries so the economy doesn’t always prevail. Encouraging renewables is essential, increasing their percentage on the energy matrix,” Federovisky told the Herald. “The government has no environmental policy and we need to change that. Argentina is falling behind on decreasing greenhouse gas emmisions.”
Fuente: Buenos Aires Herald