Climate
Amid Biden's energy reforms, US government eyes renewable energy opportunities in Latin America
Andrew Light, a senior official at the US Department of Energy, said they want to strengthen "international cooperation aimed at combating climate change and promoting renewable energy."

 The United States will increasingly look to build energy partnerships and create new opportunities for American companies in Latin America, according to Andrew Light, the US Department of Energy's acting assistant secretary for international affairs.

Since taking office just over 100 days ago, US President Joe Biden has made clean energy reforms a cornerstone of his administration and has repeatedly called for leaders around the world to do more to bend the curve on global emissions so as to keep a 1.5-degree Celsius limit on global average temperature rise within reach.

In late April - beginning on Earth Day - Joe Biden hosted a virtual leaders summit on climate attended by 40 world leaders, which aimed to return the US to becoming a leader in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking at a virtual event organized by the Washington DC-based Inter-American Dialogue (IAD) on Thursday, Andrew Light said that the private sector - both in the US and abroad - are an essential part of international cooperation aimed at combating climate change and encouraging renewable energy.

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"There's absolutely no way that we can make the transformations that this administration wants to make, or what we need to do globally, without the private sector," he said. "It's essential."

As the US works to achieve its goals, he added, it will increasingly be looking for opportunities in Latin America - which he said will benefit both the American and local economies. 

There's absolutely no way that we can make the transformations that this administration wants to make, or what we need to do globally, without the private sector

"There's an amazing array of opportunities that interconnect the region, such as in the transportation sector. We really do believe Latin America will be a great leader. We already collaborate significant with Chile, Brazil and Mexico, and we are a trying to expand all our energy dialogues with every country in the region."

"We want to demonstrate the prospect that the vast majority of bilateral and multilateral cooperation around the world creates jobs in those countries, and creates jobs in the United States," he added.

On May 31, the United States will be among the participants at the CEM12 MI6 virtual meeting - a forum for clean energy ministerial and mission innovation organizations - being hosted by Chile.

Among the private sector companies that says it will change their current operating practices in Latin America is BP, which has set a target to become a net zero emissions company by 2050 or sooner.

Speaking at the IAD event on Thursday, Angelica Ruiz, BP senior vice president for Latin America and head of country for Mexico, identified climate change as "the big problem" that is forcing the firm to redefine itself.

She warned, however, that various regions of the world will "move at a different pace."

"Latin America still relies strongly on hydrocarbons," she said. "While we will still produce hydrocarbons in Latin America, it's about producing them in a different way." 

Our strategy remains to keep our assets where to keep our assets where we are, around hydrocarbons, such as in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina through our non-operating JVs (joint ventures)

"Our strategy remains to keep our assets where to keep our assets where we are, around hydrocarbons, such as in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina through our non-operating JVs (joint ventures)," she explained. "There are huge opportunities in creating power solutions for customers. We can provide not only energy, but solutions that can reach net zero targets."

Jean-Michaele Lavergne, the President and CEO of Total E&P Americas, said that the "twin" challenge for energy companies operating in Latin America is reducing emissions while at the same time keeping up with growing supply for energy in the region.

"Latin America is a sub-continent where not everybody has access to energy. There is a global need to improve living conditions," Lavergne, said. "This will come through economic development, which will require more energy."

In Latin America, Total already has solar and wind energy products in Argentina and is currently in the process of responding to tenders from the government of Guyana to establish small-scale energy production for isolated villages.

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"The process of climate change will be the result of an alignment between the private sector, government and customers. Especially customers, as they end of the day, they like reliable and clean energy, but they want it to be also affordable," he said. "We have to engage customers so that the accept the realities of what the cost of energy of tomorrow will be."

Attracting energy investment in Latin America, he added, will only come in cases in which government policies are fair and transparent.

"Government policies are essential in that investments need clear rules that are likely to remain in place for the long-term," Lavergne said. "We are not unlikely to invest millions, billions or trillions if the rules of the game are not clear and if there isn't a level playing field among all actors. Governments need to provide clear and credible policies for the long-term." 

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