[INTERVIEW] Korea and Argentina can pair up on the environment, says Nicolini
Cecilia Nicolini, Argentina’s vice minister of environment, sustainable development and innovation speaks with the Korea JoongAng Daily at the embassy in Seoul last Thursday. [PARK SANG-MOON]
Argentina is hoping to partner with Korea to help the most vulnerable groups exposed to recessions, energy crises and climate-related disasters, said Cecilia Nicolini, Argentina’s vice minister of environment, sustainable development and innovation during a recent visit in Seoul.
“Argentina is committed to change the way we produce and consume, even though our people have historically suffered the most from climate change while not being the main contributors,” said Nicolini, speaking at the Embassy of Argentina in Seoul last Thursday. “That’s why we say we need the financial aid and the technology to be able to produce better and faster and leapfrog any obstacles.”
Countries in Latin America lost the equivalent of 1.7 percent of their GDPs annually due to climate-related disasters in the past 20 years, according to a World Bank report in April. Without action, the report said, up to 5.8 million people in the region could fall into extreme poverty by 2030.
Argentina, experiencing a historic recession coupled with the effects of the pandemic, reported a 37.3 percent poverty rate in the second half of 2021.
Coming to Korea with a specific agenda on climate change and energy last week, Nicolini met with members of the Green Climate Fund and the Global Green Growth Institute, as well as executives of Posco and Korea Gas Corporation to discuss lithium and hydrogen, two buzzwords in policy discussions on cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy.
The following are edited excerpts of the interview in which Nicolini explains how climate, the pandemic and energy issues are linked, and why she thinks tackling them with Korea could save both countries time and energy.
Argentina and others in the Global South have historically not been the main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions but have nonetheless been subject to widespread climate change effects in the forms of wildfires, floods and droughts. What’s your perspective on the divide between the developed and developing nations?
Developed countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help developing countries address climate change effects. And still that hasn’t happened. The means of implementation [of emission reduction plans] and funding will be the main topic of the agenda of COP 27 in Egypt in November.
I think the responses to the war in Ukraine has shown that it’s not that these countries don’t have the money. Take for instance the announcement by Germany to invest 100 billion euros [$100 billion] in its armed forces and defense. The money is there, it’s a matter of how you allocate the funding.
Will Latin America as a region bring a coordinated agenda to the climate conference COP 27 in Egypt in November?
Latin American climate authorities will come together virtually at the end of the month for a joint declaration on the principles of negotiation that we’ll bring to COP 27. Previously, each Latin American country would bring different sizes of delegations, with a lot of disparity on budget and agendas.
Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. […] What we need for the region is a comprehensive look into the losses and damages of our ecosystems due to wildfires, floods or droughts and how that’s affecting our economies. There has to be a complete transformation and change of the rules of the financial architecture and the way we relate economically to make a real difference.
Can you summarize for us what Argentina intends to do on its own to tackle climate change?
Despite only contributing 0.7 percent of global emissions, Argentina increased its climate ambition unconditionally in recent years. We are committed to reducing our emissions by 27 percent by 2030, and to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. We are working on wind energy in the Patagonia, solar power plants in the northern parts of the country, as well as nuclear energy.
We’re looking at both blue and green hydrogen, and I say blue because we have as you know, the second largest reservoir of shale gas in the world. Natural gas is not a solution for the long term, but is functional for the mid-term transition because it emits less greenhouse gas than both oil and coal.
Soybean production, a huge staple crop for Argentina, is known to have led to deforestation in Argentina for years. What is being done to address this issue?
Soybean production in Argentina has been a very profitable business, and so one of the problems that we have is farmers setting fire to forests to make room for soybean fields. We are fighting these practices and trying to regulate them. While we cannot stop producing soybeans, we will have to find a more sustainable way that doesn’t affect the ecosystem.
A view of a soybean farm in Bragado, Argentina in this file photo dated July 28. [AP/YONHAP]
How do you envision Korea playing a role with Argentina?
Argentina and Korea have a lot of things in common in the science and technology sector. We admire a lot how Korea developed its technology. Argentina at the same time is also a powerhouse in terms of its technology in the health sector, the nuclear energy sector, in the satellite sector and in the agricultural sector, so I believe that we can exchange a lot of our experiences to learn from each other. Posco already has big investments in the lithium sector, and we’re at the moment drafting our strategies on hydrogen, so I expect more agreements between the two countries in the near future.
You mentioned earlier that gender equality and climate change issues go hand in hand. Can you elaborate?
Women in general dedicate more hours and efforts to taking care of their families, which means that the additional difficulties posed to them by the climate change will hinder them further from finding the time to develop themselves, in both the personal and professional settings. It is also important to have women making the decisions on policies regarding climate change, to ensure that they are drafted from a more equal gender perspective.
Lastly, though not related to the climate agenda, Argentina’s vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, recently faced an assassination attempt. Why do you think the world’s seeing more such assassination attempts of leaders, including in democracies?
The incident was very worrying, and it’s a huge concern for the nation. I believe part of it has to do with increasing polarization and all the hate speech that is surfacing, not only on social media but also in the general media outlets. I think that these kinds of actions, which we have seen not only in Argentina but in other parts of the world, not only threaten the lives of the leaders but democracy itself.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]