Accelerate to Net Zero: a view from Latin America

Colombia, Bogota

“Being practical is what we're all about and that’s what today’s event is all about; making the route to Net Zero something that is tangible and real,” highlighted Tom Delay, the Carbon Trust’s Chief Executive in his opening remarks.  

What does the future look like? 

In a keynote address, Rodolfo Lacy, the Director for Climate Action and Environment for Latin America at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Special Envoy on Climate Matters to the UN, explained that while Latin America contributes about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, projected global temperature increases could have “very severe and very extended” impacts on the region. 

“The map is very clear,” Lacy said. “There will be regions where it won’t be possible to maintain the conditions of comfort that we currently have, and people will migrate. This is what worries us most” 

Lacy stressed the importance of reforming land use practices to optimise the carbon capture in the region’s forests. There is also a need for greater international climate financing, so Latin America can modernise sectors like transportation. 

City leaders across Latin America are prioritising climate planning 

Efforts to cut down on vehicle pollution and to expand mass transit were front and centre at the summit’s first panel, which featured municipal leaders from Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.  

In Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city and the recipient of a UN honour for its climate planning, a network of electric trains has more than doubled in size over the past four years. “From 40 kilometres to 104 kilometres”, explained Martha Patricia Martínez Barba, the General Director of the Institute for Development Planning and Management of the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara. 

Leaders there have also invested in technology solutions to “allow users to have much more data and information to help with the efficient planning of their travels,” she added.  

Barranquilla, Colombia, has turned to the coastal city’s defunct system of canals in a unique project aimed at thinning out land traffic.  

“What we want is to not only return this space to the city so that we have clean canals, but also so that they can be navigated, exchanging in part land transportation, which is more contaminating, with river transportation,” said Tania Valencia, Sustainability Coordinator or the government of Barranquilla. 

Barranquilla has set indicators and objectives that local decision makers use to decide where and how the city can grow, she said.  

In Renca, Chile, leaders have mapped out a total economic and social transformation “with a seal of sustainability to put Renca at the forefront of environmental care,” according to Macarena Olivares, the municipal’s Environmental Director.  

The centrepiece of the plan is a project to reform the Parque Metropolitano Cerros de Renca, for various reasons, where the hills have become a neglected and unsafe place. In this context, the Municipality of Renca decides to transform these hills into a new metropolitan park, in order to contribute to the environmental and social development of the area's inhabitants, considering reforestation areas, to reverse the current conditions of existing vegetation. 

As public sector entities plan for Net Zero, they must consider the emissions within their supply chains, explained Robert Hatcher, Associate Director for the Carbon Trust.  

Citing his work with UK-based public bodies, Hatcher said it’s common for supply chain emissions to drastically outweigh other emissions.  

A framework developed by the Carbon Trust underscores the need to prioritise key suppliers, engage with them to collect accurate information on their greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately reduce them. On an immediate basis, public bodies can aim to reduce emissions in their supply chain by integrating carbon management into their procurement processes, Hatcher stressed. 

How are businesses involving suppliers in their carbon reduction strategies? 

Some of the biggest companies across Latin America shared the challenge of managing Scope 3 emissions, due to a lack of awareness and transparency surrounding value chain emissions.

Irene Espinola, Net Zero Carbon Global Director for Grupo Bimbo, called Scope 3 emissions “the most complicated [emissions to measure] for us as a company” as the company works towards its Net Zero by 2050 goal. “It stops being an individual strategy and becomes a strategy of collaboration where we include our suppliers, where we include our customers to all work towards the same front,” she explained.  

For companies with supply chains dominated by farming, like Grupo Bimbo and Nestlé, promoting restorative agriculture among providers has been an important way to reduce Scope 3 emissions.  

At Nestlé, campaigns like Nescafé Plan 2030 and Nestlé Cocoa Plan train thousands of coffee and cocoa producers in sustainable farming practices “to ensure a responsible use of water and a responsible use of soil,” said Inti Pérez Casillas, Creating Shared Value Manager at Nestlé Mexico.  

Representatives from Walmart and Pilgrim's also highlighted how involving suppliers through branded projects, programme and summits has proved a valuable strategy. 

Walmart’s Project Gigaton, which counts more than 700 providers in Mexico and Central America among its ranks, has the ambitious goal of cutting one billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. Through the programme, suppliers set goals, report their carbon reduction progress to Walmart and receive recognition from the company according to their achievements, explained Ksenia Portnova, Deputy Director of Sustainability at Walmart of Mexico and Central America. 

Poultry giant, Pilgrim’s brought together its chicken farmer partners with clean energy providers and representatives of local universities at a sustainability fair last year to “generate a conversation about where and how they can find benefits” from sustainable practices, said Leon Felipe Moya, the company’s Corporate Manager of Institutional Relations. 

“By seeing how there can be economic benefits with renewable investments, with paybacks of less than one year, they begin to generate a reduction in all their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions,” he said.  

The summit highlighted the importance of taking practical steps for cities and organisations to decarbonise. Whether we look at local governments, public sector entities or private businesses, there is a clear understanding that collaboration is key in achieving Net Zero.