La Ventosa wind farm in Oaxaca, Mexico.
La Ventosa wind farm in Oaxaca, Mexico. Wikimedia Commons / Difer

Governments and researchers across Latin America have used SEI’s LEAP (Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning) system to model energy systems and identify opportunities for low-carbon development and climate change mitigation.

Now, as part of the CLIMACAP project, SEI is using LEAP in collaboration with seven Latin American and European institutions, building national and international models for Latin America and enhancing modelling capacity in the region. The work is funded by the European Commission. Below, Jason Veysey, a senior scientist at SEI-US who is leading the national modelling work, answers questions about the project and shares some early findings.

Q: Which countries are you working with?
A: We’re focusing on four of the largest Latin American economies – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico—because of their importance to regional energy use and emissions.  In these countries we’re sharing our findings with decision makers and helping them consider the implications for climate and energy policy.

Q: What is your role in the project?
A: I’m coordinating the national modelling work as well as CLIMACAP’s capacity-building activities – training, technical collaboration, and so on. On the modelling side, I’m supporting five national teams (two in Brazil, one each in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico) that are developing national-scale models. Each model has its own emphasis, depending on national priorities, but we’re also modelling a common set of climate policy scenarios in every country.  These include baseline projections and scenarios with carbon prices and absolute emission reduction targets.

Q: Can you share some early findings?
A: Great question – one that’s certainly on decision makers’ minds! The work is ongoing, but some insights are emerging. Mexico is a good example. In the last few years, the Mexican government has enacted several ambitious climate policies, including a mandated 50% cut in national greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. I’m now writing a paper that looks at what CLIMACAP and other models have to say about this target. Interestingly, it appears Mexico could achieve it in a few quite different ways, so policy-makers have at least a little latitude.

Q: You’ve taken a different approach with Colombia. What has that entailed?
A: In Colombia I’m working with the CLIMACAP team at the National University to model the impact of two Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, or NAMAs. These include a programme to upgrade residential refrigerators and an initiative to build distributed renewables generation (e.g. wind or solar) in areas that aren’t connected to the electric grid.  The work is especially exciting because of its policy relevance. We chose the NAMAs at the request of the government and are providing results directly to policy-makers.

Q: All the teams met in Bogotá recently. What was the purpose of that workshop?
A: The Bogotá workshop was a chance to share interim results and continue our mission of engagement with decision-makers. We held it jointly with the Latin American Modeling Project (LAMP), a parallel effort financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). By meeting in Bogotá, we were able to connect with policy-makers attending a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) symposium on intended national contributions to the 2015 climate agreement. We sent representatives to speak at the symposium and gave a seminar for the policy-makers on our project.

Q: How can governments use the information you’re producing?
A: In many ways, 2015 will be a make-or-break year for the international climate process. We can’t delay action much longer if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. To have a shot at an effective 2015 agreement, countries must come prepared to make mitigation commitments. That means understanding the technical and economic feasibility of policy options – what can we do, what are the costs, what are the benefits? CLIMACAP is helping answer these questions for key Latin American countries. Our hope is that the evidence base we’re providing will put negotiators in a position to make informed commitments.

Q: What are the next steps?
A: Our immediate next steps are to finish our modeling work and publish a series of technical papers and policy briefs (together with LAMP).  The papers will appear in a special issue of the journal Energy Economics. We’ll distribute the briefs and discuss our findings at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP20) in Lima, then likely connect with policy-makers again at a Latin American event in the first half of 2015.

Learn more about CLIMACAP (external link)

The participants in the CLIMACAP/LAMP workshop in Bogotá.
The participants in the CLIMACAP/LAMP workshop in Bogotá.