The transition to electric mobility can help Latin American and Caribbean countries reduce polluting emissions and meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement on climate change, while creating new green jobs as part of post-COVID-19 recovery plans, according to a new study.
The report: “Electric Mobility: Progress in Latin America and the Caribbean and opportunities for regional collaboration”, of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), analyzes the most recent advances in 20 countries of the region and highlights the growing leadership of municipalities, companies and civil associations in promoting the application of new technologies.
According to the UNEP report collected by Energía Limpia XXI, public transport is the segment that is being electrified at the fastest speed in the region, although still in an incipient phase of deployment, indicates the study, which is funded by the European Commission through of the EUROCLIMA + Program, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the renewable energy company Acciona.
Chile stands out for having the largest fleet of electric buses in the region, with more than 400 units, while Colombia is expected to incorporate almost 500 electric buses in the capital, Bogotá. Other Colombian cities, such as Cali and Medellín, have joined Guayaquil, in Ecuador, and Sao Paulo, in Brazil, and have introduced electric buses to their urban fleets.
The increase in the efficiency of electric buses, the reduction in their operation and maintenance costs, as well as the growing concern due to the impacts of emissions on health and the environment, are the main drivers of this transition, according to the study.
Transportation is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean and is one of the main drivers behind poor air quality in cities that causes more than 300,000 premature deaths a year on the American continent, according to the World Health Organization.
“In recent months we have seen a reduction in air pollution in our cities due to measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But these improvements are only temporary. We must undertake a structural change so that our transport systems definitely contribute to the sustainability of our cities,” said Leo Heileman, UNEP regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Costa Rica has made important progress in electric mobility in recent years. At the national level, the 2018 National Decarbonization Plan was launched, which proposes electric mobility as a key component to achieve the decarbonization of the economy.
In terms of transportation, the plan contains three main axes with specific goals for public transport (70% of buses and taxis zero emissions by 2035 and 100% by 2050), private vehicle (25% of the fleet of light vehicles, private and institutional – and zero emissions in
2035), cargo transportation (20% reduction in emissions from the cargo sector by 2050 through the introduction of new technologies).
The report calls on decision-makers to prioritize the electrification of public transport in the future, especially when updating the old bus fleets that run through the large cities of the region. The study warns of the danger of a “technological blockade” in the next 7 to 15 years if the authorities choose to renew the old fleets with new internal combustion vehicles that will continue to pollute the air in cities and cause damage to health.