BUENOS AIRES, Aug. 12 (IPS) – Argentina will receive a $347 million loan from the World Bank to modernize one of the most important suburban railways in Buenos Aires. This operation is part of the multilateral lender’s new policy, which deepens its commitment to combating climate change.
Anna Bucher, senior climate change specialist at world bankWashington office whose focus is on Latin America.
The project includes track renovation, electrical system improvements, the construction of two new stations and the renovation of 16 existing stations on the General Bartolome Mitre Railway, a line named after one of Argentina’s first presidents (1862-1868) that connects Argentina, the capital of northern municipalities in Greater Buenos Aires.
Miter railway station is located in Retiro, one of the four main stations in Buenos Aires, and has three branches. Before the pandemic that led to restrictions on the use of public transportation, it carried more than seven million passengers annually.
According to the World Bank, the initiative will promote low-carbon transportation by discouraging the use of private vehicles and promoting the integration of different modes of sustainable mobility, such as bicycles, that can be carried on rail cars. It was also announced that a climate-resilient infrastructure design would be used.
“The climate issue has been proven to be comprehensive in all actions and in the two main objectives of the Bank, which are reducing poverty and promoting equality,” Boucher said in an interview with IPS via video conference from the US capital.
“Moreover, we are convinced that this offers the potential to create job opportunities, improve quality of life and contribute to the growth of national economies,” she emphasized.
For nearly 10 years now, the issue of climate change has been closely integrated into the policies of the World Bank Group and its lending institutions, International Bank for Reconstruction and Developmentt (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and International Development Association (International Development Association).
The expert explained that the bank is committed to ensuring that all its loans are in line with the goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which is to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
To this end, the group will prioritize projects that cooperate with the climate policies developed by countries in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), a key component of the Paris Agreement.
Over the past five years, the commitment has been given a mandatory and standardized framework. Thus, in 2016 the group created a system of so-called “climate co-benefits”.
This is the minimum percentage of total IDA funding that should go to investments in developing countries in the South that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or improving resilience to extreme weather events.
In 2020, a target of 26 percent of the bank’s financial flows is set for climate co-benefits, and within five years, the agency reports that it has provided more than $83 billion in climate finance.
In December 2020, the requirements for climate co-benefits were increased and it was stipulated that until 2025, it must cover at least 35 percent of loans from the multilateral lending organization. In the case of the miter train, the combined benefit is about 90 percent, although the final measure of the effect has yet to be determined.
“It is a matter of being more ambitious than we have been so far,” Bucher said. “The recovery after the pandemic places us, on the one hand, in an obligation to transition more urgently to another type of economy, and it also opens up increased opportunities, through low-carbon technologies, to improve Access to energy or transportation systems and promote growth through circular economies.”
From privatization to nationalization
The first part of the Miter Railway was financed by the English and French capital and opened in 1862, just as Argentina was beginning its economic development as a newly united country.
Like the rest of the country’s railways, it was nationalized during the government of Juan Domingo Perón (1946-1955) and returned to private operators during the Carlos Menem administration (1989-1999).
February 22, 2012 marked the “before” and “after” of Argentine railways, when a crowded commuter train crashed into stations at the capital’s Wen Station, killing 51 people and injuring nearly 800.
The tragedy highlighted the neglect of the railroad service and was crucial for President Cristina Fernandez (2007-2015) to push for the restoration of state control over railroad management, which was sealed by a law passed in Congress.
“The Miter has generally offered good service,” attorney Guillermo Rossi, who used to take the train every day to Buenos Aires from the town of La Lucilla and now does so once or twice a week, told IPS. It’s always a cut above the others, at least until one tragedy. I think since then there was a very strong need to improve the rest of the lines, everything went downhill and Mitter’s service started to deteriorate.”
“This is noticeable in the frequencies which at the best of times were once one train every five minutes and then extended to more than 10, and also in the frequent cancellations,” he added.
The Miter Railway is entirely electric, but most of Argentina’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, and only six percent comes from unconventional renewable sources.
According to an NDC update presented by the government last December, transportation is the largest user of energy in the country, accounting for 33 percent of the total.
This update set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent by 2030 compared to the historical peak reached in 2007.
Without providing further details, there was talk of promoting “sustainable transportation systems” through energy efficiency and increased use of natural gas, hydrogen, electricity and biofuels, gradually replacing petroleum derivatives, which today sustain 75 percent of transportation energy demand, according to an official . Numbers.
Although the impact of Latin American countries on global greenhouse gas emissions is minimal, the World Bank considers it necessary to focus equally on mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
“Of course there are no significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions in this region. But we believe that mitigation and adaptation should go together. Although it is necessary to increase resilience, if emissions are reduced there will also be benefits at the local level, which has a relationship with less pollution and better air and water quality.”
In June, the World Bank reported that due to floods affecting agriculture, Argentina is losing an average of $1 billion annually and that number could rise by 125 percent in the coming years as a result of climate change.
Between 2010 and 2019, the agricultural sector accounted for 8.7 percent of Argentina’s GDP and 60 percent of the country’s exports, on average.
In 2018, the World Bank launched a project that provides $150 million in financing to support 20,000 rural producers vulnerable to extreme weather events due to the effects of climate change.
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service