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Argentina: Achieving change through disruptive innovation

11 January 2024

Disruptive technologies and behaviours offer significant potential for transformational change of the economy to deliver climate change mitigation and adaptation impacts . A recent ICAT project in Argentina identified four innovations that could help the country to achieve its climate targets. Applying ICAT methodologies, the team assessed the transformational potential of the innovations, which showed that agroecology, electricity generation from renewable energy sources and green hydrogen held particular promise for transformational change. 

The concept of transformational change has gained traction among decision makers, in recognition of the fundamental, radical changes in economic activity required to meet global climate goals. Transformational change refers to system change, rather than singular, stand-alone incremental development, and involves multiple actors at multiple levels of society. Often that change involves innovation: new, disruptive technologies and behaviours that could bring about long-term positive change.

In Argentina, a project supported by ICAT, and implemented in partnership with UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre,  investigated the transformational change potential of disruptive innovations used to meet climate targets. 

Disruptive technologies are those that challenge the status quo by using novel methods, techniques and processes to address the challenges posed by climate change. Application of disruptive technologies must be supported by behaviour change, which helps to achieve long-term impact by reducing  carbon emissions or adapting to climate change. 

The ICAT project team selected climate change targets from Argentina’s nationally determined contributions and National Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan. To identify disruptive innovations and assess their potential for helping the country to meet its climate change targets, the researchers followed a five-step process that included a literature review, interviews with national and international experts, and application of the ICAT Transformational Change and Sustainable Development methodologies.

From an initial shortlist of 48 technological innovations identified during the literature review, the team used information gathered to select four disruptive innovations and measures for further investigation. These four innovations were focused on disruptive technologies and behaviours in energy, agriculture, and forestry and other land use sectors. 

The targeted innovations were:

Green hydrogen. Green hydrogen is directly linked to technological change and climate change mitigation, as it reduces  emissions and allows integration of renewable energy and large-scale power generation. Green hydrogen may also increase national energy security and reduce the country’s vulnerability to disruption in global fossil fuel markets.

Electricity generation from non-conventional grid-connected sources of renewable energy. This represents a possible transformational change for Argentina, with the potential to significantly reduce emissions. It could also prove to be a new source of employment.

Native ecosystems in cities. Promoting native ecosystems in cities can improve air quality, temperature regulation, soil quality, biodiversity, and quality of life. It has high potential for transformational change, as long as the relevant actors (government, urban communities, civil society groups) are involved.

Agroecology. The agroecology innovation is related to disruptive behaviour, adaptation and mitigation. Of the innovations, agroecology has the strongest potential to improve the environmental quality of air, water and soil, biodiversity, soil fertility, and resilience to extreme weather events.

While each of these innovations relates to a particular technology, all require a change in behaviour among producers and/or consumers – disruptive behaviours – as uptake of new technology is a key barrier to scaling up innovations. 

The project team applied the ICAT methodologies to understand the likely transformational change, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change adaptation  impacts expected of each of the innovations. This revealed that three are likely to be particularly impactful: agroecology, electricity generation from non-conventional grid-connected sources of renewable energy, and green hydrogen. Each of these innovations offers significant transformational change potential and is predicted to be likely or very likely to lead to a successful outcome.

As well as identifying disruptive technologies and behaviours that have the potential to boost Argentina’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, this project has generated important insights into how understanding an innovation’s potential for transformational change can improve climate change action. This method can not only be used for assessing innovations that are not yet implemented, but also those that have been adopted but may not be achieving their full potential.

Read the full project report on the ICAT website.

Argentina: Achieving change through disruptive innovation

Photo: jmarti20Pixabay