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Linking climate action and sustainable development in Argentina

28 September 2022

The ICAT project in Argentina provides a good example of the link between climate action and sustainable development. The project’s scope included work in the land use, land use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) and also looked at the use of new technologies. However, it was the project work in the heath and circular economy sectors that pulled in multiple ministries (environment and sustainable development, health, transport, labour and social security, and energy), and demonstrated the interrelationship between climate action and sustainable development.

The project looked at how the health sector contributed to greenhouse gas emissions, how a circular economy approach could reduce emissions, and how those emissions could be included in the national greenhouse gas inventory. In addition, it examined the climate-related benefits of COVID-19’s remote working arrangements, and the broader benefits of a circular economy. 

Counting health sector emissions

Generally health care systems play a role in climate adaptation. This is true in Argentina, where the health system deals with the effects of disease transmission by some insects, all of which are expected to increase in density – which in turn could lead to an increase in disease incidence – due to climate change.

While Argentina’s health sector continues developing adaptation plans and actions, the Ministry of Health also decided to look at the effect of the health sector on greenhouse gas emissions. The sector is responsible for only 3.9 percent of emissions, but is committed to doing its part in understanding where those emissions arise, feeding that information into the country’s greenhouse gas inventory, mapping the information, and using the data to inform policy making that would lead to a reduction in emissions by the sector in the long term.

The ICAT project provided the support needed for this. Both direct and indirect emission sources were analyzed. Direct sources included fossil fuels used on site (such as natural gas in heating systems) and by vehicles owned by health care facilities (such as ambulances); inhaled anesthetic agents (for example, nitrous and fluorinated gases); and refrigerant gases, produced by leaks in refrigeration appliances, for example.

Indirect emissions included electricity consumption; and emissions linked to the supply chain during manufacture, transport, and use and disposal of products. The latter emissions group also included trips made by patients and healthcare personnel to the relevant health facility.

These emissions have been incorporated into the relevant categories of the national greenhouse gas inventory. The data could also be used to plan emissions reductions in the health sector.

The effect of COVID-19 on emissions

This project aimed to define the processes that had changed or could change due to the impacts of COVID-19 in different work modalities. It also aimed to identify related mitigation potential.

Before the pandemic was declared, about 8.2 per cent of the private sector workforce worked remotely. By the second quarter of 2020, 22 per cent of the workforce worked remotely.

With the pandemic declared in March 2020, researchers compared 2019 emission rates to those of 2020 to find if there was a change in emissions between 2019 (when most people worked from an official workplace) and 2020 (when most people worked remotely).

Surprisingly, they found that residential energy demand remained almost constant. This was likely because extreme weather conditions are not common during the months when confinement was greatest (April and May), and therefore although more people were working from home, the use of air conditioners or heaters was at a relatively low level. 

Additionally, it was found that energy demand for transport services dropped by 23.4 per cent, with less people commuting to work each day.

The project team worked closely with other ministries, particularly the Ministry of Transport, on this part of the project. With the focus on climate change and sustainable development, multiple ministries were engaged, and this contributed significantly to reinforcing relationships between ministries.

Both the health sector project and the COVID-19 projects are ongoing, with further research being conducted.

Investigating the benefits of a circular economy

The ICAT project also examined the life cycle of plastics, metals (steel and aluminium), cement, paper and cardboard, and glass to identify new data sources to enhance the scope of the national greenhouse gas inventory, and identify the co-benefits of a circular economy. The full lifecycle of each product was investigated, from sourcing to shelf, and the environmental, social, and economic benefits of a circular economy were confirmed.

As with other parts of the project, the collaboration between different parts of the Environment Ministry, the collaboration between different ministries, and the identification of new stakeholders reinforced the data collection process and the monitoring, reporting and evaluation of the implemented actions.

Linking climate action and sustainable development in Argentina

Photo by Daniel Agrelo on Pixabay


For more information about ICAT’s support to Argentina, visit the country page on the ICAT website.