Eco-Competitiveness and Eco-Efficiency: Carbon Neutrality in Latin America

Belfer Center, Kennedy School, Harvard Univ. / by René Castro

[Introduction] In 2014, world per capita greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalent terms (CO2e), exceeded 7 tons. Per capita emissions for Latin America and the Caribbean were even higher, at 9 tons CO2e. To achieve international goals for the stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for annual emissions to fall to 2 tons per capita by the year 2050 and 1 ton per capita by the year 2100. It is clear that we face a moral problem: everyone needs to, and can contribute to, the fight against climate change (Pope Francis, 2015).
Improvements in eco-efficiency—defined as a combination of reducing waste and reducing the use of raw inputs—offer one strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also lowering production costs. In addition, changes in culture—at the level of individual businesses, countries, or both—can enhance the eco-competitive position of these businesses and countries. This paper describes three examples from Costa Rica and shows how the goal of achieving carbon neutrality can provide incentives for improving eco-efficiency and eco-competitiveness.

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