Current Policy Projections
Most recent economic forecasts estimate that the ongoing domestic crisis and the effects of the global economic fallout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a decrease in Argentina’s GDP by 9.9%–11.6% in 2020, followed by a recovery of 3.9%–5.4% in the following year (Banco Central de la República de Argentina, 2020; IMF, 2020; OECD, 2020). The CAT estimates that this economic slowdown will decrease economy-wide emissions by 7%–9% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels and increase again by 4%–6% in 2021 (excl. LULUCF).
Under current policies, total emissions (excluding LULUCF) are still projected to grow significantly after 2021, namely by about 35%–37% above 2010 levels by 2030, reaching about 428–437 MtCO2 in 2030. This is equivalent to emissions 84%–88% higher than 1990 levels, and means missing the unconditional NDC target by 2%–4%.
Our analysis of current policies is based on the projections developed by the National University of the Center (UNICEN) (Keesler, Orifici and Blanco, 2019). The additional policy scenarios are also based on a set of UNICEN scenarios that assume full implementation of the renewable targets, additional energy efficiency measures and other mitigation measures from the sectoral plans. These scenarios are aligned with the assumptions and developments included in the Energy Scenarios of 2019 from the Ministry of Energy (Ministry of Energy and Mining Argentina, 2018). Depending on the implementation of the measures and the achievement of the targets, Argentina might overachieve its unconditional NDC target or miss it by a wide margin. The future development and exploitation of national oil and natural gas resources will threaten the achievement of Argentina’s targets (see more detail in the section on energy supply below).
Amid a severe economic crisis over the last two years, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the new government undertook a series of changes in the structure of ministries to decrease government spending and set priorities in line with its agenda (Government of Argentina, 2019). The following departments dealing with climate change were directly affected by these changes: both the former Secretariat of Agriculture and Secretariat of the Environment took up ministerial ranks again, with a dedicated Secretariat of Climate Change under the new Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. The Secretariat of Energy further dismantled the Sub-Secretariat of Renewable Energy, merging it into a broader Power Energy Sub-Secretariat. The former Sub-Secretariat of Hydrocarbons was upgraded to a secretariat, a clear indication of the government’s priority on oil and gas exploitation over renewables development in the energy sector. The impact of this administrative restructuring on climate policy remains uncertain.
In January 2018, Argentina implemented a carbon tax covering most liquid fuels sold in Argentina, based on a price of 10 USD/tCO2e (FARN, 2017; Ministerío de Justicia y Derechos Humanos, 2017), which decreased to 5 USD/tCO2e after updating to November 2019 price levels (Secretaria de Energía, 2019). In January 2019, the tax also became operational for fuel oil, mineral coal, and petroleum coke, at 10% of the full tax rate, with an annual increase of 10 percentage points until reaching 100% in 2028. The tax is estimated to cover 20% of the country’s GHG emissions. Natural gas is exempted from the tax, as is international aviation and shipping as well as the export of covered fuels (World Bank, 2019).
The tax is a first step in the right direction. Yet, significantly higher carbon prices are required for Paris compatibility (at least USD 40–80/tCO2 by 2020 and USD 50–100/tCO2 by 2030 (Stiglitz et al., 2017)). Our policy projections, as well as the new scenarios from the Ministry of Energy, do not yet specifically reflect the recently implemented carbon tax. An earlier proposal in Argentina included a carbon price of 25 USD/tCO2e but the final decision was made for a much weaker tax. National NGOs have criticised the final rule as too unambitious and merely a tool to align with international activities to increase the chances for accession to the OECD, rather than an instrument to safeguard the environment (FARN, 2017). The law distributes the tax revenues to different areas, most of which are not directly linked to climate change or environmental issues (Ministerío de Justicia y Derechos Humanos, 2017).
As a direct follow-up of the NDC process, the Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable Development under the Macri administration concluded in November 2019 the preparation of the first National Plan of Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change, which aims to advance the fulfilment of Argentina’s climate change commitments and the national action plans for all sectors. As of June 2020, national action plans for energy, transport, agriculture, industry and forestry had been published (Argentina Secretaría General, 2019). The document responds to the need to address the challenges of climate change in a coordinated manner, being a public policy instrument that guides the actions in the medium and long term (Secretaria de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, 2019).
In July 2019, Argentina, also under Macri administration, was the first country in Latin America to declare a climate emergency. While the draft declaration included 15 points and an action plan, the final text was reduced to only two paragraphs and is considered to have symbolic character. The declaration was approved after passing through the Senate (Himitian, 2019).
In December 2019, the Congress passed a law on climate change that seeks to establish minimum budgets for the adequate management of climate change, including for the design and implementation of mitigation and adaptation policies, actions, instruments and strategies. The law makes provisions, amongst others, for the development of a National Climate Change Response Plan, a National System for GHG Inventory and Monitoring of Mitigation, to institutionalise and give continuity to the National Climate Change Cabinet (National Congress of Argentina, 2019b). The law positions the treatment of climate change as national policy and leaves an institutional legacy ensuring the permanence in time of the National Climate Change Cabinet, even after the change in government.
Argentina has centred its energy sector strategy around the exploitation of abundant gas reserves in the “Vaca Muerta” formation as a source of cheap oil and gas for national consumption and exports (Secretaría de Energía Argentina, 2018). However, the future development of Vaca Muerta remains highly uncertain given the drop in energy demand, while the collapse of oil prices and the ongoing economic crisis are threatening its economic viability and driving away investors.
Last August, at the height of the country’s pre-COVID-19 economic recession, former president Macri capped the domestic oil and gas prices and forced oil companies to exchange USD for national currency to contain inflation and the collapse of the economy (National Congress of Argentina, 2019a). Given the high costs of fracking, Vaca Muerta has reached the limit of its profitability and the further development of the project was put on stand-by, reducing its production in 2019 compared to 2018 levels. The government is renegotiating its foreign debt with the IMF and the future of Vaca Muerta will depend on the results of those negotiations. Although initially being one of the project’s main sponsors, international pressure has meant the IMF is starting to incorporate the impacts and risks of climate change in their investment decisions (IMF, 2019; World Resources Institute, 2019). This is likely to determine the level of support to Vaca Muerta and the project’s attractiveness to investors.
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government artificially fixed the domestic oil price at a minimum US$45 per barrel for 2020 irrespective of global oil prices (National Congress of Argentina, 2020b), almost double the international prices in April 2020. Although this move was taken in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, it is effectively a subsidy and intervention to rescue the struggling future of Vaca Muerta and other production sites.
In December 2019, the new administration froze electricity and gas tariffs for six months as it looked for a new pricing framework and to renegotiate contracts with utilities. This intervention raises fears that political measures will interfere with the terms of the existing power purchase agreements (PPA), which could be disastrous for renewable projects because the long-term stability that PPAs provide is very often the trigger to attract investors in this emerging industry (Ministry of Energy and Mining, 2016). Amid the COVID-19 crisis and the lockdown, the government extended the term of the capped tariffs until the end of 2020 (National Congress of Argentina, 2019c, 2020a).
The former government of President Mauricio Macri introduced various policies that can potentially reduce emissions of the energy sector, including a renewable energy law and a biofuels law (Government of Argentina, 2015b & Government of Argentina, 2016b). The renewable energy law (Law 27.191), published at the end of 2015, aims to incentivise the development of renewable electricity generation and foster the use of renewable energy across sectors. The law establishes renewable energy targets and mandates an 8% share of renewables (including hydro smaller than 50 MW) in electricity consumption by the end of 2017 and a 20% share by the end of 2025 (Government of Argentina, 2015).
An auctioning scheme—RenovAr—is in place to support this target. Up to now, four auctioning rounds were held (RenovAr 1, 1.5, 2 and 3), leading to contracting of 4.7 GW of renewable electricity (Morais, 2019). Furthermore, a long-term market for renewable energy (MATER), established through Resolution 281-E/2017, encourages bilateral agreements between energy producers and large-scale consumers. The resolution prioritises the dispatch of renewable generation in case of curtailments due to transmission network congestions (Ministry of Energy and Mining, 2017). The sub-secretariat of renewable energy, which led all these policies and frameworks that paved the way for the entry of renewables, was dismantled in the restructuration of the new government and merged with the sub-secretariat of power energy. Together with PPA, these three instruments combined have led to the commissioning of 6.5 GW of renewable power in Argentina by 2019.
In April 2019, the Argentinian government announced a fifth round (RenovAr 4), under which it expects to contract around 1 GW of new renewable capacity. In contrast to RenovAr 3, which focused on small-scale renewables with a capacity up to 10 MW per installation, RenovAr 4 will be directed to large scale wind and solar power projects and will include grid infrastructure projects (Bellini, 2019). However, the design and timeline of the RenovAr 4 auction has not been defined as of June 2020 and seems to be a low priority for the new government.
The tightening of capital controls by President Fernandez and the renegotiation of foreign debt with the IMF will likely have an impact on Argentina’s emerging renewable industry, which relies on global finance to thrive. The political risk, the limited access to credits and grid limitations are also discouraging investors and slowing down the growth of the renewable industry (Energia Estrategica, 2020).
The current limitations in the grid put the fulfilment of the renewable targets by 2025 at risk (MAyDS and MINEM, 2017). Concerns about grid limitations had been raised before RenovAr 3, potentially causing a delay in the grid connection of the contracted capacities and making additional auction rounds more difficult to realise. The national grid operator CAMMESA has recognised this issue and is planning on the extension of the electricity grid (Télam, 2017; CAMMESA, 2018). In order to address this problem, and contrary to previous auction rounds, the government plans to include grid infrastructure projects in RenovAr 4 to support the further expansion of renewable capacity in the country.
Available projections for the energy sector vary significantly in their assumptions on energy split and demand:
- Projections developed by National University of Buenos Aires (UNICEN), in the report “Current situation and GHG emissions projections in Argentina” (Keesler, Orifici and Blanco, 2019). This study provides projections for all sectors based on current sectoral plans and actions in place, including the exploitation of non-conventional fossil fuels.
- The Energy Scenarios 2030, which the former Ministry of Energy and Mining published in early 2018 to provide additional scenarios under different assumptions (Ministry of Energy and Mining Argentina, 2018).
- The scenarios from the “Plataforma Escenarios Energéticos 2040”, a non-governmental initiative under which different modelling groups provide alternative energy futures for Argentina up to the year 2040 (Beljansky et al., 2018). The “Escenarios Energéticos” do not present a projection of what will likely happen; the exercise aims at showing how different developments in the energy sector could look and creating a discourse over the potential outcomes of such developments.
The UNICEN scenarios are the starting point for the range of our current policy projections. The UNICEN projections assume a penetration of renewables that follows the current trend, account for barriers in the implementation of energy efficiency measures and takes into account the significant development plan for the exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels (fracking and off-shore oil and gas production).
While the Energy Scenarios 2030 are a detailed representation of possible future planning for the energy sector, additional actions need to be taken to achieve the share of low-carbon electricity supply assumed by the scenarios. One important area of improvement is the grid integration: the energy scenarios assume a large amount of additional wind capacity in Patagonia (Ministry of Energy and Mining Argentina, 2018). Investments in the electricity grid will be critical to transport the electricity generated to urban centres. With the focus of the Secretariat of Energy on oil and gas exploitation and distribution, reaching the renewable energy penetration indicated in the Energy Scenarios 2030 seems less likely than in earlier assessments.
The results from the “Plataforma Escenarios Energéticos Argentina (2040)” vary widely depending on the modelling group elaborating the results. Overall, their share of renewable energy is significantly higher in 2025 than other scenarios, assuming a linear increase of capacities (data is only available for the year 2040) (Beljansky et al., 2018).
Between 1990 and 2016, direct emissions from industry in Argentina rose from 29.3 MtCO2e to 53.3 MtCO2e, i.e. by 82%, according to the national inventory (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, 2020). Over this period, activity-related GHG emissions increased by 140%, while energy-related emissions increased by 59%. In 2016, the total contribution of Argentina’s industry sector (53.5 MtCO2e) to total national emissions (including LULUCF) was around 14%.
The Renewable Energy Law 27.191, adopted in 2015, also specifically fosters the use of renewable energy in the industry sector. It mandates all large-scale electricity users to comply with the renewable energy targets, i.e. 20% of national electricity consumption by 2025. Users can either do so by purchasing electricity from the wholesale market or by signing third-party power purchase agreements with independent renewable energy producers. While the policy will not have an impact on direct emissions from the industry sector, it will support emissions reductions of electricity generation. Resolution 281-E/2017 furthermore encourages bilateral agreements between energy producers and large-scale consumers (with power demand greater than 300 kW) through a long-term market of renewable energy (MATER) (Ministry of Energy and Mining, 2017).
To boost energy efficiency in the industry sector and beyond, the Argentinean government developed the Argentinean Fund for Energy Efficiency (FAEE) in 2009. One of the objectives of this fund is to improve energy efficiency among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through energy audits.
While subsidies for electricity consumption of SMEs have significantly decreased over recent years, the government granted new subsidies to large-scale users in 2017. Through Joint Resolution 1-E/2017, the Ministries of Energy and Industry award a discount of up to 20% on electricity prices for energy-intensive industries until the end of 2019 (Ministry of Energy and Mining, Ministry of Industry, 2017).
At the same time, the government seeks to promote energy management systems for industrial companies. In 2018, the Ministry of Energy passed Provision 3/2018, which establishes that companies benefitting from reduced electricity prices under Resolution 1-E/2017 have to implement the ISO norm 50001 on energy management systems, including the development of an energy management action plan, energy performance targets and indicators to monitor progress (Ministry of Energy and Mining, 2018).
In 2016, emissions from the transport sector in Argentina represented 13% (~50 MtCO2e) of Argentina’s GHG emissions (including LULUCF) according to the national inventory.
In 2015, the government passed Law 27.132 which stresses the importance of increasing rail transport in the country (Gobierno de Argentina, 2015). In June 2018, further steps were taken to facilitate access to new private freight transport operators and promote large-scale investments in railways (enel Subte, 2018). At the same time, however, the government is also promoting road infrastructure, e.g. through the ‘Plan Vial Federal’, which may undermine the climate goals in the transport sector (Climate Action Tracker, 2019).
For fuel switch, the Biofuels Law 26.093, in force since 2006, promotes the use and production of biofuels through blending mandates and fiscal incentives for biofuel producers (Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, 2006). The blending mandate for biodiesel is currently at 10% as established in Resolution 44/2014 (Gobierno de Argentina, 2014), while Resolution 37/2016 requires a minimum 12% of bioethanol blend in transport fuels from 2016 (Gobierno de Argentina, 2016). Quantifying the impact of this policy, we find this implies a minor improvement of emissions compared to the Mitigation Scenarios 2015, even if we assume that the production of biofuels is carbon neutral, which is disputable (DeCicco et al., 2016).
The Argentinean government is developing a policy framework that incentivises the deployment and use of electric vehicles (EVs). In 2018, the Ministry of Transport passed Decree 32/2018 which modifies the National Transit Law (Law 24.449) in order to include EVs in the regulatory framework (Gobierno de Argentina, 2018b). In 2017, Decree 331/2017 reduced the tariffs on EVs to encourage the import of up to six thousand EVs in the three following years (Gobierno de Argentina, 2017). In 2018, Decree 51/2018 was adopted which eliminates the import duty rate on electric buses destinated for pilot projects (Gobierno de Argentina, 2018a).
In 2016, emissions from the buildings sector in Argentina represented 8% (~31 MtCO2eq) of Argentina’s GHG emissions (including LULUCF) according to the national inventory (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, 2020). They grew by 75% between 1990 and 2016. Residential buildings played a major role in this increase, doubling from 13.5 MtCO2e in 1990 to 27 MtCO2e in 2016, while emissions from commercial and institutional buildings remained stable at around 4 MtCO2e/yr.
As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, the government has allocated ARS 100 billion (USD 1.4 billion approximately) for the construction and refurbishment of buildings, schools and hotels. However, the measure is not accompanied by sustainability and energy efficiency guidelines (Government of Argentina, 2020).
Historically, improving energy efficiency has been a key focus of Argentina’s strategy to reduce emissions in the building sector. In 2007, the government adopted Decree 140/2007 which creates the National Programme for a Rational and Efficient Use of Energy (PRONUREE). PRONUREE sets a framework for an efficient use of energy across sectors, including industry, buildings and transport. Specifically for buildings, the decree establishes the Energy Efficiency Programme in Public Buildings (PROUREE) which defines actions, regulations and codes in public buildings (Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, 2007). PROUREE establishes voluntary energy labelling for residential buildings based on their energy consumption (Ministerio de Energía y Minería Argentina, 2018).
Since 2017, several pilot programmes set up by the Argentinean government have been underway in a few cities such as in the city of Rosario, aiming at validating the efficiency norms to subsequently apply them as public polices at the national level (Climate Action Tracker, 2019).
Targeting infrastructures more directly, the Efficient Public Lighting Plan (PLAE), launched in 2017, aims to reduce emissions from street lighting by 50% (Ministerio de Energía y Minería Argentina, 2007).
In 2018, the government adopted Resolution 423/18 which initiated the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Social Housing project, aiming at reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions in social housing (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, 2018). The project foresees the construction of 128 houses between 2019 and 2020 that consume 32% less energy compared to previous reference houses (Secretaría de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, 2018). Furthermore, a law to promote solar water heaters as part of the social housing programme is being discussed (Cámara de Diputados, 2018).
In 2017, the government adopted Law 27.424 to promote the use of renewables in the building sector. The Law encourages small-scale electricity users (residential and commercial) to produce their own energy from renewable resources. This law encourages self-consumption of electricity through the introduction of net-metering (Government of Argentina, 2017a). The implementation of these incentives is supported by the Distributed Renewable Generation Fund (FODIS) which provides loans, lower interest rates, and encourages research and development (Climate Action Tracker, 2019).
With a view to household appliances, Resolution 319/99 set up an energy labelling scheme in 1999, which has been amended several times (Secretaría de Industria Comercio y Minería, 1999). Furthermore, the labelling scheme defined in PRONUREE was complemented with Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for certain appliances (Secretaría de Energia, 2018). Law 26.473, passed in 2008, bans the import and commercialisation of incandescent lamps for residential use as of 2011 (Government of Argentina, 2008).
Agricultural emissions in Argentina (~113 MtCO2e/a in 2016 according to the national inventory, in AR4) contribute a share of about 30% to total national emissions (incl. LULUCF). Agricultural products are an important part of Argentina’s exports, and the activities as well as related emissions are set to increase further.
There is no clear policy framework to support emission reductions in the agricultural sector. However, a few measures and policies promoting more sustainable agriculture, including climate benefits, do exist. Through Resolution 120/2011, Argentina established the Programme for Smart Agriculture, which supports the implementation and further distribution of smart agricultural practices and technologies, as well as research and development (Ministerio de Agricultura Ganaderia y Pesca, 2011).
Resolution 174/2018 sets up the National Programme for Good Agricultural Practices in Fruit and Vegetable Products which mandates the promotion of agriculture that preserves natural resources (water, soil and energy) (Ministerio de Agroindustria, 2018). Climate smart agricultural practices are in some cases already used by farmers, in particular no-tillage is widespread (World Bank, CIAT and CATIE, 2014).
Finally, Law 26.331, known as the Native Forest Law, (see section “Forestry”) also includes incentives for sustainable agro-forestry (Government of Argentina, 2007).
Considering the high level of methane emissions, combined with the associated deforestation this activity has caused, the agriculture and cattle-ranching sector offers great potential for Argentina to constrain its emissions. This big potential is confirmed by a document published by the Ministry of Agroindustry in 2017, which examines a number of possible measures for mitigating climate change in the agricultural sector, which could improve the productivity of the sector and also reduce land use changes and deforestation linked to agricultural practices and by increasing carbon sinks, including sinks in the soil (Andrade et al., 2017).
Net GHG emissions from LULUCF in Argentina (31 MtCO2e/a in 2016 according to the national inventory) contribute a share of about 8% of total national emissions. We have observed a clear trend in decreasing LULUCF emissions since 2010 mostly as a result of the implementation of the 2007 Native Forests Law (Law 26.331).
The Native Forests Law aims at controlling the reduction of native forest surface, aiming at achieving net-zero change in forest areas. The law sets minimum budgets to be spent on forest protection, established a capacity building scheme and requirements for provinces to comprehensively monitor and track forest areas. It also establishes the National Fund for Enriching and Conserving Native Forests that disburses funds to provinces that protect native forests (Government of Argentina, 2007). However, to date, the Native Forest Law has only been partially implemented, and only a small amount of the available budget spent (MAyDS, 2017).
As early as the late 1990s, Argentina implemented Law 25.080 to promote investments in afforestation and preventing forest degradation (Gobierno de Argentina, 1999). According to Argentina’s Second Biennial Update Report, this law, which has been amended by Law 26.432 in 2008, has led to an additional 31 thousand hectares of forest area per year on average (Government of Argentina, 2017b).
In 2018, the Secretariat of Environment started the initiative ForestAr 2030, which aims to develop a broad stakeholder dialogue and strategy to conserve natural forests and to deliver on the country’s commitment to reducing climate change while achieving other sustainable development benefits. The stakeholders’ agreed vision is to use forests sustainably by 2030, generating opportunities which strengthen the regional economies (Gobierno de Argentina, 2018c). In the context of this initiative, the government created the National Plan for the Restauration of Native Forests through Resolution 267/2019, which seeks to restore 20 million hectares of native forest per year by 2030 (Secretaría de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, 2019).
In the Mitigation Scenarios 2015, the Argentinian government expects emissions from the sector to decrease further, from about 90 MtCO2e in 2012 to 37 MtCO2e in 2030 while other sources calculate emissions to remain roughly at 2010 levels, at slightly above 100 MtCO2e/a (Kuramochi et al., 2017). For comparison, the CAT, for calculating absolute emission levels excl. LULUCF resulting from the NDC, assumes that the share of the LULUCF emissions in 2030 will be similar to the share of these emissions in the NDC’s BAU scenario, at 77 MtCO2e in 2030.
Between 1990 and 2016, Argentina’s waste emissions doubled, accounting for 5% (18 MtCO2e) of Argentina’s total GHG emissions in 2016 (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, 2020).
In 2005, Argentina implemented a National Strategy for the Management of Urban Solid Waste (ENGIRSU). Its objectives are to reduce, reuse and recycle waste as well as to avoid landfills in order to protect the environment (Ministerio de Salud y Ambiente Argentina, 2005). However, the implementation of norms regarding waste management falls within the jurisdiction of Provinces, which can lead to disparities in its enforcement. To date, no policies have been implemented in Argentina to directly reduce GHG emissions from waste.