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FEATURE STORY

Regional experiences to keep Latin America green and growing

June 26, 2013

The Amazon rainforest is home to around 50% of the total plants and animals in the world.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Representing only 16% of the global land surface, the region includes six of the world's most biodiverse countries
  • Experts worry about the region's vast natural resources being depleted as a result of untethered growth
  • A new knowledge series, titled “Environment & Water Resources Occasional Paper Series,” seeks to capture innovative environmental and water management experiences and contribute to the global knowledge exchange in the pursuit of greener and more inclusive growth

From the Peruvian Andes to Mexico's white-sand beaches, Latin America and the Caribbean play home to 34% of the world’s plant species and 27% of mammals, making it one of the world’s biodiversity ‘superpowers’.

Representing only 16% of the global land surface, the region includes six of the world's most biodiverse countries—Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and Peru— and harbors the world’s greatest carbon sink in the Amazon.

But experts already worry about the region's vast natural resources being depleted as a result of untethered growth -the type of which has made Latin America an economic success story in recent years.

With the largest urban population (more than 80%) and the fastest growing motorization rate in the world (4.5% per year), Latin America faces the challenge of pollution, overuse of its water and natural resources, as well as the negative impacts on the health of people, especially the poor, and the environment.

The region is also affected by, and contributes to, climate change.

Over the past 20 years, the region has taken significant strides in tackling these issues. Latin America and the Caribbean lead the developing world in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management and are at the forefront of reducing urban pollution. Countries are investing in increasing their resilience to climate change and to curb emissions.

A new knowledge series, titled “Environment & Water Resources Occasional Paper Series,” seeks to capture these experiences and contribute to the global exchange in the pursuit of greener and more inclusive growth.  Produced by the Environment and Water Resources Unit of the Sustainable Development Department in the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean Region, the series is a tool for sharing experiences with countries and potential project partners, according to Bank officials.

Regional success stories

The series addresses issues such as financing biodiversity conservation in the region, empowering women in irrigation in Peru, managing environmental health in Nicaragua, and adapting to climate change in Mexico, among others.

  • Biodiversity conservation: Over the past 20 years, the Latin America and Caribbean region has set aside 20% of its land for conservation, a total which greatly surpasses the 13% average for other developing regions. Novel approaches to financing preservation efforts include building partnerships to garner non-public finances such as payments for environmental services, incentive-based conservation contracts and co-management with communities and NGOs, amongst others.
  • Water management: Empowering women in water management in Peru is at the center of this initiative, which sought to increase their participation in irrigated agriculture in the Peruvian highlands by providing women with technical skills to increase their voice and representation among decision-makers.
  • Environmental health: In Nicaragua, poor access to water and sanitation, high use of fuelwood for cooking in rural areas, and growing car use in urban areas are resulting in environmental health risks to its population, especially among children under five. The study estimates that these three risks amount to 2.4 percent of the country’s GDP, and looks at priority investments and solutions.
  • Climate adaptation: Campeche, one of Mexico’s coastal states, is highly vulnerable to current and future climate impacts. Because of global warming, Campeche, with about 450,000 inhabitants, is feared to be affected by a sea level rise of up to one meter in 2100. The report highlights that homes and overall infrastructure, the ecosystems and tourism are priority sectors to monitor in Campeche to prevent possible consequences of climate change.