Oil-rich Venezuela inks plans to curb spiraling emissions
SAO PAOLO, Aug 17 (Reuters Point Carbon) – Venezuela will
put in place next year a program to limit greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions across four sectors, including its vast petroleum
industry, the country’s top climate official said, a move some
green groups say could spur other oil-rich nations to act but
others say lacks detail.
“We want this to be an ambitious plan, with a special
emphasis on the energy sector,” Venezuela’s vice-minister for
foreign relations and chief climate negotiator, Claudia Salerno,
told Reuters Point Carbon.
Salerno said the government would tackle emissions from
Venezuela’s growing car fleet as well as from agriculture and
domestic appliances but ruled out imposing GHG reduction targets
and removing fossil fuel subsidies.
Local climate experts say the plan lacks detail and stands
little chance of being implemented in a country where people pay
less for gasoline than anywhere in the world.
Venezuela holds world’s largest oil reserves and spends more
than $2 billion dollars a year to subsidize 95 percent of
gasoline costs for its citizens, who pay on average the
equivalent of 8 U.S. cents per gallon.
But some green groups in Europe say Venezuela’s plans set a
good example for other oil-producing states that have refused in
the past to take steps to curb their carbon emissions.
Wendel Trio, director of Brussels-based coalition CAN
Europe, said the move might encourage other members of oil
producer cartel OPEC to rein in their emissions in a year that
Gulf state Qatar will host annual U.N. negotiations.
Over 100 countries have made U.N. pledges amounting to 3-6
billion tonnes of CO2 cuts by 2020, far below the 12-billion
level the U.N. Environment Programme says is needed to prevent
temperature rises expected to lead to flooding and droughts that
threaten to displace millions of people.
“Many OPEC members have never made commitments… we would
hope this would be the first of the group to recognize they also
have a responsibility for tackling climate change,” Trio said.
Venezuela’s greenhouse gas emissions in 1999 stood at 178
million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, according to the country’s
first and only national report on climate change published that
The energy sector accounted for 75 percent of the country’s
emissions, followed by agriculture (17 percent) and industrial
processes (5 percent).
Juan Carlos Sanchez, a professor at Universidad Central de
Venezuela in Caracas and a former member of the U.N.’s
scientific panel on climate change, said the government should
bear the brunt of cuts because it owns the biggest oil, cement,
steel and petrochemical companies that account for 60 percent of
“So far the government has showed no political will to
combat the problem, if it has the intention to do it in the
following years, it should start with an update of the national
report.” said Sanchez, a co-author of the 1999 document.
Sanchez recommended urgent actions the government should
include capturing gas flared while extracting oil, cutting
fossil fuel subsidies and modernizing public transport.
“Venezuela’s car fleet has increased a lot since 1999. Fuel
consumption has doubled and the increase in energy demand led to
the construction of thermoelectric power plants,” he said,
noting that GHG emissions have likely soared since then.
Some of the government’s climate proposals are included in a
document entitled Plan de la Patria, which sets objectives for a
possible new mandate for leftist President Hugo Chavez.
Chavez has led South America’s biggest oil exporter for 14
years and its seeking a new six-year term in presidential
elections on Oct. 6.
HARD TO IMPLEMENT
Fernando Morales, a climate change expert at the country’s
Universidad Simon Bolivar, said the proposals set by the
government in the Plan de la Patria “are no more than a set of
good wishes that have little or no chance of being implemented.”
“They (government) are talking about a ‘voluntary plan to
help the planet’. What does it mean? How do you measure it? Who
will finance it? Will it be sustainable?” he questioned.
Vice-minister Salerno said the government is still
discussing its GHG plans with major companies and is holding
She said the government is working on developing technology
to capture flared gas from oil production and will finance
programs to promote natural gas as a fuel source for cars.
The vice-minister reiterated her country’s longstanding
opposition to making use of carbon markets to help finance
emission reductions, which the government believes merely helps
to allow richer nations to avoid cutting their own carbon
“We are the only country in the world that never had a CDM
project,” said Salerno, referring to the U.N.’s Clean
Development Mechanism that allows industrialized nations to buy
carbon credits from carbon-cutting projects in the developing
(Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; additional reporting by Ben
Garside; editing by Valerie Volcovici)
August 17, 2012|Reuters