As climate change solutions become more pressing and natural disasters shift from a threat to a promise, countries are lining up their environmental policies, from investing in renewables to cutting emissions and protecting ecosystems.
Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index ranked 178 countries on two general objectives: environmental health—or protecting human health from harms such as bad air or water quality—and ecosystem vitality, including energy and emissions policies, protection of natural resources, and regulation of activities like agriculture. Among Latin American countries, Chile scored the highest, landing at 29 in the index’s world ranking. Paraguay is at the other end of the spectrum, coming in at number 133 worldwide.
The world is now producing renewable energy at an industrial scale, with developing countries leading the greatest growth in investment. For example, Brazil invested $7.6 billion in renewable energy in 2014, making it in the top 10 countries spending the most on green energy. Wind energy has attracted by far the most investment in Latin America, attracting approximately $36.5 billion from 2006 to 2012. Small hydropower technologies are the second-most attractive sector with $16.8 billion during the same time frame. These helped the region generate around 817.4 billion kilowatt hours in total renewable electricity in 2012, up from 748.6 billion kilowatt hours in 2008. (An average U.S. home consumes about 10,908 kilowatt hours a year).
On Earth Day, AS/COA Online looks into how the Americas fare when it comes to supporting policies to protect the environment and reduce emissions.