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Climate Hero: Uruguay

Twenty years ago, this South American country burned oil to produce almost a third of its electricity and had to import power from Argentina. Since then its eco-credentials have been transformed.

The change came between 2008 and 2015 under former presidents Tabaré Vázquez and José Mujica, who wanted to reduce costs and make energy more affordable. Last year, Uruguay ranked fourth in the world for the proportion of electricity it supplies from wind and solar.

The International Energy Agency said the country’s 36 percent share was behind only a handful of European countries, namely Denmark (50 percent), Lithuania (41 percent) and Luxembourg (37 percent). If hydro-power is added, Uruguay leaps ahead of them all with 97 percent.

This is a fantastic transition, and it's interesting to note that this was achieved by a proactive state rather than a big-spending one. Government encouraged investors by promising fixed feed-in tariffs and stable policies. As a result, over US$7bn poured into the sector, helping Uruguay to reduce its emissions by 20%. Furthermore, droughts have been scarcer because the grid is less dependent on hydro-power.

Asad Rehman of the Global Green New Deal Campaign said the success of Uruguay’s transition reflects an ideal balance of social and climate priorities. “It is not just about carbon, but also cutting energy prices and tackling energy poverty. Social justice is an imperative.”


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