The río turbio coal mine project. Photo via Clarin

In December 2015, Argentina was one of the almost 200 countries that took part in the drafting of the Paris agreement, where the nations that later ratified the instrument made committed to take measures to reduce their carbon emissions in the near future, and in doing so reduce the effects of climate change as much as possible.

However, the head of Greenpeace in Argentina, Martín Prieto, assures that there’s a large difference between the commitment the government made back then and what it’s actually doing about it at the moment. In an interview with The Bubble, Prieto said that Argentina has a “double moral standard” when it comes to the environment — especially because of its intention to move forward with the construction of a coal plant in the city of Río Turbio — assured that it’s “inexplicable” why the country wastes all its potential to exploit different sources of renewable energy and criticized its policy regarding glaciers and forests.

“The Argentine government has a double moral standard when it comes to climate [change]. On the one hand, Argentina joins these voluntary commitments within the Paris agreement. It says ‘I’m going to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases but moves on with the project to build a coal plant in Río Turbio. In the Budget Bill of 2017 there’s a very significant amount of money destined to move forward with that project,” Prieto began.

He continued: “while the world is discussing how to shut down plants that generate energy by burning coal, Argentina moves forwards with one of them. Moreover, the country also places extremely high expectations in Vaca Muerta, which has fields of non-conventional oil and gas, which again clashes with what the countries need to do to prevent climate change from getting out of control.”

Prieto went on to say that the government’s decision to continue with this project is “inexplicable,” as it could be taking advantage of all renewable energy sources in the country, especially in both Patagonia and the Northern region of the country.

“In Patagonia, Argentina can generate as much energy through wind farms as it wants. It doesn’t have any restrictions, no limits. And the Northern region of the country has many hours of sunlight, which can generate energy through solar panels. There’s no explanation whatsoever about why Argentina chooses to keep that plant in Río Turbio. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

In his last official visit to China, President Mauricio Macri got the Xi Jinping administration to finance the construction of two nuclear power plants, a project that will cost US $12 billion, and a much smaller project to harness solar energy in the Province of Jujuy for US $600 million.

Moreover, Prieto went into detail on the way numerous concessions the government makes to the mining industry and agribusinesses affect the environment. About the mining sector, he said: There’s a trend that started in the [Carlos] Menem administration, and that is to encourage investments in the mining sector in Argentina and to do so at the expense of the environment. The Barrick Gold case in the Veladero mine revealed the environmental risk these kinds of activities have, which is inherent to mining, and not just an accident.”

As for the way in which agribusinesses put the forests in peril, he said: “Argentina had very large forests, but they have receded at the hands of the expansion of agribusinesses, basically soy production. They have been taken down in order to produce more of it. What was a very important source of biodiversity — on the one hand, fauna, on the other one communities that lived in harmony with the forest — is today an ocean of soy. The disappearance of forests and the appearance of the ocean of soy in Argentina has to be tied with the issue of climate change,” he argued.

Finally, Prieto warned about the effects of not having a responsible environmental policy: “There’ll be more droughts. Floods like the ones we have been having, like the ones we have right now. A good part of the Argentine country is underwater. Glaciers are melting and will continue to do so, and this will affect regional economies. Argentina is a country that depends on its agricultural development. And that development will be seriously affected by the effects of climate change.”