Latin American Exports and Climate-Change Related Standards

29 January 2015 Category: Topical Review

Agriculture and international transport account for a significant share of green-house gas emissions and these sectors are likely to be affected by climate-change related requirements in industrialized countries. Given that Latin America is an important provider of agro-food products (36% of US agricultural imports in 2014), measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of products (embedded carbon) is a key element to avoid facing the so-called “green protectionism” of industrialized markets.

Some net food-exporting countries in Latin America have begun to take into account environmental standards and include them in their production and export strategies, in order to avoid facing entry barriers and losing market share. Often, on international markets, embedded carbon of imported goods is not higher than that of locally produced goods.

Furthermore, environmental concerns by consumers and governments go hand-in-hand with a growing awareness by business of the need to take into consideration their carbon footprint in order both to make their production patterns more energy efficient, and enhance their business and environmental sustainability.

To turn environmental standards into a positive agenda of climate change, public and private actors involved in export development need joint efforts to:

  • Increase their knowledge of non-tariff barriers such as carbon and environmental footprint standards and traceability.
  • Incorporate and put into practice methodologies for measuring and reducing their environmental footprint.
  • Adapt their production patterns to improve international competitiveness and ensure sustained market access by complying with import requirements and non-tariff environmental barriers.
  • Rethink their production patterns to enhance their business strategies and sustainable management.
  • Participate in the definition of international environmental standards (e.g. EU Product Environmental Footprint Pilot Program).

From both an environmental and business perspective, these projects:

  • Can contribute directly to emissions reduction and environmental sustainability
  • Help to differentiate and brand environmentally-friendly export products
  • Improve market access and competitiveness

Measuring and reducing the carbon footprint associated with production and exports of agro-food products is an opportunity for export firms to improve their image and avoid losing access in key destination markets, as well as a means to identify and address inefficiencies in their own production processes and value chains. This can lead to quality and efficiency gains such as reducing energy consumption, optimizing logistics and distribution, and overall cost reductions and improved competitiveness. In sum, such an approach can turn environmental requirements into a positive agenda in which both industrialized and developing countries can benefit from climate-change related concerns.