Introduction to Argentina

The eighth largest country in the world by land area, Argentina has a population of 46.2 million people1 , of which 8% is rural.2 Argentina's climate zones vary widely due to its diverse geography, ranging from humid subtropical climate in the north to cold semi-arid and desert climate in the south.3 The country has been witnessing increasingly severe extreme weather events, particularly storms, floods, drought, and wildfires. Argentina has a mixed economy, with the service sector contributing 53% to the GDP4 , followed by the industry and agriculture sector. The agriculture sector is vital for the economy employing over 3.6 million people5 , contributing 8% of the GDP6 , and making up over 50% of the country’s export revenue.7 In 2021, Argentina was the largest global exporter of soybean meal, soybean oil, and ground nuts.8 The country is home to South America’s second-largest forest, Gran Chaco, which is responsible for under 10% of the country's soy output but is experiencing 95% of soy-related deforestation.9 Contributing over 10% of Argentina’s revenue10 , the mining sector is primarily focused on gold, silver, and copper production. With the country holding the world's third-largest lithium reserve, the sector is experiencing rapid growth.11 The impact of the climate crisis on Argentina is exacerbated by the export-oriented agriculture sector established during the Spanish colonial period and the neocolonial extractive activities like mining.

Mapping Major Climate Events and Climate-Induced Displacement

Argentina is vulnerable to climate disasters, ranking 55 out of 180 countries in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.12 The major climate hazards experienced by the coastal nation are floods, storms, wildfires, drought, and extreme temperatures, which account for over 80 percent of the average annual hazard occurrence for 1980-2020.13 Between 1980 and 2000, the country experienced 10 years of flood with the number increasing to 17 between 2001 and 2020. In 2015 alone, floods affected 141,133 Argentines, while the number stood at 85,769 in 2015, and 350,000 in 2018.14 Between 2008 and 2022, 107 disaster events were reported in Argentina, amongst which floods displaced 138,000 people and storms displaced 9,300 people.15 In the wake of an intense heatwave in early 2022, Argentina faced unparalleled wildfires that engulfed nearly 2 million acres of land in its northern area, and devastated 9 percent of the Corrientes province that is heavily reliant on agriculture.16 Projected damages exceed $240 million, and it is anticipated that the province will require several years to recover.17 The disruption of agricultural activities, coupled with the resulting economic uncertainties, created significant challenges for small-scale farmers, farm laborers, and their families.

Mapping the Costs of the Climate Crisis

The GDP of Argentina is US$ 632.77 billion,18 with more than 37.3 percent of its population living below the national poverty line.19 The South American nation confronts a web of challenges resulting from climate impacts encompassing sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, and tourism. Projections indicate that by 2050, the nation's GDP could contract by a staggering 2.78% and by 2100, the estimates indicate a potential loss of 8.17% of GDP.20 Argentina is undergoing its most severe drought in six decades, worsening the economic crisis of the major grain-exporting nation.21 Farmers in the fertile Pampas region of Southern Argentina are anticipating losses of around $14 billion, as their output of soy, corn, and wheat is projected to decrease by approximately 50 million tonnes.22 Conflict for water between agriculture, livestock, and human needs is likely to exacerbate with prolonged and intense droughts, and the temperatures continuing to increase. Argentina is also uniquely confronted with significant risks due to climate change mitigation efforts, such as the increased utilization of clean energy technologies that rely on critical minerals. The demand for copper, which represents over half of the country's mineral exports revenue, is expected to triple by the year 2040, while the demand for lithium is projected to surge to over 13 times its current levels.23

Mapping Resilience and Mitigation Pathways

Argentina, constituting 0.59 percent of the world's population, is responsible for 0.5 percent of the global cumulative carbon dioxide emission.24 Argentina pledged to take action to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change by signing the Paris Agreement, with the aim of keeping emissions below 349 MtCO2e by the year 2030.25 Furthermore, the country has a target of achieving net zero by 2050. The sectors emphasized in its NDC for adaptation and resilience efforts include agriculture, disaster risk management, land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF). Argentina is set to bolster climate action planning and financing using a $500 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which will facilitate the creation of a sustainable financing framework to support private sector investments, foster circular economy initiatives, and drive decarbonization efforts.26 Furthermore, Argentina is spearheading noteworthy initiatives to address disaster-induced displacement. Although global recognition and protection of climate migrants' rights remain largely unrealized, Argentina created a special visa in 2022 designed to facilitate humanitarian access for residents displaced by natural disasters in 23 Latin American and Caribbean nations.27  

Necessary Changes

Argentina is demonstrating its commitment to attaining emissions reductions and carbon neutrality objectives through noteworthy endeavors in climate mitigation and adaptation. It is now critical for the global community to support the South American nation in a just transition that is inclusive of its underserved, low-income, and at-risk communities. Addressing the challenges posed by Gran Chaco's deforestation requires a combination of local efforts and international cooperation. By implementing sustainable land use practices, involving local communities, and receiving support from the international community, Argentina can work towards preserving this vital ecosystem and mitigating the impacts of soy-related deforestation. It is also critical for the global community to acknowledge and address the social and environmental repercussions associated with the extraction of minerals for global decarbonization efforts. Effective mechanisms should be established to safeguard the rights of vulnerable communities and ensure that the consequences of mineral extraction do not unfairly burden the countries that are most vulnerable. Finally, it is imperative for the Argentine government to shift its focus from extractive and environmentally destructive sectors, such as mining, and instead redirect its efforts towards fostering a sustainable, regenerative, and inclusive economy.