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Ecuador has begun work on a series of reforms aimed at decarbonizing its economy, and the country as a whole. With technical support from AFD, it is carrying out extensive cost-benefit analyses to determine the long-term ramifications of its national plan, which will set the South American country on a course to significantly reduce its carbon emissions. An expert in modelling scenarios shares his thoughts of Ecuador’s plan.

Ecuador’s National Climate Change Mitigation Plan (Planmicc), which is reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, aims to meet the country’s national and international commitments as a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and a signatory to the Paris Agreement

With technical support from AFD, the plan aligns its policies for tackling climate change with long-term development planning, and will require reforms across a wide range of economic sectors, from energy, industry and agriculture to land use and waste management. The move is prompting a national debate on possible ways of building a more inclusive, low-carbon society that adheres to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, MAATE, is working with experts from Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the University of Costa Rica, who have devised scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conducted cost-benefit analyses in relation to their implementation.

We caught up with Jairo Quirós, a PhD in electric energy and power systems at the University of Manchester in England, to discuss the modelling of these scenarios in Ecuador. Quirós is an expert in energy planning and the development of long-term low-carbon strategies. He is also a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, UN and the 2050 Pathways Platform.

What is decarbonization and could you describe the model developed by Ecuador?

Jairo Quirós: Decarbonization is the process of reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. It is an opportunity for our country to restructure the economy, creating more resilient models with significant benefits from a socio-economic perspective. The PLANMICC is based on evaluations of the energy, agricultural, USCUSS, industrial and waste management sectors; the model was designed to answer “What would happen if...?” type scenarios. It assesses what would happen were the country to switch to 100% electric vehicles by 2050. The model uses the OSeMOSYS platform (Open Source energy Modeling SYStem), which was developed by a community of researchers. This is a free, open, flexible and transparent tool that has already been used in a number of countries.

Why was the OSeMOSYS model chosen for Ecuador?

J. Q.:  One of the main reasons was the experience of our partners from Costa Rica using the OSeMOSYS platform. Similar tools have been developed for Peru and Guatemala. In 2021, a model of the electricity sector was developed for Latin America and the Caribbean using this same platform.

Another feature is that it is interoperable with other tools, allowing you to share data and knowledge. We saw this in Costa Rica, where it was used in conjunction with a general equilibrium model developed by Costa Rica’s central bank. Another benefit of the tool is that it is subject to regular updates and maintenance. Its structure allows you to explore the impact of uncertainty and to plan ahead while factoring in risk management. These features are vital when it comes to developing a robust decision-making method, which we used for the Ecuador Plan.

See also: Ecuador: “Bioeconomy: an economy for life”

What are the challenges facing Ecuador in meeting the long-term targets outlined in the plan?

J. Q.:  The Plan will enable Ecuador to introduce transformation processes with clear objectives in the short, medium and long-term. These objectives can serve as a guide for low-carbon economic development.

There will be a number of challenges in implementing the plan: challenges of a political, technological, social and financial nature. From a political perspective, the plan must be maintained even as the visions of different governments change. It has to be institutionalized. The technological challenges chiefly relate to the availability of the technology that will facilitate such a transformation. At a social level, the challenge will lie in gaining acceptance for the plan. From a financial perspective, the challenge will be the high cost of implementation and seeking out the funding needed to make these transformations.

Through the MAATE and its project PLANMICC we are seeking to build a strategy that will make it possible to plan in uncertain circumstances, while ensuring the country benefits as much as possible. The methodology employed makes it possible to identify uncertainty and anticipate the risks and challenges inherent to planning for low-carbon development for Ecuador between now and 2050.

Ecuador is preparing decarbonization scenarios to be debated at workshops and round tables in the coming months.