Climate of presidential elections in Argentina: What about climate change?

Two weeks after the Argentina choose a new political representative to govern it, climate change seems to only be felt in a spring that is not. Far from being the protagonist, it appears faintly on the agendas of the six candidates for the presidential chair.

While the world will be with an eye on what will happen in Paris, France, in December, before the signing of a new agreement defining the direction of the fight against climate change; the attention in Argentina will have another direction. It will be held no less than the transfer of the current government, under presidential mandate of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and the one elected on the elections to be held on Sunday October 25th.

After more than 10 years of the same political project, the upcoming elections may mean the continuity or the passage to a different proposal. Will the official candidate win in the first round? Is the voting will be necessary? What will happen to the country after the election? Questions of a moment that leaves many actors in suspense, waiting for the results of a new democratic elections for the country of football, “mate” and “tango”. With a winter that allowed to use short-sleeved shirts and a spring that invited to take a coat from the closet, with floods that take practically all to the neighbors of Lujan in the province of Buenos Aires; the six candidates who passed the initial stage of the Open, simultaneous and Compulsory Primary (PASO) take turns traveling to a TV studio to another, to discuss their proposals on security, education, health and economy. The big question is: what about climate change?

Far from being present on the proposals that the presidential candidates express daily, environmental issues in general and climate change in particular seems to appear only as part of their agendas to the question of the journalists specialized in these issues. Considering climate change as "the main enemy of Argentina", Daniel Scioli, the candidate for president by the Front for Victory (FPV), explains the steps he would face in becoming president: "The main objective is to adapt to its effects with more works, enabling us; while international agreements are those that will begin in earnest with mitigation".

With focus also on adaptation, the Green Team of Fundación Pensar, describes the look of the candidate of the Republican Proposal (PRO) and the alliance Cambiemos, Mauricio Macri: "Adaptation measures will be very different depending on which region concerned; it is not the same on the north, the Patagonia or the metropolitan area". Unlike these two agendas, the candidate for the Renewal Front and alliance UNA, Sergio Massa, seems to have another look; as expounded its responsible environmental area, Sergio Federovisky: "The main measure face would be the creation of a Federal Plan for Disaster Risk Mitigation from early diagnosis, risk map and action to take in each situation”. Adolfo Rodriguez Saá, candidate for the Alliance Federal Commitment has no doubts about the phenomenon: "Climate change is a problem that goes on, is not that will occur". The question is why these proposals only reach a specialized environment media and are not part of their daily statements. Does the environment and climate change matter in climate elections?

A topic of debate?

On Sunday October 4 there was a milestone in the history of democracy in Argentina: the first debate between presidential candidates took place. Despite the absence of official candidate Scioli, the exchange of proposals for agenda focused on economic and human development, education and childhood, security, and human rights and strengthening democracy. Again, what about climate change? It does not mean, it does not cover them all?

Margarita Stolbizer, candidate of the Progressive Alliance, was the one who made the only mention of the night to problems associated with the environment: the cyanide spill in San Juan, owned by the mining company Barrick Gold. A recent issue that the debate staged by the country's energy policy is currently based on the exploitation of conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons. "It is an environmental threat for multiple fractures at the level of bedrock, the possibility of highly carcinogenic fluid migration into the groundwater and natural gas leaks to the surface", says the candidate of the Left Front and Workers, Nicolas Del Caño, who denounced the method of fracking.

With a newly enacted Renewable Energy Law that aims to reach 8% of the national grid electricity from renewable sources by 2017, and 20% in 2025; the need to restructure the current energy system seems not to be a priority for something so vital for a country like a presidential election. Political marketing strategy? Disinterest if citizens? Lack of awareness of the media on the issue? Far from being on the daily agenda, climate change seems to be somewhat visible in presidential candidates issue, but potentially latent with its effects on the community. Perhaps as the Pope Francis said in his Encyclical Laudato Si': "For what do you want to preserve today a power that will be remembered for his inability to intervene when it was urgent and necessary?". Perhaps this should start by his place of origin: Argentina.

Tais Gadea Lara is environmental journalist and Climate Reality Leader, and guest author on Nivela. Follow her at @TaisGadeaLara

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