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Could Uruguay's renewable energy surge be a model for climate change action?




Photo by Chandra Masorno

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Nations from around the world are meeting in Lima, Peru this week in the latest gathering on climate change.

Their aim is to come up with a plan that could pave the way for next year's UN-backed conference in Paris.

The challenges are huge.

But weary diplomats could learn a lesson or two from nearby Uruguay and its record on renewable energy.

The South American country draws on renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to power more than 80 percent of its electricity needs, said journalist Anahi Aradas, who recently spoke with Uruguay's energy minister about the program.

"The winds coming from the Antarctic with the hot currents coming from the Amazon makes it a perfect place to have a lot of wind for turbines," said Aradas.

Uruguay embarked on a 25-year energy plan about a decade ago with the goal of becoming energy independent. This was driven primarily by economic concerns, said Aradas, as the country lacks its own oil or gas reserves. With just over 3 million people, the small country may not be comparable to other nations, but Uruguay's success could offer a view of what's possible for diplomats meeting in Lima as they try to forge a climate change pact.

"We have the technology," said Aradas. "Maybe what is needed now is political will."