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Versión Español | August 2013


Energy-Efficient Transport in Central America

Participating panelists of the Central American seminar in Guatemala City.As one of the most urbanized regions, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) faces major challenges to provide efficient transport systems in its cities. Every day, millions of people in the region begin their day fighting the growing traffic congestion, pollution and contamination of their cities. Fortunately, there are several examples of cities that have succeeded in addressing this challenge through mass transit solutions that improve the quality of life of citizens and foster sustainable development.

On August 6 and 7, 2013, Guatemala City hosted the "II Seminar on Innovation, Science and Technology for the Energy-Efficient Development of Central America", where over 120 international experts and regional participants, including representatives of government, civil society, academia and service providers shared ideas designed to promote greater energy efficiency in transport. The Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy of Guatemala, Edwin Rodas, opened the event inviting participants to "learn from successful examples from other countries and to lead our region towards greater energy efficiency in transport" he also noted that "this is the type of action that can help us meet the challenges posed by climate change".

This activity of the Working Group on Energy Efficiency of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) was organized by the Sustainable Development Department of OAS-SEDI, which serves as the Clearinghouse Mechanism for ECPA. Other supporting institutions included the Universidad Rafael Landivar, venue of the seminar, the National Commission for the Efficient Use of Energy (CONUEE), the International Centre for Theoretical Physics Abdus Salam and the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala.

The topics covered during the seminar included energy savings and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Presentations elaborated on how increased transport efficiency implies reducing the distances traveled by car, promoting development patterns that foster higher levels of vehicle occupancy and facilitating mixed-use infrastructure, among others. In urban areas, emphasis was placed on the importance of promoting mass transit, highlighting the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) model, which has experienced a marked growth worldwide as an effective solution that combines sustainability, energy efficiency and an adequate cost-benefit ratio.

Transmetro, BRT system of Guatemala City.Guatemala City, where the Transmetro system successfully operates since 2007, was an ideal place for the meeting. Transmetro - which follows a BRT model - offers more than 215,000 daily trips and has exclusive lanes, police and customer service staff. Furthermore, the system is integrated with Transurbano, which is implemented by the National Government of Guatemala. ECPA guest expert Jeffrey Soule, noted that among Latin American examples, this program must be counted as one of the most effective: “already successful, the program has been accomplished with modest funding, recycled equipment and low fares”.

The development of rail transport systems was also addressed, with presentations by the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (INCOFER) and the Universidad Tecnológica of Panama. Finally, the experience of the Mesoamerica Project was presented, a mechanism for dialogue and coordination that supports efforts of cooperation, development and integration between Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, countries that together represent 215 million people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$1,600 million. In transport, the Mesoamerica Project aims to facilitate the internal and external connectivity of the economies of the region by improving infrastructure and transport services and the integration and harmonization of pertinent laws and regulations.

Beyond the seminar
In the working groups, representatives of regional institutions committed to advancing high-impact regional initiatives:
- The National Commission for the Efficient Use of Energy (CONUEE), Ministry of Energy of Mexico, will create a training course on economic and technical management of cargo and passenger transport.
- The Tecnológico of Costa Rica (TEC) will develop a manual of best practices based on scientific and technological criteria for the selection of equipment.
- The Universidad Tecnológica of Panama (UTP) offered to facilitate the development of virtual training courses on management and planning for land use and transportation.
- The International Center for Theoretical Physics Abdus Salam offered its virtual platform for scientific collaboration "iSHARE" for conducting these courses.

Through the ECPA, OAS-SEDI will continue to support and monitor efforts of the Working Groups and member States to promote clean energy, advance energy security, fight energy poverty, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a sustainable Americas.

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