The small Socialist state has a lot to teach world leaders gathering in Paris for the climate conference.
Under the Premiership of the heroic but humble Jose Mujica, the small South American country has managed to lower its electricity costs while still investing in clean energy – and all without the need for government subsidies (unlike the dirty oil and gas industry).
Mujica, who finished his term in office last March, is well known for his simple lifestyle and the fact he donated 90% of his salary to charity and small businesses. Before Mujica, Uruguay’s President was Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas, who has once again taken office since Mujica’s term ended.
Both men have socialist ideals and belong to the ‘broad front’ political party (a coalition made up of various leftist groups). Both have fought for social and environmental justice, turning words into policies that work.
Uruguay’s chief renewable is wind power, but solar, biomass, and hydropower are also key components of this green machine. Uruguay’s director of energy, Ramón Méndez, Uruguay’s Energy secretary, has said that using renewable energy has meant fewer power cuts. As if that weren’t enough, The Guardian reports how Méndez “has gone to this week’s UN talks with one of the world’s most ambitious national pledges: an 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017 compared with the average for 2009-13.’
Speaking of how easy it is to switch your country to a greener plan, Mendez said:
“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business. The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”
The country is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, and first for press freedom, size of the middle class, prosperity, and security. Some of its finest achievements include contributing more troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions than any other country, legalizing cannabis, abortion, and same-sex marriage, and being the most socially developed, inclusive and tolerant. Uruguay also ranks high on economic freedom, income equality, per capita income, GDP growth, innovation, and infrastructure. It is regarded as a high-income country by the UN, the only one in Latin America.’
But while Uruguay’s green achievements deserved to be celebrated along with the rest, it might be futile to hope that the neocon leaders currently meeting in Paris to discuss the Earth’s future will pay anything more than lip service to this shining example. Nothing will change until Capitalism changes, and not putting profit over people is what makes Uruguay so different.
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