The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes part in the UN meeting on water, energy, biodiversity, and health

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes part in the UN meeting on water, energy, biodiversity, and health

This month in New York was held the event “The role of private industry in support of the SDGs in the areas of water, energy, biodiversity and health”, organized by the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- and the Organization of United Nations.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is part of the Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions established in 2018 by the United Nations. “Asazgua is a central partner in the global network” said Mr. Minoru Takada of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the opening of the event.

The activity was carried out in a hybrid way (face-to-face and virtual) in two sessions on industry and biodiversity; and sustainable development and health. It was attended by 11 exhibitors and with the participation of more than 180 people from countries such as Brazil, Burundi, Guatemala, Spain, the United States, among others.

It was attended by Oliver Hillel from the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, who highlighted that the active work of economic leaders around the world is needed to reverse the loss of biodiversity.

Efforts of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to achieve the SDGs

Efforts of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to achieve the SDGsDuring his speeches, Alfredo Vila, president of the Latin American Sugar Producers Association -UNALA- and the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- explained that the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has implemented systems for the efficient use of water, renewable energy, and care of the soil, and has been recognized as an international benchmark in good practices and recognized due to its work into achieving the SDGs.

Luis Miguel Paiz, CEO of Asazgua, spoke about the contributions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals -SDGs- and during his speech he referred to the development programs promoted by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, such as the empowerment of women, social investment, and the fortification of sugar with Vitamin “A” to prevent childhood blindness, among others.

Similarly, Alex Guerra, CEO of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- spoke about the work carried out by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry together with the UNDP, communities and local governments in forest restoration and protection. “The integration of efforts from different sectors is key to achieving real and impactful results,” highlighted Guerra.

Alex Guerra, CEO of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research
Alex Guerra, CEO of ICC

Another of the lecturers was the mayor of the municipality of Escuintla, Mr. Abraham Rivera, who presented the joint work with the Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-, an example of how the Sugar Industry and the local government work together for the benefit of the people. “One of the most important alliances we have had has been with Fundazucar for the transfer and implementation of the Better Families program, a program that is generating changes in the communities and is helping us fight malnutrition,” Rivera commented.

UN Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network

In 2018, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs created the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, which is chaired by Asazgua. This global network aims to meet the sustainable development goals -ODS- number 6 (clean water and sanitation) and number 7 (ensure access to sustainable, reliable, and modern energy for all).

Asazgua is considered a key partner to contribute to the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda since it is an active member, with experiences and practical cases that are considered as an example of private sector participation, necessary for sustainable development.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry actively participates in the UN Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry actively participates in the UN Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda establishes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a total of 169 goals and 230 related global indicators designed to stimulate concrete actions until 2030.

In order to comply with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, in 2018 the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs created the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions with links between the sustainable development goals -ODS- number 6 (water and sanitation) and number 7 (Ensuring access to sustainable, reliable and modern energy for all) with multiple stakeholders from all regions including Guatemala with the participation of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- (https://www.un.org/en/water-energy-network/page/members).

The 2030 Agenda proposes that, in order to achieve Sustainable Development, it is important not only to include the economic, social and environmental axes but to go a little further, and that is why the agenda proposes five fundamental dimensions on which to base it: people, planet, prosperity, peace and alliances. These dimensions are present in its objectives and goals, which work in an integrated and indivisible way to address the challenges in a global way and so that they can be applied universally, always with an objective vision of the different realities, capacities and levels of development of actors at the national, regional or local level, as well as at the business, academic or social level.

The Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, works with the vision of a world in which there is an equitable and sustainable use and management of water and energy resources for all, in support of human well-being, the integrity of ecosystems and a strong and inclusive economy under the umbrella of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The objective of the Network is to provide a global platform for all stakeholders to improve their capacities and signal their high-level commitment to the integrated approach of SDG6 and SDG7 to support the implementation of the SDGs by fulfilling the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations to mobilize at all levels, global, local, and social. For this reason, Asazgua has taken the initiative and, as always, has taken a step forward working hand in hand with the Network to share its experiences and the projects developed.

For this reason, a series of activities and publications have been carried out to create spaces for dialogue to share best practices and experiences on water-energy interrelationships and their contributions to other SDGs and reinforce capacity building, focusing on planning, the design, implementation and monitoring of policies, regulations, business models and investments to effectively manage the interlinkages between water and energy.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has forced us to make unforeseen changes in our lives, but it has given us the opportunity to analyze the need to improve and share knowledge and experiences, since the time to act is now, which is why the actions of the Network have not stopped and have been carried out virtually. Below, we present the main activities in which the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association has participated.

On September 24th, 2021, a side event on the “Energy Pact of the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions” was held in the framework of the High-Level Dialogue on Energy. This event showcased the three participating organizations of the Network with voluntary commitments: The Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association –Asazgua, – Itaipu Binacional and Canal de Isabel II, which was presented by the Under Secretary of the United Nations Mr. Liu Zhenmin. During the event, the commitments of the three institutions were presented and discussed and they explained how they support the transformative paths in energy and water and expanded actions supporting the objectives to face climate change.

Months ago, in June, the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association and the Spanish water company of the Community of Madrid, Canal de Isabel II, each undertook to expand their electricity generation to cover 100% of their electricity demand with 100% clean renewable sources by 2030.

In addition, Asazgua promised to meet at least 30% of Guatemala’s electricity demand during the three dry months of the year through renewable energy, increase ethanol production for transportation by 20%, and develop a new way of bioenergy from biowaste.

In June, the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, in cooperation with its member Asazgua, brought together multiple stakeholders to discuss and showcase existing initiatives and disseminate information on bioenergy. This event was moderated by Jinlei Feng, IRENA Program Officer, and had the participation of Mr. Ivan Vera, UNDESA Advisor and a panel of experts made up of representatives of the Government of the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil, IIASA, UNICA in Brazil and Canal of Isabel II in Spain, all shared experiences on integrated water and energy solutions related to bioenergy.

Likewise, Asazgua participated in various events on sustainable water and energy solutions to address climate change during the Decade of Action. At the central event, world leaders discussed the interrelationships and interdependence of the water and energy sector and showcased existing initiatives to accelerate the adoption of integrated water and energy solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Last November during the COP26 side event: Sustainable water and energy solutions that support climate change objectives during the Decade of Action and beyond, there was participation and presentation of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-.

Among the results obtained is the preparation of the report on sustainable water and energy solutions to address climate change with the collaboration of Asazgua, which aims to disseminate the debate of experts and public policies on sustainable water and energy solutions that address climate change in order to facilitate the exchange of information, improve local, national and international cooperation and stimulate collaborative development actions that “leave no one behind” in terms of water supply and sanitation, access to sustainable energy and protection against possible negative impacts of climate change. https://www.un.org/en/water-energy-network/page/new-and-events

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry adopts actions to optimize water

Water cooling system Guatemalan Sugar

In the production of sugar, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has implemented new technologies and processes, both in the cultivation of sugar cane and in industrial activities, to reduce its consumption of water.

Water cooling system Guatemalan SugarGuatemala is a country with high vulnerability to the effects of Climate Change and agriculture is one of the sectors most affected by climatic variations. That is why the Sugar Industry has implemented more efficient irrigation systems, which use less water and apply only the amount of the vital liquid that the plant needs.

Likewise, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has invested in systems for the reuse of water in the sugar mills. The water used in the manufacturing process is taken to a cooling system; since it comes out at high temperature, where after being cooled it returns to the factory, through a recirculation system, to be used again.

The Water Footprint of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

According to a study carried out by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- the water footprint of the Guatemalan sugar cane crop for the 2019-2020 zafra was estimated at 110.35 m3 of water per ton of sugar cane, where the Irrigation water represented 21% of the total water footprint. Rainwater represented 73% of the total water footprint.

Guatemalan Sugar irrigation systemEach ton of sugar cane produced in Guatemala uses 47% less water than the cane produced worldwide, whose results may be related especially to the high sugar cane yields per hectare that the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has achieved.

Of the crops that are most produced worldwide, sugar cane is the one with the smallest water footprint. In addition, the  experts of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center -Cengicaña- have developed a mobile application to optimize the use of irrigation water in sugarcane called Cengiriegos, which allows only the water it needs to be applied to the plant.

The carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar is one of the lowest internationally

The carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar is one of the lowest internationally

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, committed to the sustainable management of the environment and the mitigation of climate change, has made efforts in its production processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; as a result, the carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar is one of the lowest internationally.

The carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar for the 2019-2020 harvest was estimated at 0.33kg of CO2eq for each kilogram of sugar produced, which is among the lowest in relation to others worldwide, according to the Emissions Inventory Study of Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Footprint of Guatemalan Sugar by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-.

ICC experts carried out an inventory of emissions generated by the burning of sugarcane biomass in the field, use of nitrogen fertilizers and other fertilizers and agricultural inputs, change of use and land cover, use of fuels for agricultural and transport activities, generation of electricity for internal consumption, consumption of electrical energy from the national interconnected system, inputs for industrial processes and industrial wastewater.

The result of this balance, between what we emit, fix, and avoid is the carbon footprint. Guatemalan Sugar has a footprint of “0.33kg CO2eq / kg sugar” (0.33 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of sugar), it is a very small footprint compared to other foods and to other sugar-producing countries in the world.

For example, our carbon footprint is lower than that of producers in the United States, the European Union, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, among others. This means that the Guatemalan Sugar production process is more environmentally friendly.

Guatemalan Sugar gallery forests

It is important to mention that there are activities that generate emissions, but there are also activities that reduce or avoid them; for example, when cane grows, it absorbs or stores CO2 from the environment, which it needs to grow. The Guatemalan Sugar Industry also has natural forests that store 1,415,638 tons of CO2 equivalent.

Likewise, the generation of energy with the bagasse or biomass of the cane prevents up to 4 million tons of CO2 from reaching the environment per year, since it uses a renewable resource and not fossil fuels such as mineral coal. In the Zafra season, the Sugar Industry supplies around 30% of the energy that the country uses, this renewable energy.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has planted 5.9 million trees to recover forests

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation Program

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has planted 5.9 million trees from 2011 to date, as part of their reforestation plan in areas such as riverbanks and the upper part of the hydrographic basins, to improve the river’s water recharge capacity, and to transform the areas into biological corridors and also to contribute to the recovery and conservation of flora and fauna.

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation program

The Reforestation Program, implemented by the Sugar Mills through the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-, has among its priorities the recovery and conservation of the hydrographic basins of the rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean, in the face of climate change.

The program, in addition to recovering wetlands, water sources and riverbanks, has a factor of community involvement and support, since all the trees come from over a hundred local nurseries managed by the communities.

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation Program

In 2020 the Guatemalan Sugar Industry planted more than 818,000 trees, and in each region, native species are planted for conservation, energy and timber purposes, among them the species, Matilisguate, Puntero, Volador, Cedar, Mahogany, Palo Blanco, Mother Cacao and Plumillo.

The forest coverage study of the National Institute of Forests (INAB, 2019) reveals that between 2010 and 2016 forest coverage increased in the departments of the south of Guatemala in 37,857 hectares, equivalent to more than 25,800 soccer fields.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry joins the Alliance for Water

Alliance for Water

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to the care and conservation of the environment. That is why, through the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-, joined the Alliance for Water in Guatemala.

Water is an essential resource for human life, as well as for agricultural and industrial processes. The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has joined the Alliance for Water with the aim of supporting the construction of a national scenario that promotes the integral management of water resources.

The Alliance for Water is a work platform that seeks to contribute to water security, promoting dialogue and joint participation of different actors and sectors of the country, consolidating a common agenda in favor of better water management.

The Alliance was constituted in its beginnings by five institutions: The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the University of the Valley of Guatemala (UVG), the Private Institute for Climate Change Research (ICC) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The lines of action of the alliance are:

  • Good governance of water resources
  • Public policy for sustainable water management
  • Research and information
  • Awareness and training
  • Financial mechanisms

In this way, the desired objective of building and implementing a national agenda around water can be achieved, making it a source of well-being, health, progress, and peace for each inhabitant of Guatemala.