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In the face of severe drought, Panama Canal to invest $8.5B in climate resilience

  • In the face of severe drought, Panama Canal to invest $8.5B in climate resilience

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The Panama Canal Authority has unveiled in a recent press release an ambitious plan to invest over $8.5 billion in sustainability projects over the next five years, signaling a proactive stance against climate change effects.

“We plan to embed sustainability into capital investments worth over $8.5 billion in the next five years, surpassing the $5.4 billion required by the Panama Canal Expansion Program.”

This substantial investment dwarfs the $5.4 billion cost of the Panama Canal Expansion, marking a pivotal moment in the Canal's history. The urgency is underscored by a severe drought crippling the waterway's capacity.

In 2023, the Canal's Gatun reservoir faced a daily deficit of about three million cubic meters due to scant rainfall compounded by El Niño effects and various factors like evaporation and human consumption. This prompted the Canal Authority to slash daily ship transits and impose draft restrictions on cargo ships.

Following record dry spells, transit reductions were planned, but improved rainfall allowed a preservation of 24 daily transits until the end of the dry season in April.

The bulk of the investment, $3.5 billion, will enhance infrastructure and equipment, including solar panels and electric vehicles. Another $2 billion will fund new sustainability initiatives, with $2 billion more for a comprehensive water management system. Over a billion dollars will bolster digital transformation and decarbonization efforts.

This colossal investment is part of a broader sustainability strategy aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Collaborating with the World Bank and IFC, the Canal Authority is finalizing a Greenhouse Gas emissions inventory and preparing for aggressive emissions reduction targets.

“The Panama Canal aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with global goals. To meet this target, we will pursue meaningful action and engagement, working with the entire maritime value chain to create an enabling environment for climate resilient operations and development.”

This initiative coincides with the appointment of the Canal's inaugural Chief Sustainability Officer, emphasizing the Canal Authority's commitment to sustainability.

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