Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) countries continue to stride forward in addressing climate change, as exemplified by commitments made over the last several months. At the XX Forum of the Environmental Ministries of LAC, held in March 2016, all 33 countries adopted the Cartagena Declaration, representing a brand new engagement for regional climate cooperation, whilst without denying the different pathways to undertake actions and perform national priorities. Cartagena exemplifies the intent to improve cooperative behavior among the LAC countries as an essential pillar for taking action against climate change. It helps support decision making based on an updated Initiative for Sustainable Development (ILAC) by creating a Regional Cooperation Platform to advance mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, as well as to facilitate biodiversity protection, waste and chemical management, cut short-lived pollutants, and reinforce the 10-year framework of programs on sustainable consumption and production patterns (10YFP) and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
Similarly, in signing the Paris Agreement in April, all LAC countries, except for Nicaragua, Chile and Ecuador who did not sign, exhibited a common response to climate change. Barbados, Belize, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Guyana have even already ratified the Agreement.
Adoption of the Cartagena Declaration and the signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement are two political decisions representing unprecedented action for LAC counties, as the situation otherwise appears very fragmented based on the regional climate cooperation framework. Except for the Environmental Ministries Forum, the Economic Commission of LAC (ECLAC), and CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), in which all 33 countries participate, each belong to different groups of organizations (see box), some of which are entrusted also with arranging climate policies and projects.
Furthermore, the countries are even part of different negotiating blocs under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (see map).
Notwithstanding this lack of organization in region-wide coordination and cooperation on climate change, LAC countries share many goals and objectives in terms of the features they are looking for in international climate policies. First of all, LAC countries are dependent on financing from international donors such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund and the UN to carry out programs. Sharing the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” as developing countries not chargeable for the current global CO2 concentration level, LAC countries regularly ask for developed countries to intervene with financial aid.
Regarding mitigation, the main sectors addressed in LAC countries are energy and forestry. Endowed with about 22% of the world’s forests, LAC countries house numerous climate mitigation projects related to stopping deforestation and protecting the environment and biodiversity (e.g. REDD+).
In addition, as part of the Americas, they find broad support from the United States. Looking back at Obama’s Climate Action Plan and activated projects (e.g. low-emissions development, LEDs, or the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas), there is some history of cooperation based mainly on financial support directed towards clean and efficient energy, and energy access. This is due to the wide potential individuated in the LAC countries in terms of renewable energy resource availability. The United States’ commitment to supporting LAC countries has been recently reiterated at the May 2016 US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit, where the White House, in cooperation with other international partners, pledged to provide several millions of dollars in additional funding to endorse plans for energy security, access and efficiency, as well as regional energy integration and renewable clean energy production.
Along with mitigation, various national or regional cooperative policies in the LAC countries are directed towards the chief urgency of adaptation. All of the 33 countries are severely threatened by climate change impacts and are considered highly vulnerable. While LAC countries count for less than 10% of global GHG emissions, they are exposed to climate repercussions, in particular those that affect Small Islands Developing States. In fact, all of the LAC countries’ INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC ahead of COP21 in Paris (with the exception of Nicaragua, the only LAC country not to submit an INDC) include a section regarding adaptation as the main priority, though this paragraph was not compulsory. Moreover, all LAC countries have already or are in process of developing National Adaptation Plans. Partners including the World Bank, the European Union and the United States are diverting their financing even towards climate risk insurance to support climate action in LAC countries.
As LAC countries continue to progress their climate agendas with commitments to international agreements including the Cartagena Declaration and the Paris Agreement, climate policies remain primarily focused on energy and forestry measures, benefiting from the availability of renewable resources and the strong potential for mitigation, and are upheld by donors’ money. Meanwhile, adaptation remains the cornerstone for future actions.
This article was first published on ICCG’s International Climate Policy Magazine n. 41.
(Image: Kaieteur Falls from the air, Potaro-Siparuni region, Guyana, 2012. Photo credit: Allan Hopkins/Flickr).