Bridging local and global climate action in Latin America

Latin America is as diverse in geography, wildlife, culture and politics as any region on Earth, yet when it comes to climate change, its countries face similar challenges. The impacts of climate disruptions are already felt across the region and the urgency for countries to transition toward a low-carbon path is mounting. Countries in Latin America are at a development crossroads and the decisions they make today will shape the region tomorrow. For example, Mexico and Chile have the potential to lead in renewable energy development, but must prioritize these options over fossil fuels. Forest-rich nations such as Peru can play a critical role in the fight against tropical deforestation while preserving natural resources and ecosystems that support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. To do so requires effectively shielding its forests from growing demand for commodities and from extractive industries. COP 20 in Lima is Latin America’s moment – a chance for the region to firmly step toward a low-carbon future. NRDC is co-hosting a side event at the COP this week with Brown University and Nivela, and with the support of the Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental that will explore actions countries are already taking on climate change and what more they can do going forward. 

Numerous countries in the region have already pledged emission reduction targets and other measures to help fight the global climate crisis. For example, just a few days ago a coalition of eight nations pledged to restore 20 million hectares – roughly the size of Uruguay – of degraded forests by 2020. This type of headline-grabbing international leadership is commendable and inspiring, but it’s critical for it to translate into concrete action on the ground. During and after the Lima COP, governments in the region need to evaluate whether their national policies are helping, or hindering, attempts to move toward a low-carbon future. The side event will explore how well policies and efforts at the national level reflect global climate commitments.  We’ve invited experts from governments and civil society from Brazil, Chile. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru to gather and discuss issues related to cities, energy and forests. The event “Can Latin America achieve convergence between domestic and international climate efforts post 2020?” is scheduled for this Thursday, December 11th at 4:45 pm -6:15 pm in Room Paracas. See here for full details about the event, including invited panelists. If you’re in Lima come by and join us for the discussion. You can also follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #LACC2020

Here’s just a brief snapshot of where some of the countries featured at the event are in terms of climate commitments announced in previous years and some key policies and programs at the national level:



In 2012, Mexico became the first developing country to pass a General Climate Change Law, positioning itself as a climate leader in the region and the world. The law set a clean energy generation target of 35% by 2024 and established a non-binding, economy-wide goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. More recently Mexico passed a carbon tax of approximately $US 3.5/tCO2e that applies to fossil fuels based on their carbon content (excluding natural gas, however). These are all positive steps, yet this year when Mexico embarked on a historic reform of its energy sector it failed to explicitly incorporate its emission reduction and energy generation targets into the reform’s secondary legislation. This was a missed opportunity to start mainstreaming its international commitments into its national policy framework.



Chile has pledged to achieve a 20 percent reduction below ‘business as usual’ emissions by 2020 and to do so it will implement emission mitigation actions in various sectors including energy. Significantly, Chile is the first country in Latin America to have set a binding renewable energy generation target that requires that by 2025 at least 20 percent of the country’s production come from nonconventional renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, biomass and small-hydro). Chile also became the first country in South America to pass a carbon tax on stationary sources. The tax which will come into effect in 2017 will levy a tax rate of $5/tCO2 on power plants with a generation capacity of at least 50 MW. A separate tax introduced at the same time addresses mobile sources by taxing the import of light-duty diesel vehicles, based on an ‘urban performance’ formula. These are all encouraging signs that Chile is willing to be a leader on climate, both internationally and at home. Yet in other important measures related to climate, such as the need to protect its highly vulnerable glaciers, Chile has still failed to act. With no glacier protection law in place, mining and other industrial projects continue to threaten these ecosystems.



In previous COPs Peru pledged to reduce net emissions from its forestry, energy and waste sectors. Notably it set the goal of reducing the deforestation rate down to zero on 54 million hectares of primary forests. To meet this forestry target Peru established in 2010 a National Program on Forest Conservation for Climate Change Mitigation. The ten year program has aimed at conserving 54 million hectares of primary tropical forest across the country. This is an important challenge in a country where deforestation is on an upward trend since the early 2000s. Alarmingly while pledging to protect its forests, the country has also recently scaled back environmental protections in a bid to attract more investment.


Side event:

Can Latin America achieve convergence between domestic and international climate efforts post 2020?

Leading representatives from governments, environmental organizations, think tanks and business in Latin America will discuss ways to ensure coherence between local and global actions to promote climate and development goals as well as efforts to set ambitious targets post 2020.

The event will focus on cities, energy and forests. Invited speakers from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru.

The event will be in English & Spanish (Translation) and a reception will follow

When and Where: Thursday, December 11, 2014 (16:45 - 18:15), Room Paracas