Latin America Climate Action Critical After US Paris Retreat

From implementing new financial products to pay for clean technologies, to devising innovative transportation solutions, to working to solve deforestation, Latin America has been on the forefront of climate action.

The decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement was, as expected, widely critiqued by governments in Latin America. Over the past several years, several countries in the region have been vocal advocates of the need for ambitious global action on climate change. This willingness to take an active seat at the climate negotiation table was no surprise considering the region’s high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Latin American leaders understood early on that their countries had a lot riding on the outcome of the negotiations. Yet it also indicated a growing realization that the solutions needed to combat the worst impacts of climate change can help nations achieve their development goals. Clean energy means new jobs. Low-carbon transportation solutions create cities that are more livable and healthier. Better infrastructure and planning strengthens the resilience of communities when disaster strikes. So, it’s also no surprise as my colleague Amanda Maxwell notes that “Latin America is moving ahead with determination and urgency” with innovative and proactive actions.

As the dust settles on yesterday’s announcement and the world readies for the work ahead, this is a good moment to recall that the road to Paris first passed through Latin America. In 2014, the 20th round of climate negotiations was held in Lima, Peru. The outcome of those protracted and complex discussions was the Lima Call for Climate Action which was instrumental in ensuring that all countries arrived in Paris the following year ready to commit to climate action at home.

The road forward must also go through Latin America. If the Trump decision means anything, it’s that it is now more critical than ever for all governments—both national and subnational—businesses, and sectors of society to play a part. Below is a roundup of statements from several Latin American governments and leaders expressing both their disappointment in President Trump’s decision and their ongoing commitment to the Paris Agreement. It’s heartening at times like these to see such statements reaffirming the importance of science, moral imperatives and resolve to join the common cause against climate change. Now more than ever, the success of the Paris Agreement hinges on the international community’s ability to get climate actions implemented in all regions, including Latin America. We cannot afford to have a narrow focus when it comes to solving climate change. Numerous countries in Latin America have continuously shown leadership on climate. And yesterday and today they once more came out to show that, unlike Trump, they are standing on the right side of history. But there are two critical things needed for these statements to become more than just words on paper:

  • Governments in the region must keep working to turn their NDCs into concrete implementation plans. This includes identifying priority climate investments, passing solid policies to support low carbon and resilient infrastructure, and internalizing climate considerations into long-term national plans.
  • Governments outside the region and other actors that understand the urgent need for climate action—from businesses to philanthropists to civil society—must work in partnership with local governments, cities, civil society and universities in the region to help harness Latin America’s vast potential for climate action.

From implementing new financial products to pay for clean technologies, to devising innovative transportation solutions, to working to solve deforestation, Latin America has been on the forefront of climate action. Much more is possible and as leaders around the world re-commit to Paris Agreement in the face of the US decision to withdraw, these possibilities must be explored fully and acted upon.

Reaction Statements from Latin America to U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

  • Mexico’s official statement reiterated its “unreserved support” for the Agreement and noted that acting on climate is a moral imperative that is in the immediate interest of its society and is economically viable. In a series of tweets, Mexican President Enrique Peña also expressed support and commitment to the Agreement and implementation of Mexico’s NDC.​
  • Chile expressed its “profound disappointment” and that it would “continue to work to consolidate international alliances to build a more sustainable world, including through the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.” Meanwhile President Michelle Bachelet tweeted that “Chile is suffering from climate change and we are committed to combating it. It’s bad news that the US abandons the Paris Agreement”.
  • Brazil noted its “profound concern and disappointment” with the announcement and called the fight against climate change an “irreversible process that cannot be postponed and is compatible with economic growth.” It also expressed concern with the “negative impact of such a decision on the multilateral dialogue and cooperation to respond to global challenges”.
  • Peru also received the announcement with “concern and disappointment” and reiterated its commitment to the Agreement’s objectives to reduce emissions and integrate climate adaptation into sustainable development policies “in a framework that provides financing, technology and capacity building for developing countries and those especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.” In a separate statement, Peru’s Ministry of Environment expressed optimism in Peru’s future as a climate friendly country and highlighted that the decision should not determine the future of Green Climate Fund which is international in nature and includes the participation of other donor countries.
  • Argentina’s government “profoundly lamented” the decision noting it impacted not only the effectiveness of the Agreement as a tool to combat climate change but the entire “spirit of solidarity and cooperation” it’s passage had demonstrated.
  • Costa Rica also lamented that the decision and signaled that the retreat on climate by the U.S. should drive other countries to deepen their efforts, including on climate finance for vulnerable countries. In a series of tweets President Solís reaffirmed Costa Rica’s “unwavering” support for global action against climate change.
  • Panama also reaffirmed its commitment to climate action and to continue leading local and regional initiatives, such as a new international center to combat tropical deforestation.
  • Colombia also lamented the US withdrawal while reaffirming its own commitment to act on climate. For Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Social Development the move by the US means it will be necessary to strengthen existing and new alliances.
  • Bolivia, called the move disappointing and promised to continue its climate efforts. Noting the Paris agreement was a “beacon of hope” and that to achieve it countries had succeeded in putting aside political and ideological differences.
  • Meanwhile a group of ministers from the High Ambition Coalition issued a joint statement declaring their “unshakeable” commitment. The signatories included ministers from over twenty countries, including several from Latin America and the Caribbean: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Mexico, Saint Lucia, and Uruguay
  • The Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, a negotiation bloc from the region that includes Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, also issued a joint statement expressing their disappointment and continued commitment to the Paris Agreement.