Latin America Green News COP20 Edition: Charly Alberti, the FAO and ECLAC contribute to climate change efforts; countries commit to climate funds, LatAm countries tackle deforestation

Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

This week, we are focusing on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations held in Lima, Peru COP20.

December 7–12 2014

At the 20th Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru, iconic Argentinean musician Charly Alberti of Soda Stereo called climate change the greatest problem facing human beings today. Alberti explained that it is the responsibility of all the people of the world to change their mentality, start taking climate change seriously, and adjust consumer habits to help confront and mitigate climate change while there is still time. (RPP Noticias, 12/5/2014)

On the heels of Alberti’s press event, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report quantifying the dangerous rise in degradation of cultivatable land globally. The report reveals that human beings have already degraded more than 30% of arable land worldwide through excessive use of chemicals, deforestation, erosion, and intensely exploitative agricultural techniques. The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) announced a similar high-level study quantifying the cost of climate change for the region, which contains some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, like Peru itself. The ECLAC study estimates that climate change costs will range from 1.5 and 5 percent of regional GDP if the world reaches the 2.5 degree Celsius threshold. (LaRed21, 12/10/2014; El País, 12/10/2014)

Global participation in climate change solutions is picking up even more steam.European Union Environment and Energy Commissioner Arias Cañete penned an opinion piece calling cooperation between Europe and Latin America crucial to combatting climate change. Cañete explained that this cooperation is vital to achieving a legally binding agreement at the COP21 in Paris in 2015 that is applicable to all countries and maintains global warming below the 2 degree Celsius threshold. At the same time, eight Latin American nations, including Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica and El Salvador, united through the ambitious Initiative 20x20 to restore 20 million hectares of degraded lands throughout the region before 2020. This represents a land area roughly the size of Uruguay, but still only addresses about ten percent of the 200 million hectares of degraded lands identified by experts in Latin America and the Caribbean. (La Nación, 12/7/2014; La Tercera, 12/7/2014) 

Presidents Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Ollanta Humala of Peru also took advantage of the COP to sign a bilateral agreement of environmental cooperation. Along with their respective foreign affairs ministers, the two countries agreed to help each other comply with the voluntary contributions they have already announced to mitigate climate change and facilitate technical sharing and capacity building in areas affecting natural resources and the environment. Only hours later, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico joined their counterparts to deliver the Presidential Declaration of the Pacific Alliance, a 13 point plan that all four members agreed to pursue to foster a successful negotiation process at the COP20 and beyond. Humala and Santos took this time to reaffirm their matching pledges of US$6 million each to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and Peña Nieto announced his country’s pledges of $10 million to the GCF and another $20 million to the Global Environment Fund (GEF). (Emol Chile, 12/10/2014; El Comercio, 12/10/2014)

Peru went even further to show its commitment to fighting climate change by raising the country’s renewable energy use target from 40 to 60 percent of total energy use by 2025. Over the long-term, the country hopes to reach 100 percent renewable energy use by substituting non-conventional renewable energy sources like wind, solar, small hydro, and geothermal in for current natural gas generation (54 percent of the energy matrix). Despite this lofty goal, Peruvian Minister of Energy and Mines Eleodoro Mayorga indicated that natural gas is Peru’s contribution to confronting climate change. Mayorga explained that in the short term Peru will expand its generation of energy from natural gas, as well as use it to provide heating and cooking sources in rural areas, while it looks to substitute renewable sources into its energy matrix in the future. (Renew Economy, 12/7/2014; Gestión, 12/8/2014)

Despite all these seemingly progressive actions, the Citizen’s Panel on Climate Change criticized Chilean President Bachelet’s speech before the COP20 for its apparent lack of ambition. The group highlighted the facts that citizen participation and inclusion were lacking in the climate change mitigation process in Chile, no new mitigation or renewable energy use targets were announced, and no contribution to the GCF, similar to those from regional neighbors Peru and Colombia, materialized. The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) and the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) also questioned Peru’s leadership in combatting deforestation by revealing a report that the national government is denying indigenous groups’ titles to as much as 20 million hectares of ancestral lands, inadequately policing illegal logging, handing out vast concessions to extractive industries, expanding palm oil production, and planning 50 new major hydroelectric projects. (Fundación Terram, 12/10/2014; Ecologist, 12/8/2014) 

Costa Rica passed leadership of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) to the Philippinesand proclaimed the importance of generating financing for developing countries not only in mitigation, but also in adaptation. Costa Rican Minister of Energy and the Environment, Edgar Gutiérrez, explained that the position of his delegation is to find a consensus around creating a per capita limit of 2 tons of carbon dioxide, with the countries exceeding that limit contributing more to global mitigation and adaptation efforts. (El Financiero, 12/10/2014)

In Mexico, a joint vote amongst the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Commissions in the Chamber of Deputies led to the approval and expedition of the text underlying the Law for Energy Transition. Although the law still needs congressional approval, it seeks to create a concrete pathway for achieving the country’s renewable energy use and climate change mitigation targets. The approval came under fire from opponents claiming it was being rushed to meet the Energy Reform Decree’s December 21 deadline, that social participation had been cut from the law, and that it contains too many loopholes that could still be used to prioritize fossil fuel energy generation. (El Semanario, 12/10/2014)  

Related Blogs