Latin America Green News Special Report: COP22 | Marrakesh

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at COP22
Credit: Gobierno de Chile

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November 7 – 18, 2016

COP22: Full steam ahead on climate action

The 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) which began in Marrakesh, Morocco last Monday will come to a conclusion today. The convention, which hosted over sixty heads of state, focused on taking concrete action in order to achieve the priorities laid out by the Paris Agreement, especially those related to adaptation, transparency, technology transfer, mitigation, capacity building and loss and damages. Despite the results of the US election, global leaders took the COP as an opportunity to reiterate their commitment to ensuring climate action moves forward. Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs who chairs the conference on climate change, began the event by assuring the world that there is “no going a back” on this fight

Latin American countries in particular showed solidarity and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the global efforts against climate change. Two main issues stood at the forefront of the agenda for countries in the region: the reporting and administrative structure of the agreement and financing schemes to support their efforts. The Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, representing eight countries in the region, publicly announced their commitment to ratify the Paris Agreement, pressed for greater clarity and transparency on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and emphasized the need for greater financing for developing countries.

What Latin America brought to the table

While much took place during the last two weeks, here is a recap of select actions from Latin American countries in Marrakesh: 

  • Chile, with President Michelle Bachelet in attendance, reiterated their commitment to climate action presenting their 3rd national Communication with updated national emissions inventory numbers. Chile also recently presented its new National Strategy on Climate Change and Vegetation Resources and created a Climate Change Agency. President Bachelet expressed the responsibility that Chile holds to work expeditiously on the implementation of the Agreement and the importance of a transparent global collective and collaborative effort to succeed in its implementation.
  • Mexico presented their Climate Change Mid-Century Strategy listing priorities for action in the coming decades to reduce emissions 50 percent by 2050 and move towards a low carbon economy.  (To read more about Mexico’s progress toward its climate pledge read NRDCs issue brief here.)
  • Mexico’s delegation also highlighted the country’s progress implementing their emission reduction goals through incremental renewable energy and emissions reductions targets. Highlighting progress at the national level through the passage of the General Climate Change and Energy Transition laws, Senator Silvia Garza Galván commended the joint work of the executive and legislative branches to fulfill their climate commitments. Meanwhile, Governor of Jalisco, Aristoteles Sandoval Diaz, called on local action to support and push national efforts forward and urged world leaders to refrain from politicizing the issue of climate change.
  • In a sign of the importance of cross-border collaboration, Mexico and Chile agreed to a US $14 million partnership with Canada to finance the adoption of clean technologies and waste management policies in order to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
  • Costa Rica and the Ivory Coast have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop greater collaboration between the two nations on issues of climate change and forestry with a focus on reducing deforestation.
  • Colombia announced a plan to link forest protections to its peace process. The announcement included a plan to recognize indigenous claims to huge areas of rainforest. Recognition of native land tenure protects forests from illegal loggers and gives huge boosts to carbon storage.
  • Brazil launched the BioFuturo Platform, a coalition of 20 countries that want to accelerate the development of advanced biofuels and biomaterials as an alternative to fossil fuels.  (To read more about Brazil’s progress toward its climate pledge read NRDCs issue brief here.)
  • Meanwhile, Argentina’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Sergio Bergman, announced he will focus on achieving zero deforestation and bringing a profound change in the country’s energy matrix. During his speech, he said "Climate challenge is not a technical one but an ethical one. It is about human rights and human responsibilities…We must decide whether we are part of the problem or the solution. There must be a new link between politics and the economy and this is cannot be achieved without leadership."
  • Fifteen countries, including Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, signed on to the second “Because the Oceans” declaration. The signatories reaffirmed the initial declaration signed in Paris last year during COP21 and once again called for a high-level UN conference to develop a plan of action under the UNFCCC to protect the world’s oceans from the effects of climate change.
  • COP22 also saw the launch of the NDC Partnership aiming to enhance cooperation among nations to provide greater access to technical knowledge and financing to support developing countries NDCs. Forty-two countries signed the partnership including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

Ministers and officials show support for 2050 pathways platform launch in Marrakech
Credit: Marwane SOBAI)

What’s next?

Now that commitments have been put forward, countries in Latin America will need to seriously grapple with the question of implementing their climate goals. The next challenge will be for them to translate commitments into concrete investment plans in order to be able to access financing for projects that will help reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate.

As Amal-Lee Amin, Chief of the Climate Change and Sustainability Division of the International Development Bank,  explains, Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to need an estimated US$250 billion per year in future infrastructure investments and these investment decisions will have a major impact on the implementation of the Paris Agreement.   As she puts it  “If the international community fails to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the cost of these impacts is likely to be drastically higher than the investment required now to reduce emissions and boost resilience.” Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, Vice President of the Development Bank of Latin America, also notes that green investments can help the region become “competitive, low in emissions and a leader in environmental management.”  He saw COP22 as an opportunity to create new international policies that can enhance green finance globally and help Latin America move forward with its climate plans.

Indeed, investing in low-carbon transportation and energy infrastructure and resilient communities and landscapes is the best path forward both for achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals and the region’s future growth and stability. The good news is that to date 60 percent of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have ratified the Paris Agreement, with several others expected to ratify soon. This signals to the private sector and investors that the region takes the threat of climate change seriously and is ready to play a key role in advancing climate solutions.

This week's blog was completed with the help of contributions from Alexis Lopez-Cepero.