COP25 opened in Madrid this week with presidents and other government representatives from Latin America reaffirming their countries’ commitments to climate action. This should be no surprise as climate change already results in more frequent and severe climatic disruptions in the region. Uruguay, Argentina and Peru all faced major flooding incidents in the past year. Hurricanes in the Caribbean are more intense and sea level rise is leading some, such as the Kuna Indigenous community, in Panama to start planning for relocation. Prolonged water stress is also increasingly common. Along Central America’s “Dry Corridor,” drought has hit the agricultural sector hard and is contributing to outward migration. Meanwhile, Chile is living through a decade long “mega-drought” that is driving some of the ongoing protests that led to the government’s decision to withdraw from hosting the event in Santiago. At the same time, the region faces enduring social inequalities that are magnified and multiplied by the impacts of climate change.
During the week, Chilean Environmental Minister and COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt noted, “This Latin American and Caribbean COP has a very clear objective, to act. The time to act is not a slogan; it is a requirement, a moral, social and economic need, and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean know it well...” Below is a partial recap of some updates and statements from different countries in the region during the first week of COP25.
CHILE: President Sebastián Piñera addressed the COP25 opening ceremony via video, declaring Chile’s commitment to climate action as “firm, clear, and permanent.” “We know too much to remain skeptical," said Piñera, “nature is imploring us to take care of her, so that she can also take care of us.” In fact, nature was center stage in Chile, where the country’s largest reforestation initiative kicked off in Renca in central Chile. Thirty thousand native trees were donated as part of the #6D It’s Now! which will plant a native tree for every concrete climate commitment made by a person or organization through the campaign’s online platform.
Although Chile ultimately did not host COP25, the group Chilean Civil Society for Climate Action (SCAC) did organize the Social Summit for Climate Action. Over 140 organizations convened in Santiago to discuss environmental justice, water management issues, and a just energy transition, among other topics, and ultimately “find answers and contribute to the conversation, but also the solution.”
COSTA RICA: For President Carlos Alvarado part of the solution lies in nature. At a high-level dialogue between governments and civil society he highlighted the nexus between climate change and nature, stating: “maximum ambition must be reflected in the attention of another great challenge: the massive extinction of species. So as a country, together with others, we are leading the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People that promotes the protection of 30 percent of marine and terrestrial ecosystems by the year 2030 and the mobilization of financial resources to implement this agenda.”
As described in the blog here, this is a particularly relevant goal for Latin America which is home to fifty percent of the planet’s biodiversity and over a quarter of its forests. Bold action on nature-based solutions in Latin America could help countries both reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change.
PERU: Nature was also front and center for Peru’s government representatives. Peru has the third-largest extent of tropical peatlands in the world and the Deputy Minister of Strategic Development of Natural of the Ministry of Environment (MINAM) discussed their role in storing large quantities of carbon. MINAM, along with the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) also shared the country’s experience with the Glaciers+ Project to address glacial retreat, improve adaptive capacity and reduce disaster risk through investments in multisectoral water management.
COLOMBIA: Colombia’s Minister of Environment Ricardo Lozano reiterated the country’s climate commitments were focused on “solutions based in nature, ecosystems, communities, traditional knowledge and transparency.” This includes a goal to curb deforestation by 50 percent by 2022, restoring over 180 million native trees, and following through on the country’s target to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent for 2030. However, Diana Giraldo, member of the Colombia River Movement (Movimiento Ríos Vivos Colombia), points out that the country continues to support large-scale mining and fracking and that its energy transition should “move with greater force.”
MEXICO: Indeed, as important as nature-based climate solutions are for Latin America, it will also be important for nations to rapidly reduce fossil fuel emissions. In an official position statement, Mexico reiterated its commitment to the Paris Agreement and discussed a broad range of priorities including the need to reform the Green Climate Fund to make it more efficient and regionally balanced, and for financial institutions to consider climate risks. However, representatives from the civil society and clean energy sectors lamented that the need for a clean energy transition was absent from the Mexican government’s position statement.
As described in this blog, during its first year, the current government of Mexico has retreated from some earlier clean energy advances and instead promoted fossil fuels.
ARGENTINA: Outgoing President Maurico Macri, described actions taken during his government including expanding protected areas, addressing transport emissions and creating a climate change cabinet. He also highlighted efforts to promote renewable energy explaining that by 2040 electric generation in Argentina will be greenhouse gas-free.
ECUADOR: President Lenín Moreno mentioned a wide range of initiatives the country is leading to tackle climate change, notably including redirecting fossil fuel subsidies and promoting electric buses and alternative energy sources. Moreno also spoke about eradicating poverty, and expanding protection of the Galapagos and the Amazon, while supporting the needs of local populations.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic is “picking up the pace” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent before 2030 and to ultimately achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. As part of achieving this goal, President Danilo Medina said the Caribbean nation is reforesting over 119,000 acres and installing 604 MW of solar and wind energy, equivalent to one quarter of the country’s energy matrix.
HONDURAS: President Juan Orlando Hernández voiced the need for the international community to help direct financial resources toward climate vulnerable developing countries. He lamented the “long bureaucratic process” that has impeded climate funds from reaching Honduras for the past five years. He also called for renegotiation of his country’s foreign debt to allow flexibility for Honduras to invest in addressing climate change. Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales explained that the country pays 40 billion Honduran Lempira (1.6 billion USD) per year towards its external debt, 30 percent of which is destined for the multilateral banks. The country would like to redirect these funds to address the climate crisis.
This post was co-drafted with Andrea Becerra.