Cooperation: the key to increasing climate action in Latin America

LAC Climate Week unites non-state and sub-national actors hoping to boost climate cooperation
<p>Motevideo, Uruguay, where the 2019 LAC Climate Week was hosted (image: <a href="">WikiCommons</a>)</p>

Motevideo, Uruguay, where the 2019 LAC Climate Week was hosted (image: WikiCommons)

Cooperation between regions, cities, non-state organisations, scientists and decision-makers, between men and women – everyone. These are the urgent missing links required to boost action in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change and one that also strives to lead the global fight.

Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week, held recently in Montevideo, Uruguay, served to reinforce this. The event was part of a series of climate weeks already held in Africa and Asia-Pacific in April and July, respectively.  Over four days, and under the slogan “intensifying climate action”, representatives of governments, companies, civil society and multilateral organisations worked together to strengthen their resolve against climate change in the region and to mobilise new players to fulfil the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

“We believed that negotiations were global in nature and only took place at the level of the Conferences of Parties (COPs). They are still global, but non-state players have also become involved,” said Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Climate and Energy Leader of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and president of COP20. “If we do not work on the domestic aspect, there is no way of implementing the Paris Agreement. Climate action plans need to be incorporated into each country’s national development plan. Climate action must be linked to other areas. We must reach the point where one single effort has a multiplying effect.”

Pulgar Vidal took a leading role on one of the panels on South-South cooperation, which stressed its importance in fulfilling Latin America’s climate goals and their implementation.

“This type of cooperation can make a very strong contribution to climate action in Latin America,” Pulgar Vidal told Diálogo Chino, adding; “The greatest criticism of cooperation has been [that] it’s response to an agenda imposed by a developed country that is not sustainable over time…and does not necessarily respond to the reality of the beneficiary country.”

“Triangular” and South-South Cooperation

Climate Week also hosted workshops for non-state, sub-national and urban actors. This included a presentation from a joint working project from Latin American cities Buenos Aires (Argentina), São Paulo (Brazil) and Santiago de Chile (Chile).

Patricia Himschoot, Climate Change Manager at the Environmental Protection Agency of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires, said the project, which is supported by the Inter-American Institute for Research on Global Change, is based on work co-designed by scientists and decision-makers to propose a system of indicators for monitoring actions: “We are in the middle, the technical managers who perform the role of translators.” Partial funding for the project has been taken on by a Chinese group, but supplementary funding is still required in order to ensure full implementation.

One of the central elements of this project is the role of science in decision-making on climate change. Vice-president of the Uruguayan Meteorological Institute, Gabriel Aintablián, said: “It is an example of how an institute can generate an environment for potentially essential knowledge for a region that links three megacities in countries with totally different realities, and it is generated from an entirely [Latin] American space with the will to exchange experiences in order to be able to design public policies. That is real triangulation.”

Aintablián is emphatic about the importance of Latin American scientists in stimulating climate action locally: “No one is better equipped than a person in the region who understands its problems. It would be difficult for a Norwegian, a Finn, or a German to explain to you what Río de la Plata (River Plate) is, or speak to Uruguay’s energy transformation, or the protection of oceans in Colombia. We have a very important knowledge capacity base in the region. These spaces for dialogue with politicians must be generated.”

During the High-Level Panel discussion, Brazil’s Environment Minister, Edson Duarte, stressed the importance of South-South cooperation by promoting Brazil’s Talanoa Dialogue to identify where we are, and where we want to go, urging other countries in the region to follow suit, but also encouraging South Africa, India and China to organise their own national dialogues.

“In our NDC – nationally determined contribution (or climate plan) – there is a clear mention of strengthening our South-South cooperation activities.  Through the Amazon Fund, we support the installation of instruments to monitor deforestation in the eight countries of the Amazon Basin, thus making an extremely important contribution to global climate protection by preserving the world’s largest rainforest,” he said.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said in an interview with Diálogo Chino: “What Brazil has done to carry out real-time monitoring of deforestation areas and the measurement of emissions presents an enormous opportunity for other countries in the region to benefit.”

Espinosa, who confessed that “her work brought her to Europe, but her heart remains on this side of the Atlantic”, said South-South cooperation plays a complementary role in all climate action processes: “Latin America and the Caribbean have a tradition of South-South cooperation which has been strengthened over the past 10-15 years in many areas, for example, protection and prevention measures in the event of disasters”.

The next steps

So where are we headed after Climate Week in Montevideo? Many speakers and attendees will travel to Iguazú (Misiones, Argentina) to participate in what will be the second meeting of the G20 Working Group on Climate Sustainability (Group of 20).

Afterwards, Bangkok in Thailand will host inter-sessional climate negotiations hoping to build momentum in advance of the next COP24, held in Katowice, Poland, in December, at which the UNFCCC hopes parties will fulfill the ambitious expectation of fully implementing the Paris Agreement.

Espinosa listed three objectives to be achieved at this upcoming COP24: to increase short-term climate action in countries to seeking to formulate more ambitious climate plans; to conclude the Paris Accord work programme; and to increase financial flows.  Climate Week in Montevideo sought to focus on the first objective.

The question of balancing gender representation and the fact that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, however, remains an urgent one. Not only are women scarcely represented on panel discussions, but there is a stark absence of policies and laws aimed at correcting inequality or which recognise the fact that women are often those providing leadership in this area.

“During this week we talked about working on climate action not from top to bottom but from bottom to top. That means strengthening grassroots organisations.  We, the indigenous peoples, are at the bottom,” says Carol González Aguilar, an indigenous leader.

González Aguilar is a member of the Technical Secretariat for Women of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA). Its gender policy seeks to ensure equity within the organization and its various affiliates. Grateful to be able to make her voice heard at such an event, the young Colombian woman highlights the importance of listening to women and involving them in the negotiating processes: “53% of carbon stored in the Amazon River Basin is in our territory.  Indigenous women are key partners in meeting the goals that all countries must strive for”.