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Latin American countries at COP20

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According to Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts of the Brookings Institution, the Latin American countries have played a key role in the advance of the UN climate change negotiations.

The results of the Lima climate conference (COP20) last December are generally considered a success, albeit a very limited one. A last minute agreement was reached two days after the conference was scheduled to finish.

The negotiations now enter a final stretch, with the Paris climate meeting in December looming closer – this is the deadline to produce a new agreement which is scheduled to come into force from 2020. The Lima Call for Climate Action is a step in the right direction, but most of the hard decisions are yet to be tackled.

Despite the Lima deal being weak, it has managed to achieve its two primary goals while also representing a fundamental breakthrough for the global response to climate change. The meeting was charges with adopting an outline of a new text to be agreed in Paris. A vast document was produced, with a plethora of options that countries wish to see in the final agreement. Yet nothing was actually decided on; the difficult decisions on what will stay and what will be scrapped will begin this year.

The second goal was to reach agreement on how countries will devise and submit their national pledges this year (called ‘Intended Determined Contributions’ or INDCs), which include information on how countries will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The major breakthrough was that all countries have to reduce their emissions, based on their ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR+RC) in light of different national circumstances’. This language is cumbersome, Edward and Roberts acknowledge, since each phrase balances traditional agreements that the developed countries would ‘go first’ in their emissions reductions (CBDR+RC), and a new university, that all countries will act (but according to national circumstances). This represents a significant shift, since previously only developed countries had mandatory obligations while developing countries were required only to make voluntary efforts.

In the case of some Latin American countries and others, they have been pushing for this shift for some time based on the idea that all countries need to act, according to their different responsibilities and capabilities. The fact that this breakthrough happened in one of those countries that has been collectively pushing this position with its partners is fitting.

The Peruvian presidency of the COP, led by the Minister of Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, was widely credited for its commitment and hard work to ensure a successful outcome in Lima. The Peruvian delegation was thoroughly engaged throughout the buildup to and during the conference itself. Despite the modest outcome and the COP20 having one of the largest carbon footprints of any UN climate meeting, the COP wound up as a diplomatic victory for Peru, Brookings holds.

Spotlight on Latin America

The Lima conference was also noteworthy given the unprecedented number of events related to Latin America, both inside the official venue and throughout the city. Of course, the location of the COP largely explains the number of Latin American focused events, but their diversity and calibre were very impressive, and indicative of a new, heightened level of activity on the issue in the region. Some particular bright spots for the region announced during the conference include the following:

  • Eight Latin American countries (Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Chile and Costa Rica) announced plans to replant up to 20 million hectares of forests by 2020.
  • Chile launched its National Adaptation Plan.
  • The Economics of Climate Change in Peru report was launched.
  • Costa Rica submitted its Third National Communication to the UNFCCC.
  • Four Latin American countries have now pledged funds to the Green Climate Fund. Panama pledged US$1 million prior to the COP, while Peru (US$6 million), Columbia (US$6 million) and Mexico (US$10 million) announced their pledges in Lima.
  • Peru was awarded US$11.14 million for its urban transport Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) by the German and British NAMA facility.
  • The Inter-American Development Bank announced Peru will receive a US$750 million package of loans for the Lima Metro.

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