Latin America backs plans to fight climate change while building prosperity

(image: Jorge Macri)

Latin America backs plans to fight climate change while building prosperity

Just over a month ago, the Paris climate agreement came into effect securing its place in the record books as one of the fastest multilateral agreements ever to enter into force – less than a year after its adoption.

At the recent UN climate change negotiations in Marrakesh, Morocco, countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Agreement. Although the negotiations achieved modest results, the myriad events showcasing countries’ actions on climate change was a definitive highlight.

The level of activity is being spurred on by over a hundred countries’ decision to rapidly join the Paris Agreement. Twenty Latin American and Caribbean countries representing roughly 60% of the region’s nations have also ratified including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia.

Countries are not ratifying simply to fulfill their international commitments. Our region’s support underscores how countries perceive confronting climate change and building prosperity as mutually reinforcing goals for securing inclusive and sustainable development.

In Marrakesh, Latin American and Caribbean countries alongside others presented ambitious policies and initiatives that are underway and planned for the future. These efforts provide a basis for optimism that ambition can be ratcheted up to help close the emissions gap needed to deliver the Agreement’s objectives.

Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Guatemala and Saint Lucia, alongside other countries participating in the Climate Vulnerable Forum, declared their intention to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible.

Mexico launched its mid-century low-emission development strategy which aims to reduce its emissions by 50% below 2000 levels by 2050.

The Brazilian state of Mato Grosso intends to reduce deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado savanna by 90% and 95% respectively by 2030 while boosting agricultural production. Colombia plans to close the forest frontier as a key component of a post-conflict future with a focus on implementing strong tenure reform, and placing large areas of forest under the control of indigenous peoples.

These announcements came alongside confirmation of the 2018 timeline for finalising the rulebook of the Paris Agreement and to hold a facilitative dialogue on progress toward achieving the Agreement’s long-term goal of reaching net zero emissions this century.

The facilitative dialogue will focus on countries’ national climate change plans or “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs), which initially cover the period from 2020-2030.

These plans include targets to reduce emissions to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the global temperature rise to well-below 2 degrees Celsius; and how countries will adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The dialogue is intended to help countries review current efforts and unlock greater ambition for their NDCs to be resubmitted in 2020. Over the next two years, the unprecedented action on climate change in the real economy must be better reflected by the UN negotiations.

Some countries are not waiting until 2020 to revise their NDCs. Argentina has announced a new target to reduce its emissions by 18% by 2030 over business-as-usual emissions for that year, instead of the 15% offered by the previous administration.

However, to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals, existing support to assist developing countries with the implementation of their national climate plans must be scaled up. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), countries are poised to step up their leadership on climate change but can only do so with sufficient access to concessional resources.

In October, the Inter-American Development Bank announced its NDC Invest platform, which will provide support to LAC countries to transform their NDCs into achievable investment plans. It will support countries’ efforts to build low carbon and resilient economies strengthened by robust domestic markets that create jobs and mobilise investment for sustainable infrastructure and landscapes. One of its key aims will be to increase countries’ access to concessional resources to reduce costs and manage the risks associated with these investments.

The recently launched NDC Partnership seeks to support countries secure greater access to technical knowledge and finance to implement their plans. It brings together over 40 countries including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Saint Lucia and organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.

If LAC countries can ramp up the level of ambition in their NDCs before 2020, they can tap into the growing opportunities for low carbon development. Given the significant benefits of taking action on climate change, putting forward more ambitious plans can allow countries to reap greater benefits.

For example, relatively modest investments are needed to secure land rights for indigenous communities in the Amazon which could significantly help reduce emissions from deforestation while generating major economic benefits. In Bolivia, the World Resources Institute suggests that the total estimated benefits of securing indigenous lands will top US$50 billion in returns over the next 20 years, when factoring in global benefits from emissions reductions and safeguarding ecosystem services like clean water and biodiversity.

In the case of Chile, the New Climate Institute says that if the country increased the ambition of its NDC and switched to 100% renewable energy by 2050, it could avoid spending US$5.3 billion a year on fossil fuels, create 11,000 green jobs and prevent 1,500 premature deaths from air pollution in Santiago.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have huge potential to unlock more ambition to beef up their NDCs. Taking advantage of these opportunities will not only support the Paris Agreement but also complement efforts to achieving sustainable development. Increasing ambition and building prosperity can and should advance together.

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