It is imperative that Latin American leaders take an active role at the national level in 2022. At the United Nations Climate Summit (COP27) negotiations to tackle the climate crisis, which has left an unprecedented trail of destruction in the past few years. Hydrometeorological hazards experienced by the region, including droughts, heat waves, cold waves, tropical cyclones and floods, have unfortunately claimed hundreds of lives, caused extensive damage to crops and infrastructure, and displaced people. At the same time, however, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen to its highest level in 15 years, threatening to turn it into a net CO2 emitter, leading to severe biodiversity loss. Elsewhere in the region, countries continue to rely on fossil fuel extraction. All countries in the region know first-hand the effects of climate change, and concrete action by national leaders is needed to achieve the global climate agenda.
This is a pivotal point in the region and requires more than commitments and plans. According to Climate Analytics and the NewClimate Institute’s Climate Action Tracker and the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, some of the largest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have yet to commit to the actions needed to limit average growth. global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Lagging countries such as Brazil and Mexico, which are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the region, urgently need to update their climate policies. Even Colombia, which played a key role in the previous COP due to its ambitious climate change communications, faces the same problems: the absence of a climate action plan and the principle of climate justice. Even with positive recent developments that could be a potential tipping point in Brazil and Mexico, actions speak louder than words.
A current outlook for key Latin American countries
This moment could be a tipping point for Mexico to harness its vast renewable energy resources to create new economic opportunities and create a cleaner, more sustainable future for local communities. A few days before the start of COP27, Mexico announced its commitment to 2030. reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, which is more than the planned 22 percent. Additional recent developments include PEMEX’s commitment to capture up to 98 percent of methane emissions and Mexico’s accession to a declaration promoting the transition to 100 percent zero-emission cars and vans by 2040. PEMEX’s commitment is particularly important because methane emissions account for approximately 24 percent of Mexico’s emissions. of total GHG. In addition, Mexico announced that at COP27 it will share the Sonora Plan, which focuses on solar energy, lithium and semiconductors to make the state an electric vehicle hub. Finally, at last year’s COP26, Mexico joined the Declaration on Forests and Land Use, part of a global effort to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.
But right now, more than promises and vague plans are needed to make Mexico a climate leader. Local NGO, Iniciativa Climática de México (ICM) this week, at COP27, launched the NDC proposal, driven by civil society, to help the Mexican government renew and increase its climate ambitions from a perspective of climate justice. The proposal matches the government’s unconditional target of 30 per cent by 2030, but its conditional target is more ambitious than the government’s announcement. This document is based on a number of studies that confirm the feasibility of the new proposed goals; together with a plan on how to implement them. In a webinar to launch the proposal, the group stressed that implementation would be critical and that current government policies are not aligned with the more ambitious goal of the NDC.
Indeed, over the past three years, Mexico has taken steady steps to weaken its renewable energy sector and unfairly strengthen its fossil fuel industry, as it has generally prioritized action on climate change. Mexico’s actions against the renewable energy industry, including U.S. companies, have contributed to U.S. calls for consultations under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In addition, Mexico is currently in the top 10 countries with the highest rates of deforestation in 2020 alone. nearly 300,000 hectares of primary forests have disappeared. The government is building a new refinery at Dos Bocas that could become a stranded asset in less than 20 years. In addition, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (popularly known as “AMLO”) has cut the budget for disaster management and climate change. Mexico’s Supreme Court has lifted a final suspension of AMLO-backed reforms to the electricity industry law, which sought to restore market power to the Federal Electricity Commission, discouraging private investment in solar and wind power. Instead of stopping renewable energy, the Mexican government should embrace new opportunities and technologies.
Looking ahead to COP27, it is commendable that Mexico is reviewing and strengthening its commitments. But it is clear that current policies will prevent Mexico from meeting its more ambitious emissions reduction targets. An NDC proposed by civil society can offer some answers to create the guidelines that the country so urgently needs to achieve more ambitious goals. And, as highlighted during the presentation, it provides the technical elements to show that a more ambitious NDC is technically, economically and legally possible. In the conditions Mexico finds itself in today, there is an urgent need for the country to move away from anti-climate energy policies and focus on a green recovery that creates clean energy jobs and builds more resilient communities.
With the recent election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s leadership is expected to change in a more environmentally friendly way. But restoring the conservation mandate will be more difficult than simply changing leaders. On the plus side, President-elect Lula has pledged to prioritize action on climate change and end deforestation, and the head of his political party has also confirmed Lula’s attendance at COP27, where he will meet UN Secretary-General António Guterres (among other nationals). representatives). During Lula’s last administration (2003-2010), Brazil reduced the rate of deforestation in the Amazon by more than 70 percent. With stronger environmental mandates, Brazil also encouraged rich countries to fund climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts after Lula. This effort was successful; in 2008 Germany and Norway have teamed up with the Brazilian government to create a fund to aid conservation efforts in the Amazon.
But Lula will face difficulties reversing the destruction of Brazil’s environment, as former president Jair Bolsonaro actively destroyed ecological protections, legalized illegal environmental activities and supported policies that opened up the Amazon to large-scale mining, oil and gas extraction and other destructive practices. Under Bolsonaro, the Brazilian government’s commitment to 2030 reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. was only a repeated promise made in 2015. at the Paris climate conference (COP21), which ultimately fell short of the current goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. Celsius. One of the most important forest areas in the world is the Amazon, and the rate of deforestation in Brazil is the highest in the last 15 years. If this trend continues, the Amazon will become a net emitter of CO2 and experience massive biodiversity loss. Brazil’s Environment Ministry signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use; however, Brazil’s commitments will only apply illegal deforestation, and there is no such distinction in the declaration. There is no indication that Brazil has begun to address the issue, and previous environmental spending proposals have been vetoed.
To get Brazil back on track, Lula will need to immediately start enforcing existing forest protection laws (according to a Carbon Brief analysis, full implementation of the Forest Code could reduce deforestation by 89 percent by 2030); rebuild environmental agencies; strengthen the protection of indigenous peoples and environmental defenders; to regulate agribusiness; and ensure sustainable livelihoods, clean energy and public services for urban residents in line with the national climate strategy.
Colombia stands out for having an ambitious 2030 proposal. to reduce emissions by 51 percent, so its proposal by 2050 carbon reduction is possible if properly implemented. It also committed to 2030. reduce black carbon emissions by 40 percent, which will improve air quality and improve public health in its cities. Colombia has continued its commitment to forest conservation by signing several agreements on deforestation, land use and ocean protection. In addition, the expansion of its marine protected areas as part of the 30 x 30 initiative aims to 2030. to protect 30 percent of sea and land areas. Colombia has also signed the Ocean Declaration, further committing to protecting the sea.
Despite these ambitious goals, Colombia’s current commitments have been classified as “grossly inadequate” by the Climate Action Tracker, and for good reason. The agriculture, forestry and other land use sector is responsible for 58 percent of Colombia’s GHG emissions. The country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuel export revenue remains a key political factor for any future government. At the very least, pilot fracking projects must be halted and coal exports phased out. In addition, Colombia must: identify specific actions to adapt to climate change for several sectors of its economy, especially agriculture; increase the price and coverage of the carbon tax; and improve the design and implementation of their emissions trading systems.
Sound plans to combat deforestation are essential. Given the low environmental ambitions of Colombia’s main economic sectors, except for land use and forests, the country must establish strong domestic policies to achieve its goals and commit to fully protecting natural areas on land and in the oceans.
Countries across Latin America need to take an active role and develop action plans towards their climate goals
As mentioned above, Latin American countries need to choose more sustainable energy options, protect their forests and lands, and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel investments (especially recycling). In addition, governments must be held accountable for their commitments, focusing on a just and equitable transition to zero emissions. Climate change and related extreme events intensify the drivers of migration and displacement, while increasing social, economic and environmental burdens. Latin America is one of the regions documented to have the greatest need for strengthening early warning systems. The extreme rains, which triggered floods and landslides, set records in many parts of the region and caused extensive damage, including hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of destroyed or damaged homes. Growing damage to agriculture has also hurt global grain markets. At COP27 and beyond, local governments must demonstrate with concrete action plans that they support the climate agenda and must enable real progress with sound policies to make their economies more sustainable.