Latin America looks at COP27: the time to see ourselves only when climate victims are over

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A worker carries trees to plant during a reforestation project in Nova Mutum, Brazil, 2020. Latin America is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, but adaptation and mitigation projects are increasing in the region ( Credit: Alexandre Meneghini/Alamy)
  • by Alejandra Cuellar (mÉxico)
  • Inter Press Service

As these events have increased in frequency and intensity, they have also prompted millions of people to migrate. As the average temperature in the region is expected to rise faster than the global average, these converging crises are expected to increase in the coming decades.

As the next UN climate summit, COP27, approaches, it is becoming clear that Latin America needs the support of the global community. In a region ravaged by economic strife, there have long been calls for financial instruments to support multifaceted efforts to combat climate change, both at the local and regional levels – the cry is likely to grow louder after many eventually became frustrated with progress COP26- conference of the year.

But leading up to the summit, to be held in Egypt in November, we are seeing a simultaneous shift in tone from some quarters in Latin America, with prominent voices calling on the region to play its own increasingly assertive role in encouraging climate negotiations and climate action from home.

Climate effects in Latin America

The WMO report reveals some alarming data about the effects a warming world and a changing climate have already had on Latin America. For example, glaciers in the tropical Andes have lost nearly 30% of their surface area since the 1980s, increasing the risk of water scarcity for populations and ecosystems in the region — and the risk of flooding for communities near them.

In 2021, sea levels in the region, particularly on the Atlantic side, also rose faster than the global average, increasing the threat of flooding, freshwater pollution and storm surges in coastal areas where much of the population is concentrated.

The report also highlights Chile’s increasing mega-drought, which is now entering its thirteenth year, making it the longest and most severe in a thousand years. The deteriorating drying trend is forcing authorities to urgently improve water management as tensions rise in some parts of the country, and address electricity supply problems to overcome a shortage of hydropower production – a source from which it is in the near future. past a significant portion of its electricity.

More generally, droughts in South America contributed to a 2.6% decline in the 2020-2021 grain harvest from the previous season, the WMO reports. Threats to the region’s agricultural production – and by extension economic – output were exacerbated by heat waves.

Publishing the WMO’s first edition of its “State of the Climate” report for the region in 2021, WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas had emphasized that Latin America and the Caribbean “are among the regions those most challenged by extreme hydropower”. meteorological events” – a claim only further underlined by this year’s update.

Taalas pointed to some recent extreme weather events, highlighting “the death and devastation of Hurricane Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and the intense drought and unusual fire season in the Pantanal region of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina.”

Notable impacts from these events, the secretary general added, included “water and energy-related shortages, agricultural losses, displacement and compromised health and safety,” all of which “exacerbated challenges” posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the recovery of it.

Rise up in adversity

Latin American and Caribbean countries together account for less than 10% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, with most of the contributions coming from the energy sector, agriculture and land use change. But with increased exposure to extreme events and above-average rates of change, the region is most affected by emissions from larger polluters.

However, there was a change of tone among some attendees at the recent Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week, held in July in the Dominican Republic. Some experts wanted to make sure that Latin America would engage in the upcoming climate talks not just as patients, but as active participants setting the direction of action.

Max Puig, executive vice president of the Dominican Republic’s National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism (CNCCMDL), emphasized that Latin America and the Caribbean will arrive at the COP this year with a firm foothold. “The time to see ourselves as climate victims is over. While we are, the time to take the helm of the ship has begun,” he said.

“It must be clear to our peoples and the world that we are serious and that, even in the most difficult circumstances, we will not stop. We will overcome the difficulties. This is the message that Latin America and the Caribbean are taking to COP27 in Egypt.”

Some civil society representatives had hoped for more progress during the recent Climate Week, especially to ensure that climate justice and human rights are at the heart of the discussions. But other numbers were more positive about the event’s results in building regional momentum – and moves toward consensus – ahead of COP27.

“After spending several days at this year’s Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week, I’ve seen the countries in the region make progress. I also saw the potential to accelerate climate action,” Ovais Sarmad, deputy executive secretary of UN Climate Change, told Diálogo Chino after the event. “We’ve heard a lot of potential solutions this week.”

Adaptation, solutions and opportunities

While Latin America faces enormous challenges, it has also proven to be a hub for innovative solutions to climate change. The region has great potential in terms of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy. Progress has also been made in the transport sector, particularly in electric buses over the past decade, and a burgeoning growth in the use of private electric cars, with countries increasingly seeking a wider move to electric vehicles.

Latin America and the Caribbean have also shown a wealth of solutions that promote adaptation and mitigation, many of which can be adopted in other regions depending on needs and context. Many of these solutions have been seen in the agricultural sector, some of which are derived from ancestral knowledge and historical practices that promote better management of water, land and energy.

Practices that fall under the umbrella of regenerative agriculture are receiving increasing attention in Latin America. For example, agroforestry, which integrates trees into agricultural systems, can increase productivity, enhance and increase biodiversity and contribute to greater carbon sequestration. Meanwhile, the region’s coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and swamps, are now recognized for their potential to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon, while providing a range of other benefits.

Forests are also the most vital sites of carbon storage on Earth, but face significant threats – perhaps nowhere more so than in Latin America, where biomes such as the Amazon, Cerrado and Gran Chaco have all witnessed massive deforestation in recent decades.

“With nearly half of the area covered by forests, Latin America and the Caribbean account for about 57% of the world’s remaining old-growth forests, with an estimated storage of 104 gigatons of carbon. Fires and deforestation now threaten one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, with far-reaching and long-lasting impacts, WMO’s Taalas said at the launch of last year’s State of the Climate report. Despite remarkable progress and statements at last year’s COP26, monitoring and preventing deforestation is likely to remain on the agenda at this year’s summit.

The WMO’s 2021 report also highlighted the need to strengthen early warning systems in Latin America. These are multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS) that can warn people of extreme weather events and prevent millions of deaths. These are essential tools for effective adaptation in areas threatened by weather, water and climate extremes, but for many countries, as with many solutions, their effective implementation may depend on increased funding – re-emphasizing what is likely to be an important agenda while Latin America watching COP27.

COP27 will take place from 6 to 18 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

This article was originally published by ChinaDialogue

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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