By Guy Edwards, Victoria Elmore* and Jin Hyung Lee**
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is underway and is due to be completed by 2013/14. There are 84 Latin American and Caribbean contributing authors out of a total 833.
As we approach the publication date, these scientists have a vital role to play in promoting the importance of climate science in Latin America and persuading governments to create robust and ambitious national and international climate policies. In turn, regional governments should continue increasing levels of funding and scientific cooperation on climate science given the significant role it can play in developing policies on climate.
Poles Apart is a wide-ranging comparative study on the prevalence of climate scepticism in the media around the world. It focuses on newspapers in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK, and the USA, but includes an overview of research on the media of other countries. A wealth of new data is drawn from around 3,000 recent articles on climate change from two newspapers in each of the six countries. It concludes that climate scepticism is largely an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, found most frequently in the US and British newspapers, and explores the reasons why this is so. The study also examines whether climate sceptics are more likely to appear in right leaning than left-leaning newspapers, and in which parts of a newspaper their voices are most heard.
The 19th century British Foreign Secretary, George Canning, is renowned as a great liberal statesman who “called the New World into existence”. The current British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has also called for British governments to stop underestimating Latin America and to improve relations with this dynamic and vibrant region. However, as Laurence Allan and I argue in The World Today, British foreign policy towards Latin America needs a drastic makeover, not least if our common goals on climate change and UN reform can bear results.
Perhaps Hague’s reflections on past engagement do signal a new stage in British policy. But high level ministerial visits to the region will mean nothing unless the government tries harder to clarify its real intentions and to fix inconsistencies between what it would aspire to do in Latin America, what is actually conceivable, and what it is really doing. In this multi-polar era of interdependence and international realignment, a policy based on the mouldy memoirs of a 19th century empire is inadequate. The coalition government should look beyond this narrow focus if its newfound interest in Latin American is to gain credibility and achieve success on pressing global issues, in tune with British national interests beyond the parameters of Treasury thinking.
The UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, told Latin American journalists from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, that a politically binding deal on climate change will only be struck with the agreement of leading South American countries.
‘You are countries that are growing, countries that embody some of the big issues of low carbon economic development of technology transfer and the big issue that is sometimes forgotten but should never be forgotten – deforestation that contributes 18% of total global emissions.’
‘There won’t be a deal unless countries like Argentina, Mexico and Brazil are clear that responsibility is being taken by advanced industrialised societies,’ he said. Mr Miliband said they needed to see that advanced countries such as the UK had clear and binding commitments.
‘But that there also needs to be appropriate weight for all countries to make their contributions. The richest should do the most but everyone should do something – and that’s a good social justice principle’.
‘With 20 days to go I think it is important that the Latin American voice is heard but it is also important that there is a dialogue between European countries and Latin American countries.’
Mr Miliband said the UK believed that there was still room to strike a climate change deal that was ‘effective, fair and ambitious’, which he said were the three aims of the British Government.
‘Ambitious: not because every last dot and comma of a treaty is resolved in the next 20 days but ambitious because there is a serious political agreement that then be turned into a treaty following Copenhagen,’ he said.
Mr Miliband said that a fair agreement would involve rich countries doing the most and emerging economies being helped to develop. A deal must be effective in terms of ensuring that money flows from rich to poor countries to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change, he said.
As Latin American countries gear up to celebrate their bicentenary anniversaries of independence from colonial rule, an unexpected member of a European royal family arrives to discuss climate change.
No, King Juan Carlos I is not pitching up for round two with Hugo Chavez, but rather the UK’s Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are arriving today in Chile, before moving on to Brazil and lastly Ecuador.
At the request of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which considers climate change a strategic priority, the trip will focus on the environment and climate change.
Throw in discussions on UK-Chilean military ties, Brazilian deforestation and youth entrepreneurship and a bicentenary jaunt to the Galapagos to celebrate the birth of Charles Darwin, the visit is set to be a schmooze-athon of grandiose proportions.
Anyone with an interest in Anglo-Latin American relations should be delighted that Prince Charles is visiting this rarely discussed part of the world. Beefed up by His Royal Highness’ impressive and often maverick take on the environment and urban planning, this trip has the potential to have some very positive outcomes.
However, there are two niggling ironies that will make the Latin American response afterwards intriguing, especially given the patriotic zeal cascading through the continent.
Firstly the historical precedent: during the period of Latin America’s independence, Great Britain was the most influential foreign power in the region. This influence rested primarily in trade as Great Britain led the industrial revolution.
This period is also where anthropogenic CO2 emissions began to warm the planet. Emerging and developing regions such as Latin America feel aggrieved that they are being asked to potentially cap their emissions when they are historically not responsibly for global warming. It is Andean glaciers melting and Brazilian agricultural productivity under threat after all, not Cumbrian cheese making.
Secondly, a quick scan of UK trade and investment with Latin America show that a significant proportion goes into carbon intensive industries and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, particularly hydrocarbons and mining.
UK Trade and Investment may promote opportunities in renewable energy, waste management, recycling technologies and carbon trading in Latin America, but low carbon trade between the two is still in its infancy.
Given that the UK government is vulnerable to accusations of being more of a climate criminal than a climate champion, it is clear why the Prince of Wales was asked to go in the first place and why he is the only high-ranking Brit with green enough credentials to attempt to pull it off.
Over the next two years, the UK’s Department for International Development will be closing its regional offices in Bolivia and Nicaragua. These regional hubs provide the focal point for most of DFID’s work in Latin America. Yet as persistent levels of poverty and high inequality converge with the growing threats posed by climate change, DFID’s evacuation from Latin America could not have come at a worst time.
Although many countries in the region are now considered to be in the Middle Income category, poverty in Latin America remains stubbornly persistent. Out of a population of 550 million, roughly 49 million live on a dollar a day and over 14.7 million are chronically poor ensuring their suffering and often easily preventable deaths seldom go noticed.
The majority of Latin America’s poor now live in cities where the impact of climate change and lack of development fuse to create a hostile environment of food insecurity and water scarcity, exacerbated by rising sea levels and a greater frequency of hurricanes.
Development experts argue that unless strategies to tackle climate change can be mainstreamed into development processes; any chance of success will be severely undermined. This is why DFID’s untimely exit is misguided.
DFID projects in Latin America, such as those working with regional organisations on governance issues, have been very successful. But just as they have begun to yield results, they are being shut down.
At the same time, DFID has been expanding it work on climate change. A new DFID report outlines the prospect for providing £50 million for research on climate change and poverty in Latin America and Asia.
DFID should therefore, combine the development success stories in Latin America with its growing capacity on climate change by maintaining a strong presence in Latin America.
Without it, DFID will struggle to successfully channel its expertise on low carbon growth and adaptation to climate change into Latin American policy making and to civil society. It is in a better position to liaise between regional organisations than any of its UK NGO partners, and could better coordinate these NGOs with Latin American regional organisations.
As the effects of climate change disrupt the lives of Latin America’s poorest and most vulnerable, the need for experienced development practitioners in Latin America may actually be increasing. Prioritises elsewhere may appear to be of greater urgency, but DFID staff themselves would concede that the job in Latin America is far from over. With climate change becoming ever more critical, it might just be beginning.
The Durban Platform: Implications and Scenarios in Latin America (2012)
This report analyzes submissions made by Latin American countries to the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for …
Sustainable Development 20 years on from the Earth Summit: Progress, gaps and strategic, guidelines for Latin America and the Caribbean (2012)
This report by ECLAC published in March 2012 prior to the Rio+20 Conference offers an analysis of progress made and …
Capturing the Riches of Bolivia: Utilizing Historical and Contemporary Experience in Bolivian Mining to Inform Future Resource Policy (2012)
Centuries of foreign extraction of Bolivian natural resource wealth have occurred at the expense of environmental protection and overall development …
Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation in the Peruvian Andes (2012)
Indigenous peoples have extensive knowledge of their local environment and this knowledge can be a valuable tool for climate change …
Shaping the Durban Platform: Latin America and the Caribbean in a future High Ambition Deal (2012)
After the longest session on record, governments at the COP17 in Durban in December 2011 agreed to negotiate by 2015 …
Three Hungry Giants: China, the U.S. and the E.U.’s battle over Latin America’s natural resources, and its implications for climate change and resource scarcity (2012)
This presentation was made on April 6, 2012, by Brown University Research Fellow Guy Edwards and Professor Timmons Roberts at …
Poles Apart – The international reporting of climate change scepticism (2011)
Poles Apart is a wide-ranging comparative study on the prevalence of climate scepticism in the media around the world. It …
Dangerous Climate Change in Brazil: A Brazil-UK Analysis of Climate Change and Deforestation Impacts in the Amazon (2011)
This collaborative project between the Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre (CCST) of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), …
Civil-Military Collaboration to Address Adaptation to Climate Change in South America (2011)
This paper, published by the Center for Strategic Leadership (CSL) at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC), was written by …
‘Will cattle ranching continue to drive deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon?’ (Paulo Barreto, 2011)
This is a presentation made by Paulo Barreto, Senior Researcher at IMAZON, at the April 8th Brown University Conference on …
‘Slow Boil: Colombia’s response to the chronic emergency of climate vulnerability’ (Antonio Hill, 2011)
This is a presentation made by Antonio Hill, Regional Advocacy and Campaigns Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean for …
‘The Squeezed Middle: Why Latin America Matters in Climate Politics’ (Monica Araya, 2011)
This is a presentation made by Dr. Monica Araya, E3G Senior Associate and adviser to the Ministry of Environment of …
Scoping Study of Climate Change Activities across Latin America and the Caribbean to inform the CDKN Regional Strategy (2010)
This study prepared by Guy Edwards attempts to identify the priority needs of Latin American and Caribbean policy-makers with respect …
Regional implications of the Advisory Group on Climate Finance recommendations: Latin America and Caribbean region (2010)
This report was written by Vivid Economics and funded by the CDKN. It was requested by AGF members to help …
Economics of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean Summary 2010
This document, published by the ECLAC and carried out in collaboration with regional governments, the EU, IDB and various other …
IDB Development Effectiveness Overview 2010
This annual report summarizes the actions taken by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to measure and improve the social, economic, …
Climate Change: A Research Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (Inter-American Development Bank, 2010)
This research agenda outlines the issues requiring further research in order to create an informed assessment of what strategies and …
Latin America finds a voice on climate change: With what impact? (2010)
This article featured in the North American Congress on Latin America written by Jim Shultz and published in 2010 describes …
Low Carbon, High Growth: Latin American Responses to Climate Change (2009)
The World Bank’s flagship report on Latin America and the Caribbean explores how the region is exposed to climate change …
Climate Change in Latin America (2009)
The European Commission funded a study which would ascertain the problems related to climate change within Latin America. The study …
Up in smoke? Latin America and the Caribbean: The threat from climate change to the environment and human development (2006)
This publication is an important contribution to establish greater awareness about climate change. It is a call to action not …
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Blogs & Websites
- Observatório do Clima
- Blog de Cambio Climático – Perú
- Hablemos de Cambio Climático – blog de BID
- Cambia.pe – Testimonios sobre Cambio Climático
- Cambio Climático Rural
- Climate Change Agriculture and Food Society
- Climate Progress
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- Renewable Energy Latin America
- Notes on ICTs, Climate Change and Development
- World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth
- Natural Resources Defense Council – Amanda Maxwell Blog
- Foro sobre Cambio Climático y Comercio
- BBCMundo.com | América Latina
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- Cambio Climático Chile – Terram
- Círculo Verde
- Clima de Preparación – historias de la adaptación, la experiencia, y las exploraciones
- Climate Science Watch
- Conexão Verde
- Ecosystem Marketplace
- Energías Renovables
- Energía Sur – Centro Latino Americano de Ecología Social
- Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas
- Green Momentum – Cleantech for Latin America
- Gráficos Vitales del Cambio Climático para América Latina y el Caribe
- Mudanças Climáticas
- Observatorio Ambiental
- O Eco
- Programa Local de Adaptación al Cambio Climático
- Real Climate Economics
- Responding to Climate Change (RTCC)
- Sistema de Información Ambiental de Colombia (SIAC)
- AlertNet – Climate Change
- Ushahidi – tools for democratizing information and increasing transparency
- A New “Why” for Climate Action
- Platform publishes new policy brief on how to strengthen public policies on agriculture, livestock and forests in Latin America
- Peru and Venezuela compete to host COP20 in 2014
- The Politics of Climate Change in Latin America: Leaders and Laggards
- Integrating Climate Migration into Latin American regional forums
- IDB: LAC must urgently adapt to the dangerous consequences of a changing climate
- A New Latin American Climate Negotiating Group: The Greenest Shoots in the Doha Desert
- Mexican and Brazilian cooperation on climate crucial for driving change
- Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon - Emily Kirkland: I second that- thanks for the...
- Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon - Guy Edwards: Graham – thanks for your...
- Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon - Graham Woodgate: Dear GuyTwo points for you...
- Ecuador’s Yasuní Initiative shakes up the climate-development agenda - Guy Edwards: Rachel: Thanks for your comments....
- Ecuador’s Yasuní Initiative shakes up the climate-development agenda - rachelincolombia: Hi Guy,Thanks for this much...
- Ecuador’s Yasuní Initiative shakes up the climate-development agenda - Amazonia: It is great to develop...
- Latin America, climate change and the countdown to Copenhagen: Interview 1* - kiramatali shah: . According to the...
- Chávez criticizes lack of transparency in Copenhagen - tiffany: Thanks for the post – you might find this...
- Latin America, climate change and the countdown to Copenhagen: Interview 3* - tax jobs: HiIn this site very super ,...
- Adios Chacaltaya - Mbenzi: I was there 1980, before it officially started to melt. One of the strangest places I have...
Challenges for a Climate Compatible Development: How to strengthen agricultural, livestock and forestry public policies (2013)
This policy brief emerges from a process of analysis of the status and quality of the public policies on climate …
Report on the Status and Quality of Public Policies on Climate Change and Development in Latin America (2012)
This report analyses the present status of public policies on climate change and development in Latin America focusing on the …
Political and Institutional Challenges facing Local Climate Change Policies: The experiences of Buenos Aires, Mexico City and São Paulo (2012)
During the last few years, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Mexico …
Latin American Platform on Climate Strategy 2010
This document outlines the Strategic Lines of Action of the Latin American Platform on Climate.…
Latin America: Climate Challenges for the Region (2009)
A LAPC presentation made at the COP15 in Copenhagen, 14th December 2009…