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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Failed talks
Magali Zevallos Ríos
1/4/2010
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Latin America lost a major battle in Copenhagen.

Latin America, home of the greatest biodiversity and natural resources on earth and region of developing nations is one of world´s smallest emitters of greenhouse gases and one of the most affected by global warming, as rising temperatures cause the rapid melting of glaciers, and the abnormal rainfalls that have brought devastating droughts and floods.

Both the world´s poorest and most vulnerable nations along with the top contributors to global warming, including the United States and China, were among the 192 countries that met in Dec. 7-18 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, but they failed to agree on a binding carbon emissions reduction pact.

The 12-point agreement that was eked out at the last minute by the United States, Brazil, South Africa, India and China — the world´s main producers of greenhouse gas emissions — recognized that keeping global warming increases to under 2°C would require “deep emissions cuts.”

The agreement committed rich countries to a $30 billion fund for climate change mitigation in the 2010-2012 period, and an additional goal of $100 billion a year for poor nations to offset the effects. 

Regional opposition
Still, it fell short of establishing emissions targets, a move that was criticized from Sweden to Bolivia, whose president, Evo Morales, called the talks “a failure.”

Costa Rica, a major advocate of rich nations providing poor countries with climate change mitigation funds, was also skeptical.

“I think that the amounts that certain countries — Europeans, the United States, Japan — have spoken about to help developing countries with climate change have been extremely small,” Costa Rican President Oscar Arias told journalists in San Jose Dec. 14. Arias said billions of dollars in arms spending around the globe "that the world doesn´t need" should be used to fight climate change. Costa Rica is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2021, and has one of the most extensive forest protection systems in the region.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, even though his country, which fell short of the leadership role expected of it at the summit, carved out the last minute climate change deal, said there remains a great deal to be done.

“We finished with a deal,” Lula said on Dec. 21, after the summit. “After a lot of tension, we forged an agreement with China, India, South Africa, Brazil and the United States that resolves the problem of the Kyoto protocol.” 

“The sensation we left with is that leaders around the world will have to always have this issue as a priority so we can find a definitive solution to guarantee the existence of Planet Earth is maintained.” 

Regional initiatives
While the region´s leaders have complained that the area suffers profoundly from the effects of climate change despite having some of the lowest contributions to the phenomenon, it boasts some of the world´s most dramatic conservation efforts.

Before the summit ended, Ecuador finalized the creation of the Yasuní Trust Fund, a two-year-old initiative of President Rafael Correa for $350 million a year from the international community to not drill in the oil rich Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini field, which is estimated to hold close to 850 million barrels of crude. The field sits on the Yasuní National Park, Ecuador´s largest, which is also home to a number of indigenous communities.

Little responsibility
According to the World Bank, Latin America and the Caribbean are responsible for just 12 percent of the world´s green house gas emissions. Peru, home to 70 percent of the world´s tropical glaciers, is one of the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.

By the end of the century, climate change could cost the region some $250 billion, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean´s recent report, “The Economics of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean,” an increase from $8.6 billion in the 2000 to 2008 period.

From 1970 to 2008, storms, droughts and flooding have cost the region $80 billion.

The study estimates that an investment equal to 1 percent of the world´s economy or $70 trillion is required to mitigate the effects of climate change. If this is not achieved, the phenomenon could cause a global recession in which the world economy would shed 20 percent of its value.

The report also found that the number of people affected by climate change in 2025 could be as high as 81 million and as many as 178 million in 2055. Caribbean nations are already confronting water shortages amid low rainfall, since most of the islands depend on surface water. Andean nations Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, where glacier melt has notably accelerated in the last three decades, have faced similar problems, which are having a visible impact on the agricultural and human water supply.
—Latinamerica Press.


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Latin American and Caribbean indigenous populations are among the most vulnerable populations of climate change. (Photo: Gabriel Herrera)
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