Coordinated actions between civil society, governments, the private sector, academia and multilateral organizations become “crucial” to face the effects of climate change in the region, agreed experts convened this Thursday at the first Climate Governance forum held by the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, from Germany, and its environmental division for Latin America.
The Brazilian Climate Secretary, Ana Toni, said during one of the forums that the current challenge is for civil society to “take a greater role” in order to pressure governments to act and to “respect” previously approved strategic plans for deal with global warming, given the successive changes of governments in the region.
“The most important thing is the sum of interests and efforts of the government and civil society. We have to work in the same direction and not stop at the tensions that exist. Civil society cannot be at the service of the government, there must be a frank and open dialogue, we are talking about an urgent climate issue”, warned Secretary Toni.
The Brazilian official was the highest representation of Latin American governments in the four-hour virtual session where experts from different levels presented the priorities for the region in the face of the challenges of global warming.
This forum was given a few days after the “II Amazon Summit of Journalism and Climate Change 2023”to be held from June 14 to 16 in El Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador.
The organizers believe it is urgent that the issue go beyond the meetings of government officials and private sector actors.
“Climate policy decisions in Latin America are usually concentrated in public decision-makers, with contributions and influence from the private sector. On rare occasions, civil society organizations or structurally vulnerable populations have had the opportunity to access the debates that they will be decisive for their future”, they pointed out during the opening.
From city halls, when there are no national plans
In the absence of a national strategy in Mexico to address the effects of climate change “because it is not a priority at this time from the central government”, the work of the municipalities becomes “key” to address the problem, said the mayor of the town from Ticul, in Merida, Rafael Montalvo.
Montalvo said that from his municipality they work with a network of mayors that, in coordination with multiple sectors, seek solutions and preparation for the effects of climate change.
“Those of us who are public officials have to be clear about the need to work together with different groups, institutions and organizations,” he said, and presented the “successful case” of the Biocultural Intermunicipal Board, which brings together several towns in the Sierra de Yucatán .
The board is a decentralized public body made up of five municipalities in the southern part of the state and aims to provide technical support to municipalities to manage environmental protection and natural resource management programs, he explained.
Inter-American Dialogue expert Daniela Stevens said that the Mexican government had been asked in advance to participate in this first forum to address the problem, but there was no response.
Civil society and private sector, adverse points
Representatives of civil society from different parts of the region see it as urgent to reach agreements to generate joint actions, even between sectors with approaches as opposed as the environmentalist and the private sector.
Carlos Asúnsolo, a lawyer from the Mexican Center for Environmental Law AC, agreed with his colleague Liuca Yonaha, from the Taknoa Institute, in Brazil, about the multiple coincidences when it comes to attacks on environmental defenders, because a good part of the cases are related to interests of companies or corporations for extraction of natural resources.
There is also “systematic violence” because apart from the cases that are reported in the media, there are multiple acts of violence against defenders in remote areas “for defending the environment” and in most cases “indigenous peoples are the ones who suffer the most Asunsolo said.
Both agreed that it is urgent to direct actions in the folders of multilateral organizations to involve the private sector in solving the problem.
At this point, Gianluca Merlo, technical adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean for the climate strategy of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said that several of the programs are aimed at finding meeting points with the private sector, especially with global plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
However, he qualified that there is still a lot of work to be done, that time is pressing and that none of the solutions in sight are completely risk-free. “We cannot be wrong,” he said.
The commitment to replace vehicles that use fossil fuels with electric ones would mean exponentially multiplying the production of lithium and copper and in the near future the accumulation of batteries would come at the end of their useful life, for which reason he urged to discuss specific solutions.
The exploitation of the large deposits of these minerals located in various Latin American countries also poses another environmental challenge.
Latin America has to focus on the reduction of greenhouse gases with the management to protect natural resources, so “you have to be very careful” when thinking about a simple substitution of means, Merlo pointed out.
“You have to see very clearly if these technologies that we are getting into are the ideal ones,” he concluded.