Now at COP24 in Katowice, AILAC is pushing for countries to agree a process to increase ambition in 2020 guided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5 degree Celsius report. To complement this process and to demonstrate their commitment to advancing domestic climate action, three of its members - Chile, Costa Rica and Guatemala - communicated their interest in hosting COP25 in 2019.
AILAC challenges the North–South divide by offering proposals and perspectives to try and move countries beyond bifurcation. Their status as middle-income countries, high level of vulnerability to climate impacts, and relatively clean energy matrices due to their considerable installed hydroelectric capacity, pushed them to explore a third way at the UN climate talks to try and shift them beyond the standoffs between developed and developing countries.
Working alongside other developing countries such as AOSIS and the LDCs, and also participating in informal groups such as the Cartagena Dialogue and the High Ambition Coalition, AILAC was able to make substantive contributions to the Paris Agreement including on helping to secure the inclusion of a long-term goal focused on the 1.5 degree Celsius.
Now as a well-established group with its own support unit created in 2014, there are high expectations for AILAC to support efforts to secure an ambitious outcome in Katowice.
In an interview with the CDL, Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ricardo Lozano, said that Colombia strongly supports the findings of the IPCC’s report on 1.5 degrees Celsius, which should guide efforts to increase ambition by 2020. Signing onto the High Ambition Coalition’s statement on December 12 alongside Costa Rica, the EU and various Small Island States and Least Developed Countries, Minister Lozano, said that “we are all in this together” but highlighted that developing countries are especially vulnerable to climate impacts.
Colombia is extremely vulnerable to climate impacts. As the the country gears up for another El Niño year, the Ministry of Environment and the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, recently initiated the preparation of the strategy for the formulation of the National Plan for Prevention and Adaptation to the El Niño Phenomenon.
Speaking to CDL, Costa Rica’s Director of Climate Change in the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Andrea Meza, echoed the importance of the 1.5 degrees goal saying that “more ambition means less extreme climatic events.”
Ms Meza said that AILAC is looking for a strong Paris rulebook which has a good system on transparency and which facilitates access to support from developed countries while spurring climate action. On the Talanoa Dialogue, AILAC is looking for a robust decision which is guided by the latest science which calls for a rapid transformation based on the 1.5 degree Celsius goal.
Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras are also part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) alongside various African, Caribbean and Pacific Island countries. Prior to COP24, the CVF called for “urgent further action to enable far greater flows of international climate finance to be delivered” to support developing countries, especially the LDCs and Small Island States, to prepare more ambitious climate plans.
AILAC countries are currently assessing the possibility to submit enhanced NDCs in 2020. Ms. Meza commented that Costa Rica is looking at options to present a plan aligned with the 1.5 degree Celsius goal. Colombia is similarly exploring options to submit a more ambitious NDC, according to Minister Lozano.
Confidence is building that climate action makes economic sense and is crucial to safeguard important development advances. Minister Lozano said that the new Colombian government which took office in August 2018 is “committed to climate change” and is keen to promote renewable energy, electric mobility and reduce deforestation. Colombia will hold its first large-scale renewable energy auction next month with the aim to secure 1 GW of installed capacity.
Ms Meza says that Costa Rica is aiming be a test ground for a fossil-free society. In February, 2019, it will launch a decarbonization plan with a goal to become a zero emission economy by 2050 with 8 cross cutting strategic areas including on green fiscal reform, attracting clean foreign investment and the just transition.
In January 2018, a new law in Costa Rica came into effect which provides incentives to electric vehicles. The law creates a mandate for the State to electrify at least 5% of the bus fleet every two years. In an important sign of the law’s impact, this month Costa Rica’s group of state-owned electricity companies launched a fleet of 100 battery electric vehicles.
Ms Meza said that the push on electric mobility is not just about reducing emissions but also about improving the public transport system, public health and fiscal discipline. Electric mobility presents potentially big savings for the state on fuel costs and maintenance but also reducing health costs. Poor air quality, including from transport results, in annual losses of 1.5% of GDP from hospital visits and premature deaths due to respiratory diseases.
Building on their commitment to the Paris Agreement and domestic climate action, three AILAC countries - Guatemala, Costa Rica and Chile - have expressed interest in hosting COP25 in 2019. By the last Friday of COP2, it appeared Chile had secured support to become the COP25 president.
This will be a major test for Chile given the substantial price tag to organize the conference and the diplomatic resources required to pull it off. Beyond these challenges, Chile’s and to some extent other AILAC member’s domestic climate policies will be more closely scrutinized. This could actually help mobilize more support for climate action as investors, banks and international agencies increase their attention on the region.
As developing countries with growing energy demand, high motorization rates and large tracts of forests to protect, the challenges to advance national climate policies and implement the Paris Agreement are immense. AILAC countries strongly back the Paris goal of 1.5 degrees. The big test now is to build on their proactive role at the negotiations and growing domestic climate action to successful implement Paris Agreement at home.