The event aimed to open a space for Latin American voices to discuss how to ensure policy coherence between international pledges on climate change and national climate and development goals. The event abandoned the conventional format of panelists presenting their work one by one, in favor of a moderated discussion addressing the issues of energy, cities and forests.
Natalie Unterstell from the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs of the Brazilian Presidency emphasized the vulnerability of Latin America’s power sector to climate impacts — especially hydropower. She stressed that countries must reduce the renewable energy sector’s vulnerability to natural variability such as droughts, and explore how to avoid resorting to carbon-intensive fuels to plug the gap.
Pedro Gamio, of Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mining, said that it is important for the region to come together to facilitate the widespread development of renewable energy. He recommended the creation of a regional technology transfer center to encourage greater collaboration on renewable energy, which could help reduce implementation costs and increase cooperation between countries.
Ana Toni, Chairwoman of Greenpeace International, spoke of the barriers to advancing renewable energy in Latin America, including the inability of governments to think long-term. She referred to the corruption scandal engulfing Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, and several government officials, which illustrates the proximity of fossil fuel companies to government; and how this relationship represents a major obstacle to increasing the use of renewable energy.
Mexican Senator Silvia Galan stressed the importance of human rights and social inclusion in the energy debate. She said, “We want to democratize energy by using distributed solar energy, beginning with a goal of 500,000 solar roofs and with a US$7 billion per year subsidy for household electricity fees.”
Carolina Zambrano, the Leader of Strategy for Sustainable Cities for AVINA, spoke about the significant connection between cities and climate change. She argued that the three main pillars of creating better cities are increasing social inclusion and equity, improving sustainability, and building a safe and efficient public transportation system.
Daniel Ortega from Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, echoed this point, arguing that objectives of reducing inequality, ensuring human rights, and making cities more liveable coincide.
During the discussion on forests, panelists focused on the significant challenges to protecting forests in the region. José Luis Capella, Director of SPDA’s Forestry Program, argued that tackling corruption and improving forest management were essential. He suggested that governments must increase transparency, formalize land titles, and better enforce existing lumbering and mining laws.
Andrea Rudnick, Regional Analyst with MAPS-Chile, lamented that forest protection measures in Chile often create conflicts with indigenous groups, emphasizing the need for “real, deep dialogue” between policymakers and indigenous peoples. Ana Toni agreed, stating, “When we talk about forests, we must talk first and foremost about indigenous peoples’ rights to land.”
Finally, Giovanna Valverde, from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offered a possible way forward to support financing to protect forests by highlighting how some of the funding for Costa Rica’s national forestry fund came from a tax on fossil fuels.
Throughout the event panelists spoke of how Latin American countries are attempting to be part of the global solution to climate change. Despite some encouraging examples, there remains pressing challenges ahead. In particular, enhancing the role of civil society is crucial to ensure that governments’ actions live up to their rhetoric. Pedro Gamio referred to the fast turnaround of administrations and ministers and how Latin American civil society must build a network to concentrate their efforts, hold governments accountable, and prevent human rights violations.