Panelists reviewed the state of the talks following the latest round of negotiations in Geneva in February. Timmons Roberts commented on the draft text which has ballooned from 37 pages to 86 and the rapidly diminishing time before December and the tendency of countries to delay the tough negotiations until the last minute. Jorge Gastelumendi said that “the level of distrust in the process is big" reinforcing the sense of urgency to improve cooperation between countries required to make progress on the tough parts of the text.
Mariana Panuncio emphasized that global emissions need to peak this decade and that hard decisions cannot be pushed back until after 2020 when a new global agreement would come into force. Panuncio stressed that, ‘We must consider not just the road to Paris, but the road through Paris.”
Walter Vergara said that the U.N. process is crucial but parallel routes to confront climate change must also be utilized. He commented on the growing awareness in Latin America that there are economically attractive routes with benefits for the climate especially the restoration of degraded lands.
However, Vergara cautioned that one of the key obstacles to achieving a global agreement on climate change and advancing climate action in Latin America are powerful economic forces. Jorge Gastelumendi mentioned that Latin American countries are struggling to bring the private sector into the climate debate. He mentioned the case of Peru, which had attempted to bring the private sector into the discussion last year but there is huge distrust from the private sector toward the government.
As part of the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 many Latin American countries put forward voluntary emission reduction pledges for the year 2020. Jorge Gastelumendi suggested that there is confidence that Latin American countries will deliver on these pledges. Despite some progress, Mariana Panuncio tempered this optimism by suggesting that the influence of deep-seated drivers must be dislodged in order to secure substantial advances.
The discussion then shifted to how Latin American countries are preparing their INDCs. Guy Edwards commented that the INDCs are an opportunity for countries to prepare for a low emission future and also an opportunity to democratize the national climate change debate.
Countries are invited to submit their INDCs by the end of this March if they are able to do so and by October if they cannot. Some Latin American countries are attempting to make the March 31 deadline while others will attempt to submit their INDCs by June. Chile opened a public consultation on its INDC last December and Brazil has already conducted public consultations. Mexico held its first workshop on its INDC with civil society participation last month and Colombia also has plans for public consultations.
Countries have broad guidelines on how to prepare their INDC and there remains significant ambiguity in what countries can decide to include in them. Mariana Panuncio said it is likely that countries will put forward conservative INDCs at a time when greater ambition is urgently required.
Panelists also discussed the relationship between the voluntary emission pledges for 2020 and the INDCs which would come into force from 2020. Walter Vergara suggested those countries such as Chile which is making progress on its voluntary emission target could achieve a seamless transition with their INDC. Jorge Gastelumendi said that Chile’s INDC was mandated by the president but in the case of Peru its president had not done the same despite hosting the U.N. climate conference in 2014. He also raised the point about whether countries had “done their homework” in terms of aligning different sectors to coordinate and encourage action on emission reductions. He suggested that any disconnect between pre-2020 and post-2020 emission targets is more likely the result of a lack of homework between sectors than insufficient political will.
Finally, speakers discussed recommendations on the preparation of the INDCs. Jorge Gastelumendi stressed that including information on the potential economic gains and losses of a country’s INDCs is essential. Mariana Panuncio said there were important opportunities to encourage dialogue on the INDCs such as lessons sharing within and between countries in the region on the obstacles and opportunities encountered while preparing them. Guy Edwards suggested that Latin American civil society groups should consider arranging a regional forum on the INDC process to bring countries together to facilitate dialogue between them and with civil society. Secondly, that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States should bring countries together to collaborate and share experiences on their INDCs.
This year is highly significance for reaching a new global climate agreement and building progress on ambitious INDCs. Latin American countries are set to play important roles at the U.N. climate talks and through their national contributions. The region’s countries can play a constructive role at home and abroad to drive forward climate action but there is no time to loose.