Climate change creeps up the U.S. – Latin America agenda
In Santiago, Chile, President Barack Obama was unequivocal about the urgency of tackling climate change and embracing a more secure and sustainable energy future in the Americas.
The U.S. president stressed that regional expertise on renewable energy and biofuels was being pooled and shared under the U.S.-led Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) launched in 2009.
Prior to arriving in Chile, President Obama and his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, had agreed to launch a Strategic Energy Dialogue, that was to focus on cooperation on biofuels and renewable energy, energy efficiency, civilian nuclear energy and the development of Brazil’s deepwater oil and gas resources.
The Obama Administration has certainly invested significant political capital and financial resources into different aspects of the ECPA. In 2009 a senior staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was quoted as saying ‘there is free trade fatigue and anti-drug fatigue in Latin America’ but that ‘energy opens a new path to relations with the hemisphere and is consistent with the president-elect’s overall energy and climate change objectives’.
In 2010, the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to the Initiative. The vision of the ECPA is to bring countries from across the region together to accelerate the deployment of clean energy, advance energy security, and reduce energy poverty by sharing best practices, encouraging investment, and cooperation on technology. It is shaped around seven pillars ranging from renewable energy to adaptation and sustainable forests and land use.
The U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, states that Latin America is a significant focus of funding with over US$60 million spent in 2009-10 on climate-related bilateral assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean with over US$100 million requested for 2011.
Such expenditure has not gone unchallenged. At a House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela had to defend the Administration’s decision to allocate further funds to the ECPA when the chairman of the Subcommittee, Republican Connie Mac, questioned why US taxpayers’ money is being spent on climate change initiatives.
Latin American countries have generally endorsed the ECPA. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago have announced initiatives and/or are involved in projects supported by the ECPA.
They reflect the view recently expressed by the Panamanian Minister for Commerce and Industry, Roberto Henríquez, that the Partnership is positioning energy and climate change among the most important issues for the region through a multilateral channel of coordination.
Yet despite the resources and energy going into the initiative, the level of attention paid to the ECPA is currently minimal.
The relative decline of U.S. hegemony in the region, political reluctance in the U.S. on climate and greater independence by Latin American governments would appear to be fundamental elements in explaining why the ECPA has not generated greater attention by the press and commentators on hemispheric relations.
Although Obama’s popularity in the region is an asset for the U.S. administration, the U.S. is deemed responsible for triggering the financial crisis and has lost trust following Iraq and Afghanistan and the impact of its drug policies have not helped its image as a genuine and reflective partner.
As former director of the Inter-American Dialogue, Peter Hakim, points out, in his first year in office Obama had to contend with multiple obstacles that have frustrated change in U.S. relations with the region. There have, for example, been domestic issues such as the delay to fill critical U.S. diplomatic appointments, disagreements over Honduras, Cuban OAS membership, Latin American opposition to the U.S.-Colombia defense pact, and Iran’s ties to Brazil. All have been particularly challenging and in two years there has been little progress made on these issues.
The Obama Administration also faces a massive challenge to make progress on domestic climate change policy with the Republican Party bent on sabotaging constructive dialogue at every turn. The recent vote to cut-off funding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests things have reached a new low.
Most countries in Latin America today consider the U.S. less relevant to their interests. Latin American governments are also taking initiatives to create their own regional institutions that both complement but also compete with organizations like the OAS.
The low level of attention also suggests that Latin American countries may be disappointed at the U.S.’s inability to achieve more on outstanding security and migration issues so are reacting ambivalently to the ECPA.
Those following hemispheric relations from the U.S. may also feel that other pressing issues such as trade, drugs and immigration are the real priority and discussing climate and energy concerns are a distraction. A leading commentator on hemispheric relations, the Inter-American Dialogue, for example, has paid very little attention to energy and climate issues in the region.
Elsewhere it is argued commentators in the media cannot be bothered to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the initiatives that the current administration is working on.
The Obama Administration has stated that there are four over-arching priorities in the region, which includes securing a clean energy future. It is time this issue was up-graded by the press and observers to reflect the importance it has been allocated.
The scant media coverage of the ECPA and consequent lack of pressure in support of the initiative is regrettable. Even despite the paucity of publicity, there have been some positive signs that the Partnership is achieving success and its ambitious goals reflect the growing awareness of the urgency of global warming and clean energy for the hemisphere.
The ECPA is also a useful diplomatic tool to rebuild confidence and improve trust between the U.S. and Latin America and may support the creation of more constructive political conditions to generate progress on other hemispheric issues.
Taking into account Latin American expertise on both climate and clean energy policies, the ECPA provides scope for these countries to press for greater change in the U.S. particularly on domestic climate policy, which is inextricably linked to success at the UNFCCC and a new global climate deal. In that sense the ECPA offers considerable potential.
However, while airtime for the Partnership remains insufficient, the ECPA will be unable to benefit from greater scrutiny, analysis and attention that the media and commentators provide for other regional issues. In the interests of hemispheric relations this needs to change immediately.
Comments are closed.
The Durban Platform: Implications and Scenarios in Latin America (2012)
This report analyzes submissions made by Latin American countries to the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for …
Sustainable Development 20 years on from the Earth Summit: Progress, gaps and strategic, guidelines for Latin America and the Caribbean (2012)
This report by ECLAC published in March 2012 prior to the Rio+20 Conference offers an analysis of progress made and …
Capturing the Riches of Bolivia: Utilizing Historical and Contemporary Experience in Bolivian Mining to Inform Future Resource Policy (2012)
Centuries of foreign extraction of Bolivian natural resource wealth have occurred at the expense of environmental protection and overall development …
Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation in the Peruvian Andes (2012)
Indigenous peoples have extensive knowledge of their local environment and this knowledge can be a valuable tool for climate change …
Shaping the Durban Platform: Latin America and the Caribbean in a future High Ambition Deal (2012)
After the longest session on record, governments at the COP17 in Durban in December 2011 agreed to negotiate by 2015 …
Three Hungry Giants: China, the U.S. and the E.U.’s battle over Latin America’s natural resources, and its implications for climate change and resource scarcity (2012)
This presentation was made on April 6, 2012, by Brown University Research Fellow Guy Edwards and Professor Timmons Roberts at …
Poles Apart – The international reporting of climate change scepticism (2011)
Poles Apart is a wide-ranging comparative study on the prevalence of climate scepticism in the media around the world. It …
Dangerous Climate Change in Brazil: A Brazil-UK Analysis of Climate Change and Deforestation Impacts in the Amazon (2011)
This collaborative project between the Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre (CCST) of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), …
Civil-Military Collaboration to Address Adaptation to Climate Change in South America (2011)
This paper, published by the Center for Strategic Leadership (CSL) at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC), was written by …
‘Will cattle ranching continue to drive deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon?’ (Paulo Barreto, 2011)
This is a presentation made by Paulo Barreto, Senior Researcher at IMAZON, at the April 8th Brown University Conference on …
‘Slow Boil: Colombia’s response to the chronic emergency of climate vulnerability’ (Antonio Hill, 2011)
This is a presentation made by Antonio Hill, Regional Advocacy and Campaigns Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean for …
‘The Squeezed Middle: Why Latin America Matters in Climate Politics’ (Monica Araya, 2011)
This is a presentation made by Dr. Monica Araya, E3G Senior Associate and adviser to the Ministry of Environment of …
Scoping Study of Climate Change Activities across Latin America and the Caribbean to inform the CDKN Regional Strategy (2010)
This study prepared by Guy Edwards attempts to identify the priority needs of Latin American and Caribbean policy-makers with respect …
Regional implications of the Advisory Group on Climate Finance recommendations: Latin America and Caribbean region (2010)
This report was written by Vivid Economics and funded by the CDKN. It was requested by AGF members to help …
Economics of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean Summary 2010
This document, published by the ECLAC and carried out in collaboration with regional governments, the EU, IDB and various other …
IDB Development Effectiveness Overview 2010
This annual report summarizes the actions taken by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to measure and improve the social, economic, …
Climate Change: A Research Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (Inter-American Development Bank, 2010)
This research agenda outlines the issues requiring further research in order to create an informed assessment of what strategies and …
Latin America finds a voice on climate change: With what impact? (2010)
This article featured in the North American Congress on Latin America written by Jim Shultz and published in 2010 describes the …
Low Carbon, High Growth: Latin American Responses to Climate Change (2009)
The World Bank’s flagship report on Latin America and the Caribbean explores how the region is exposed to climate change …
Climate Change in Latin America (2009)
The European Commission funded a study which would ascertain the problems related to climate change within Latin America. The study …
Up in smoke? Latin America and the Caribbean: The threat from climate change to the environment and human development (2006)
This publication is an important contribution to establish greater awareness about climate change. It is a call to action not …
- International Climate Negotiations (118)
- video (88)
- Public Climate Change Policies (55)
- Adaptation (35)
- Renewable Energy (32)
- Amazon (28)
- Climate Finance (27)
- Civil Society (26)
- Regional Organisations (22)
- Reading List (21)
- Energy (18)
- Biodiversity (18)
- Trade & Commerce (13)
- Cities (13)
- Natural Disasters (13)
- REDD+ (13)
- Market Mechanisms (12)
- Food Security (12)
- Key Posts (11)
- Economics of Climate Change (10)
- Vulnerability (10)
- Interviews (7)
- The Science of Climate Change (7)
- Climate Justice & Equity (7)
- Sustainability (6)
- Publications (5)
- Indigenous Peoples & Tribes (3)
- CDM (2)
- Security (2)
- Transport (2)
- Mitigation (2)
- Migration (2)
- Loss and damage (1)
- Agriculture (10)
Blogs & Websites
- Observatório do Clima
- Blog de Cambio Climático – Perú
- Hablemos de Cambio Climático – blog de BID
- Cambia.pe – Testimonios sobre Cambio Climático
- Cambio Climático Rural
- Climate Change Agriculture and Food Society
- Climate Progress
- Climate Vulnerability Monitor
- The Democracy Center
- Renewable Energy Latin America
- Notes on ICTs, Climate Change and Development
- World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth
- Natural Resources Defense Council – Amanda Maxwell Blog
- Foro sobre Cambio Climático y Comercio
- BBCMundo.com | América Latina
- Bloggings by boz
- Blog de Cambio climático
- Cambio Climático Chile – Terram
- Círculo Verde
- Clima de Preparación – historias de la adaptación, la experiencia, y las exploraciones
- Climate Science Watch
- Conexão Verde
- Ecosystem Marketplace
- Energías Renovables
- Energía Sur – Centro Latino Americano de Ecología Social
- Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas
- Green Momentum – Cleantech for Latin America
- Gráficos Vitales del Cambio Climático para América Latina y el Caribe
- Mudanças Climáticas
- Observatorio Ambiental
- O Eco
- Programa Local de Adaptación al Cambio Climático
- Real Climate Economics
- Responding to Climate Change (RTCC)
- Sistema de Información Ambiental de Colombia (SIAC)
- AlertNet – Climate Change
- Ushahidi – tools for democratizing information and increasing transparency
- Latin American countries attempt to tackle climate change while pushing economic growth
- Chinese loan for oil refinery clashes with Costa Rica’s climate policies
- Think tanks in Latin America have major role to play on climate change
- A New “Why” for Climate Action
- Platform publishes new policy brief on how to strengthen public policies on agriculture, livestock and forests in Latin America
- Peru and Venezuela compete to host COP20 in 2014
- The Politics of Climate Change in Latin America: Leaders and Laggards
- Integrating Climate Migration into Latin American regional forums
- IDB: LAC must urgently adapt to the dangerous consequences of a changing climate
- A New Latin American Climate Negotiating Group: The Greenest Shoots in the Doha Desert
- Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon - Emily Kirkland: I second that- thanks for the...
- Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon - Guy Edwards: Graham – thanks for your...
- Trail-blazing schemes show potential of REDD+ in the Brazilian Amazon - Graham Woodgate: Dear GuyTwo points for you...
- Ecuador’s Yasuní Initiative shakes up the climate-development agenda - Guy Edwards: Rachel: Thanks for your comments....
- Ecuador’s Yasuní Initiative shakes up the climate-development agenda - rachelincolombia: Hi Guy,Thanks for this much...
- Ecuador’s Yasuní Initiative shakes up the climate-development agenda - Amazonia: It is great to develop...
- Latin America, climate change and the countdown to Copenhagen: Interview 1* - kiramatali shah: . According to the...
- Chávez criticizes lack of transparency in Copenhagen - tiffany: Thanks for the post – you might find this...
- Latin America, climate change and the countdown to Copenhagen: Interview 3* - tax jobs: HiIn this site very super ,...
- Adios Chacaltaya - Mbenzi: I was there 1980, before it officially started to melt. One of the strangest places I have...
Challenges for a Climate Compatible Development: How to strengthen agricultural, livestock and forestry public policies (2013)
This policy brief emerges from a process of analysis of the status and quality of the public policies on climate …
Report on the Status and Quality of Public Policies on Climate Change and Development in Latin America (2012)
This report analyses the present status of public policies on climate change and development in Latin America focusing on the …
Political and Institutional Challenges facing Local Climate Change Policies: The experiences of Buenos Aires, Mexico City and São Paulo (2012)
During the last few years, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Mexico …
Latin American Platform on Climate Strategy 2010
This document outlines the Strategic Lines of Action of the Latin American Platform on Climate.…
Latin America: Climate Challenges for the Region (2009)
A LAPC presentation made at the COP15 in Copenhagen, 14th December 2009…