Monica Araya gives her insights into the growing role of non-state actors in the Latin American and Caribbean region, a topic which she presented at the last 
ECLAC dialogue for Latin American countries, held in Santiago de Chile in May 2015. CDKN supports these dialogues through its Advocacy Fund.

A stadium in Costa Rica became 100% solar powered in May. Powerful headlines energised readers in a region whose love for football and the sun is legendary. A source of pride, this became the first stadium in Central America of this kind.

Tangible benefits, including $185,000 in savings a year, tell a credible story to citizens of why embracing clean energy is smart. The stadium’s conversion also shows that actions by all stakeholders, not only the state, are necessary if we are to collectively shift toward growing economies while emissions go down. Non-state actors, such as companies and city-led initiatives, can make an affirmative difference this year. This will be especially the case once governments sign a new climate agreement in Paris this December.
By Guy Edwards and Susanna Mage Key Points
  1. 23 out of 79 (29%) think tanks from Latin America identified in the University Of Pennsylvania study have programs, projects or publications (PPPs) relating to climate change.
  2. Brazil has the highest total number of think tanks (7) with PPPs on climate change. Mexico (4) and Argentina (3) follow.
  3. Latin American think tanks can play a vital role in building a new narrative for climate action and ensuring its place on political agendas, party manifestos and government policy.
  4. Governments in Latin America could do a better job at ensuring the inclusion of think tanks and other organizations in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of climate policies and related debates.
  5. A report focusing on the details of these PPPs would make an important contribution to allow fellow think tanks, researchers, donors, government and NGOs to compare research findings and to locate potential partners on climate change.
  6. Organizations that conduct work on climate change but do not explicitly state the link on their websites may consider updating the descriptions of these programs and be more explicit about any PPPs relevant to climate change.
This article featured in the North American Congress on Latin America written by Jim Shultz and published in 2010 describes the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April 2010. The conference called on wealthy nations to acknowledge and pay a "climate debt" to the countries on the blunt end of climate change as well as for an international tribunal empowered to consider the responsibility of countries and corporations that have contributed to the climate crisis and to enforce penalties and action against them. The author questions how the demands produced by the Conference might be integrated into global decision making on climate and how civil society advocating for greater action can move beyond producing statements and achieve real change.
The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) aims to help decision-makers in developing countries design and deliver climate compatible development. CDKN does this by providing demand-led research and technical assistance, and channeling the best available knowledge on climate change and development to support policy processes at the country level.
Thursday, 17 February 2011 10:40

Latin American Platform on Climate Strategy 2010

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This document outlines the Strategic Lines of Action of the Latin American Platform on Climate.
This article was first published in LINKS (Jan 2011, No. 37), the magazine of the Chamber of Industry & Commerce Ecuador & Great Britain.

Climate change could cost the Ecuadorian economy billions of dollars. By 2025, the economic losses caused by global warming in countries which make up the Andean Community - Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia - could reach approximately $30 billion annually. The predicted impacts of global warming in Latin America are likely to be harsh. From decreasing agricultural yields and melting glaciers threatening water supplies to job losses and higher incidences of vector borne diseases, climate change has the potential to transform Latin America’s economy, ecosystems and society.
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 10:25

Via Campesina March in Cancun

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By Adam Kotin, Brown University Excerpts from the Via Campesina March, Cancun, Mexico, December 7, 2010. A civil society response to COP16, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Protestors came from all over the world to participate in the movement. They marched several kilometres towards the Moon Palace, where negotiations were being held, until they were stopped by a massive police barricade. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omWrXirUyMs&hd=1[/youtube]
By Arielle Balbus and Guy Edwards  (Brown University) In April this year, the First World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth drew over 35,000 people to the Bolivian city of Cochabamba. The challenge it posed to the climate establishment for failing to reach an agreement in Copenhagen, as well as its substantive accomplishments, are considered a revolution in social mobilization around the mounting threat of climate change.
The UK’s Society for Latin American Studies Annual Lecture 2008 focused on climate change, Latin America and the media. The speaker, James Painter, has agreed to allow Latino Cambio to reproduce a summary of the speech here:

The coverage of climate change, particularly in the print media, is undoubtedly increasing in Latin America. However, the quantity and quality of the reporting remains dubious.

The melting and disappearance of glaciers is perhaps the most visible evidence of how global warming is already impacting on Latin America. Many now see the fate of the Amazon as inextricably linked to the earth’s changing climate.

Climate change and its likely impacts on development, poverty alleviation and security suggest it should be at the heart of governments’ strategic thinking and editors’ priorities.

There are few in-depth studies on how the Latin American media is rising to the challenge. Apart from the print media, and its major impact on elites and the political agenda, scarcely a whisper reaches the masses.

Brazil, Peru and Mexico coverage appear to be ahead of the pack. The spikes in coverage are often closely connected to international reports, UN events and weather extremes. But climate change is often resigned to obscurity in specialist science pages and is perceived as an international problem without considering the local implications.

A study carried out by the Konrad Adenauer Institute examined the two most read newspapers in seven Latin American countries and concluded that of 4,000 articles examined over a period of a month from January to February 2009, only about 10 to 20 of them mentioned climate change.

The Peruvian media are more adept at picking up on the local consequences. Since the European Union-Latin American and the Caribbean Summit in Peru in 2008, there has been more coverage, including on television.

Although television and radio remain the dominant ways in which most Latin Americans get their news, there is far less coverage on global warming than in the printed press.

Many Latin American politicians and journalists argue that it is of no surprise or even concern that climate change coverage is minimal. Narco-violence and poverty are far more pressing. Climate change is perceived as an external problem, which was caused and should therefore be solved, by Northern industrialised countries.

However, recent surveys of attitudes towards climate change around the world suggest that for many Latin American citizens, it is a major concern. A poll by HSBC suggested that climate change was the number one concern in Brazil. It is doubtful whether this would be the case without strong coverage in the Brazilian media. These surveys merit caution as they were conducted in urban areas and from Latin American countries where coverage of climate change is significant.

The lack of coverage of climate change on most Latin American television channels reveals a number of obstacles.

The concentration of ownership and the commercial imperative combine to produce news broadcasts focused on crime and celebrity with the result that hundreds of millions of vunlerable people to global warming are left with pitiful information about the risks. Positive stories of poor people adapting to climate change do exist and should be captured.

News is normally interested in something happening today, not an uncertain future. The complexity of the science surrounding global warming and the space required is also a turn off for editors.

Journalists from the developing world seeking to cover climate change are faced with additional barriers including a lack of training, a reliance on Western news agencies, a scientific bias favouring publications in English and a lack of local experts.

The media landscape in Latin America is changing rapidly: internet traffic will grow in Latin America by about 60% between now and 2012.

Many large media companies are radically changing their business model to adapt. Globo’s Amazonia portal started in 2008, for example, allows users to view satellite images in real time to witness Amazonian deforestation and immediately register their protest.

Yet more coverage does not necessarily mean better coverage. There can be a real danger of linking every individual natural disaster to global warming without credible scientific backing.

Climate change is happening faster than expected. The scientific uncertainties are not a sufficient excuse for a lack of media attention. Global warming should be mainstreamed into the media by journalists willing to provide accurate information through an informed, engaging and balanced debate to aid the process of finding solutions. Never has there been such a need amongst journalists to make the significant interesting.

The full speech is available here.
The Think Tank Index published in Foreign Policy makes dire reading for anyone interested in climate change. Even though it is now considered a priority for world leaders, none of the winners have significant programmes on climate change as conventional foreign policy concerns dominate the rapidly warming land of Wonk. In Latin America the situation is identical with the best think tanks yet to develop any credibility on the subject.

It seems counter-intuitive that an issue which has scaled the slimly ladder of global political agendas and gained it’s proponents a Nobel Prize is not yet a major research interest of the world’s best think-tanks.

Given the ongoing debates and complex nature of the problem, climate experts have struggled to effectively communicate climate change into a digestible challenge for those influencing policy. The lack of interest within the think thank community is also because economists and social policy experts have only recently began to get stuck into the debate.

The index’s selection criteria are also biased against fresh issues like climate change. Even though 5,465 organisations were identified, criterion such as a think tank’s ability to retain elite analysts does not represent a fair assessment. Analysts on climate change are so new to their think tank jobs that whether they have found the stationary cupboard seems more relevant than how soon they might be leaving.

Latin American think tanks need to wake up and shift with the raising tide of opinion on global warming otherwise they risk becoming submerged in obscurity.

Firstly, climate change is beginning to position itself as a foreign policy concern for Latin American governments. In 2008 the European Union – Latin American and the Caribbean Summit wedged global warming firmly on the agenda, where as leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Peru reaffirmed their commitment to a declaration on climate change and energy security.

Although we should always regard these meetings with a little scepticism, the fact that Brazil and Mexico are developing national climate change strategies and Costa Rica plans to become carbon neutral by 2021 suggests this political lip service is more than a passing fad.

Secondly, studies on the economics of climate change and other climate initiatives are being carried out by regional organisations including the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Latino think tanks need to run with these agendas and capitalise on the political momentum by incorporating climate change into their programmes immediately.

Let’s hope by the end of 2009 a new list of Latin America’s best think tanks includes some of those working on climate change or at least the current winners that have subsequently developed new programmes on the transition to a low carbon economy.

In the meantime here is an inexhaustible list of think tanks and research institutes in Latin America working on climate change and sustainable development:

Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza – Costa Rica
Fundación Bariloche – Argentina
Chile Sustentable – Chile
Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia – Brazil
Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano – Ecuador