By Guy Edwards and Taryn Martinez*

On the 21st November the World’s Mayors Summit on Climate took place in Mexico City where city leaders highlighted the progressive role played by urban centres on climate change in the face of sloth-like progress by national governments. Pioneering schemes in a number of Latin American cities illustrates how cities can be an ideal avenue to push low carbon development in the region.
In this interview with one of Latin America’s sustainable development heavy-weights, we discuss the prospects for the Cancun climate change talks and the involvement of Latin American countries, climate debt, the role of civil society and Ecuadorian climate politics. Yolanda Kakabadse is the current president of the WWF and the Latin America Network Director for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. Previously the Minister of Environment in Ecuador, Yolanda also set-up the Quito-based Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA). Yolanda has been granted numerous awards including by the UN for her contribution to the environment and development in Latin America. 1. Do you feel optimistic that Latin American countries can work together to push for an international agreement in Cancun this December? Hopefully, Cancun is going to be different to Copenhagen. The best scenario is that it does not become a moment for negotiations but rather an opportunity to become a platform for dialogue. Dialogue should focus on where there is agreement and understanding. This could help countries agree what they can negotiate later on and establish what is disturbing the negotiations and therefore what should be clarified. There is currently so much division between blocks that going into Cancun to negotiate could prove to be more divisive. Further confrontation should be avoided to maintain faith in the UN process.
Published in Interviews
On the 3rd August Ecuador and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed an agreement creating a trust fund to develop the pioneering Yasuní-ITT Initiative. The Initiative continues to attract attention and signing the agreement awarded it a generous dollop of legitimacy on the world stage. Yet, the political situation in Ecuador, particularly the tensions between government and civil society, global finances and oil demand, make the future of the Initiative difficult to predict.
Published in Regional Organisations
Monday, 16 August 2010 14:00

Yasuní-ITT Initiative’s official video

Ecuador's Yasuní-ITT Initiative is an ambitious attempt to tackle the challenges of climate change and sustainable development. The following video attempts to convince you why: [youtube=]
Published in Amazon
On the 15th July the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, delivered a sobering speech at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito, Ecuador. Stern kicked off the proceedings by describing Ecuador as beautiful country full of ecological treasures and extraordinary levels of biodiversity. He then wasted little time in admitting that US-Ecuadorian relations had not been at their best in recent years. The visit was an attempt to rekindle a basis for dialogue on climate, which following talks with president Correa, was successfully achieved; particularly in regards to a new forestry initiative entitled Plan Socio Bosque. Turning to the Copenhagen summit, Stern was candid in his appraisal of the proceedings and accepted that accusations of a lack of transparency and legitimacy were ‘understandable’. However, the Copenhagen Accord was a constructive, if not a perfect step forward. Progress made on climate finance and a raft of pledges to reduce emissions by both developed and developing countries alike were seen as success stories to be built on at the next major climate summit in Cancun this December. Stern stated that the Cancun negotiations should attempt to preserve the delicate balance achieved in the Copenhagen Accord and emphasize the importance of a transparent and inclusive process. He said the talks should be guided by science and pragmatism and that attempts to sabotage the summit with ideological mud-slinging would not generate results. Stern did mention, however, the centrality of equity in the talks, which can only be described as a planet sized hot potato. Todd Stern’s speech provided a useful reminder of the complexities and interconnectedness of the major issues which characterize US-Latin American relations. Although it was not made clear how the U.S. would seek to attempt to bring the ALBA countries back into the fold, it is telling that Stern opted to visit the least polemical of the ALBA presidential chums to make his point on stepping back from ideology. That said the possibility of cultivating greater understanding by the ALBA bloc through leveraging Ecuadorian support is not guaranteed. Asked of his opinion in regards to Ecuador’s flagship Yasuni-ITT Initiative, which seeks to conserve a sizable chunk of an Amazonian national park by leaving its oil underground in exchange for millions of dollars of compensation, Stern commented that it was an ‘interesting proposal’ and deserved a closer look. However, for any U.S. diplomat it must be difficult to officially endorse these types of initiatives when an U.S. oil company is up to its neck in a $27 billion lawsuit for contaminating a huge chunk of rainforest next door to the national park in question. Regardless of the ensuing difficulties, the visit was a positive one. At the very least it served to remind everyone present that climate change merits far greater attention in hemispheric relations; and in Ecuador cross-ministerial cohesion should be prioritized if policies and initiatives such as Plan Socio Bosque and the Yasuni-ITT Initiative have any hope of succeeding.
Published in Climate Finance
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 18:49

Ecuador’s energy supply runs dry

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado has declared a state of electrical emergency nationwide for the next 60 days ushering in a potentially new era where the sustainability of hydroelectric power could be thrown into doubt. The release of the decree, which aims to guarantee the continuity and supply of electricity, comes after the government had little choice but to announce a nationwide energy rationing programme. The energy crisis follows a sustained drought that has seen a significant decrease in the volume of water flowing into the country’s most important dam at the Paute plant, which supplies 35 percent of the nation’s electricity. The BBC World correspondent, Paúl Mena Erazo, reports that Correa blames the impacts of climate change and his predecessors for shoddy management and pitifully low sums of investment. During a television appearance Correa went on the defensive by labeling Ecuador a ´victim of climate change´ and describing at length the government’s ongoing construction of 6 new hydroelectric plants to plug the energy deficit, which will come online within 5 years. In the meantime, however, Ecuador has bought 700,000 barrels of diesel from Colombia and Venezuela to ensure a supply of energy to their thermoelectric plants to feed the grid. Energy efficiency measures are also being encouraged. Mobile phone owners, for example, are receiving text messages from the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, asking consumers not to use irons or washing machines at peak times. The short and long term consequences of this energy crisis will not be clear for the time being. However, with hydropower off the menu, it would be appear that resorting to thermoelectric plants and generators using diesel will result in an increase in carbon emissions and pollution. A decrease in the use of public transport could also be expected as bus stops are plunged into darkness fueling fears over increased attacks and accidents, leaving some citizens little choice but to jump into their cars. Over the long term, the government’s hydropower strategy may risk being undermined as unpredictable rainfall and melting glaciers play havoc with hydroelectric plant’s raw ingredient: water. Improving water governance and adapting to climate change; energy efficiency drives to reduce pressure on the demand side; and expanding the country’s renewable energy portfolio will be required urgently. Alternative strategies relying on greater use of fossil fuels to fill the gap would be a regressive step considering Ecuador, alongside its Andean Community neighbours, already generate roughly 73% of their energy from hydropower.
Published in Energy
Monday, 20 October 2008 11:55

Andes face glacial meltdown

This article was first posted on the Guardian's Comment is free Glaciers in Peru are melting so quickly that by 2015 almost all of them may have disappeared. This is not just a problem for Peru but for the whole Andean Community of Nations, including Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. These countries generate around 73% of their electricity from hydro energy. Ironically, this renewable source of energy risks disappearing because of melting glaciers caused by climate change. The report, Climate change knows no borders, provides a chilling reminder of the catastrophic impacts of climate change on the Andean region. The evidence predicting the rapid loss of glaciers and a fiercer, more frequent El Niño effect, where ocean temperatures rise along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru, causing droughts and floods, reveals an uncertain and potentially destructive future for the region. The El Niño of 1997/8 had a devastating impact, leaving thousands dead or homeless, crops ruined, roads and bridges left smashed. The bill ran into billions of dollars. If this wasn't enough, climate change could lead to further losses of up to $30 billion a year by 2025 in the Andean region while the effect of melting glaciers could place 40 million people at risk of losing their water supply. It seems ironic that the highest number of the Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism projects in the Andean Community relate to the resource facing the greatest threat – water. The climatic stresses causing the loss of glaciers, and in turn jeopardising what many regard as a key constituent of rural development through electrification, may result in a vicious cycle. The loss of this vital resource, combined with high prices and scant political enthusiasm for other renewable options – geothermal, wind and solar – may result in countries resorting to an increase in the use of fossil fuels. Considering the region's minor contribution to the world's greenhouse gas emissions this would be extremely counter-productive. It might also run the risk of undermining what has so far been a progressive stance on climate change at the international policy level. In 1993, Ecuador became the first developing country to ratify the climate convention. Although scientific evidence and past experience of extreme weather conditions have provided grounds for a strong rhetorical stand on climate change at the international level, Andean governments have been reluctant to integrate climate change strategies into the fabric of development policy. Peru did not establish a ministry for the environment until May 2008, exposing a pattern played out regionally of weak state institutions, unequal access to natural resources, a lack of political will, non-existent funding, insufficient information and deficient infrastructure. The challenge of integrating development and climate change agendas is, therefore, critical. The Andean Community is skating on thin ice as the longevity of one of its most important sources of renewable energy is thrown into doubt. The question remains whether or not the world will act, and if the ice will remain thick enough to support Andean sustainable development for the future.
Published in Adaptation
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