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.
Published in Renewable Energy
This paper, published by the Center for Strategic Leadership (CSL) at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC), was written by the Director of National Security Issues Group, Operations and Gaming Division at CSL/USAWC, Dr. Ken Butts, in collaboration with Marcela Ramirez, an Environmental Security Consultant for Latin America and the Caribbean for CSL/USAWC.  It calls for military support to civilian authority in matters of climate change adaptation "roles and missions," highlighting the need for regional militaries to help their countries deal with climate change effects that threaten their security. It details climate change events held in Colombia and Peru calling for increased military capacity at a national and international level to address climate change issues.
Published in Reading List
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
Sunday, 21 February 2010 20:42

Can Mexico regain the momentum?

On the 2nd February, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa gave the 16th U Thant Distinguished Lecture entitled, ‘Preserving Our Common Heritage: Promoting a Fair Agreement on Climate Change’, hosted by the UN University. The event was convened in collaboration with Asahi Shimbun and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). The link to the speech can be found here. In hosting this December’s climate change conference, Mexico has an advantage over the previous hosts, the Danes. A key player in a region often branded as a land of missed opportunities while simultaneously sitting on the OECD and G20 respectively, Mexico can potentially bridge the seemingly unassailable void between rich and developing countries. This situation may help to smooth over the colossal trust deficit which pervades UN talks on global warming. Mexico is also a regional and global leader on climate change demonstrated by its ambitious Special Program on Climate Change and emissions reduction target of 50% below 2000 levels by 2050. It has also won international respect for its progressive Green Fund proposal which seeks to improve the international climate finance regime. The international community is in dire need of a global climate change champion with the political clout to push the debate forward. President Obama perhaps had his shot in Copenhagen. The EU is still recovering from a massive COP15 hangover while other contenders seem to be in short supply. Mexico could prove to be the guacamole missing from the climate change burrito.
President Obama’s speech at the opening of the Fifth Summit of the Americas being held in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, emphasized the importance of hemispheric action on climate change and energy security: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmKCcehLC9U&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00] During his speech President Obama said:
We can strengthen the foundation of our prosperity and our security and our environment through a new partnership on energy. Our hemisphere is blessed with bountiful resources, and we are all endangered by climate change. Now we must come together to find new ways to produce and use energy so that we can create jobs and protect our planet. So today, I'm proposing the creation of a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that can forge progress to a more secure and sustainable future. It's a partnership that will harness the vision and determination of countries like Mexico and Brazil that have already done outstanding work in this area to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each country will bring its own unique resources and needs, so we will ensure that each country can maximize its strengths as we promote efficiency and improve our infrastructure, share technologies, support investments in renewable sources of energy. And in doing so, we can create the jobs of the future, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and make this hemisphere a model for cooperation. The dangers of climate change are part of a broad range of threats to our citizens, so the third area where we must work together is to advance our common security.
This is encouraging stuff. Crucially, climate change was not relegated to the periphery as if only of interest to lab rats and technicians. Constructing the issue of climate change around other concerns relating to energy security, prosperity and job creation is critical. Regional governments need to not only wake up to the melting glaciers around them and rising sea levels, but also how their recovery from the financial crisis and their future development fit into this new paradigm. So far this framing of the debate has occurred in isolated pockets. Let’s hope the Summit can lead to a new chapter where global warming is not merely perceived as an environmental headache, but a conundrum for politicians of all stripes and government departments to get stuck into as well.
Published in Energy
Paddling against the tide of conventional reporting on the main issues currently hamstringing US-Latin American relations, Andres Oppenheimer, reports on a new energy cooperation deal allegedly being cooked up by President Obama.
Last week, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton elevated the idea to a maximum regional priority during her confirmation hearings. In her opening statement, when she got to Latin America - almost at the end of her foreign policy priorities - her most specific proposal was "taking up the president-elect's call for a new Energy Partnership of the Americas."
The exciting part of this idea is that it could give US-Latin American relations a much needed boost. Latin American governments have been on the sharp end of US diplomacy, as the Bush administration failed to give sufficient attention to the region, and when it did, its knee-jerk policies on illegal immigrants and drugs have created nothing but resentment and frustration.
"There is free trade fatigue and anti-drug fatigue in Latin America,'' a senior staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told me. ``Energy opens a new path to relations with the hemisphere and is consistent with the president-elect's overall energy and climate change objectives."
If President Obama is serious about tackling climate change and energy insecurity, fostering closer relations with Latin American leaders should be a top priority. A number of Latin American countries are trailblazing on climate change and renewable energy and the new president would do well to acknowledge this progress and step up the dialogue on these issues. As early as 2002, renewable energy sources already made up over a quarter of the total energy supply in Latin America and the Caribbean, making the European target of 20% renewables by 2020 in comparison seem rather modest. Given the US President’s foreign policy priorities elsewhere, Latin America may fail even to appear on the radar. However, if Obama really wants to get the ball rolling on climate change and energy insecurity, attending the 5th Summit of the Americas with the aim of creating a regional energy partnership would be a great place to start.
Published in Regional Organisations
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