Thursday, 22 October 2009 19:19

Dealing with climate change: who’s willing to pick up the cheque? Featured

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The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), organized a meeting, Climate Financing and Long-Term National Development Planning in Ibero-America, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that brought together more than 60 of Latin America and the Caribbean’s finance and environment governmental officials, private sector representatives and international organizations. The debate was dedicated to exploring options for the integration of climate change financing into national and regional long-term social and economic development planning:
The meeting was to enable countries and experts to identify already available and future financing options on climate change and to discuss the role of national and regional development banks and international organizations in these efforts. The first day saw participants conclude that Latin America needs enhanced capacities to face a new climate change regime, especially key financial mechanisms that make possible national efforts to reduce the impact of climate change and curb greenhouse gas emissions and enable the transfer of new green technologies. “Climate change is the defining human development challenge of the 21st century,” said Veerle Vandeweerd, director of UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group. “If we do not address this squarely and successfully now, we can expect international poverty reduction efforts to fail.” “It is critical that Latin America countries discuss financing barriers and the nature of financial instruments to orient public and private investments for mitigating and adapting to climate change as well as how to access current and new multilateral funds to face climate change,” said Juan Pablo Bonilla, coordinator of IDB’s Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Unit. “Finance, development and environment ministers have a crucial role to play: they will need to have pragmatic and comprehensive frameworks to catalyze climate investments with resources from international financial mechanisms – and they will also need to reinforce national budgetary planning.” Along with UNDP and the IDB, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the World Bank presented several initiatives, showcasing the outcomes of such climate change funds. In Latin America and the Caribbean the cost of climate-related disasters exceeds US$5 billion per year, and the poorest are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Since tackling such problems will demand great resources, the discussion on finance mechanisms is crucial and will be a key topic at the Copenhagen negotiations.
Latin American governments will be very touchy over proposed financing mechanisms to be negotiated in Copenhagen. They will have to tread a difficult line considering that the region is now considered a Middle Income Continent and may not be eligible for large amounts of cash compared with Africa and parts of Asia since they can arguably pay some of it themselves. Some leaders may stick to their guns and argue that rich countries must cough up the dough as they are responsible for the largest slice of emissions. A more pragmatic approach emphasizing interdependence and cooperation is advisable as Latin America is in an advantageous position given its existing renewable energy sector and vast potential for further expansion not to mention its abundant supply of natural resources. Nitpicking over past emissions is valid up to a point but not if it jeopardizes progress towards turning Latin America into a global leader in low carbon development.
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Guy Edwards

Guy Edwards is a Research Fellow at the Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University, where he manages a research project on the politics of climate change in Latin America. Along with co-author, Professor Timmons Roberts, he is currently writing a book on Latin American leadership on climate change for MIT Press. He has also written various academic papers, policy briefs and op-eds for a number of different publications. As co-founder of Intercambio Climático and formerly co-editor of the website, Guy has worked closely with the Latin American Platform on Climate and the Latin American office of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. He has also worked for the Overseas Development Institute, the consultancy River Path Associates and as the resident manager of the Huaorani Ecolodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon.