MEXICO, Aug 31 (IPS) – Latin America is already one of the world’s regions most affected by climate change. Extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves, tropical cyclones and floods have caused large numbers of deaths and severe damage to crops and infrastructure, as highlighted in a recent regional report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
As these events have increased in frequency and intensity, they have driven millions of people to migrate. As average temperatures in the region are projected to rise above the global average, these looming crises will intensify in the coming decades.
As the next UN climate summit COP27 approaches, it is clear that Latin America needs the support of the global community. The region, plagued by economic struggles, has long called for funding to support multifaceted efforts to combat climate change at both the local and regional levels, calls likely to grow louder after many are finally disillusioned with progress. at the COP26 conference.
But ahead of November’s summit in Egypt, there is a simultaneous shift in tone in some corners of Latin America, with prominent voices calling for the region to play an increasingly assertive role in climate negotiations. managing climate action from home.
Climate impacts in Latin America
The WMO report reveals some alarming data about the effects that a warming world and a changing climate have already brought to Latin America. For example, glaciers in the tropical Andes have lost nearly 30% of their surface area since the 1980s, increasing the risk of water shortages for the region’s people and ecosystems, and the risk of flooding for nearby communities.
In 2021, sea levels in the region, especially along its Atlantic coast, also rose faster than the global average, increasing the risk of flooding, freshwater pollution and storm surges in coastal areas where large populations are concentrated. .
The report also highlights Chile’s intensified mega-drought, now in its thirteenth year, making it the longest and worst in a thousand years. The worsening drought is forcing its authorities to urgently improve water management as tensions rise in some parts of the country and deal with power supply issues to account for shortfalls in hydropower production, a source from which it has historically drawn a significant share of water. its electricity.
In South America more generally, droughts caused the 2020-2021 cereal harvest to fall by 2.6% compared to the previous season, the WMO reports. Heat waves added to the agricultural and, more broadly, the economic production of the threatened area.
Latin America and the Caribbean are among the regions most challenged by extreme hydropower, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas stressed at the launch of the first edition of the State of the Climate Report for the Region in 2021. -meteorological events” – a claim further emphasized by this year’s update.
Taalas pointed to several recent extreme weather events, highlighting “the death and devastation of Hurricane Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and the intense drought and unusual fire season in Brazil’s Pantanal region, Bolivia and Paraguay. and Argentina.”
The Secretary-General added that the significant impacts of these events included “water and energy shortages, agricultural losses, displacement and health and safety threats”, all of which created challenges and recovery related to the Covid-19 pandemic. that.
Standing tall in adversity
Latin American and Caribbean countries together account for less than 10% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, with most of their contributions coming from the energy sector, agriculture and land-use change. But due to extreme events and above-average changes, the region has suffered from higher pollutant emissions.
At the recent Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week held in the Dominican Republic in July, however, there was a noticeable shift in tone among some participants. Some experts wanted to confirm that Latin America will not enter the upcoming climate talks as mere victims, but as active participants shaping the course of action.
Max Puig, Executive Vice President of the National Mechanism for Climate Change and Clean Development of the Dominican Republic (CNCCMDL), emphasized that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will arrive at this year’s COP with a solid position. “The time to see ourselves as climate victims is over. Although we are, the time to take the helm has begun,” he said.
“It must be clear to our nations and to the world that we are serious and that even in the most difficult circumstances we are not going to stop. We will overcome difficulties. This is the message that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will take to COP27 in Egypt.
Some civil society representatives hoped for more progress during the recent climate week, particularly by ensuring that climate justice and human rights are at the center of the debate. But other figures ahead of COP27 were more positive about the outcome of the event in building regional momentum – and steps towards consensus.
“After several days at this year’s Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week, I have seen that countries in the region are making progress. I also saw the potential to accelerate climate action,” UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Ovais Sarmad told Diálogo Chino after the event. “We’ve heard a lot of potential solutions this week.”
Adaptation, solutions and opportunities
While Latin America faces enormous challenges, it has also proven to be a hub for innovative solutions to climate change. The region has great potential in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy. The past decade has also seen progress in the transport sector, particularly electric buses, and private sector adoption of electric cars has increased, with countries looking to switch to electric vehicles more widely.
Latin America and the Caribbean have also demonstrated many adaptation and mitigation solutions, many of which can be applied to other regions depending on needs and contexts. Many of these solutions have been seen in the agricultural sector, some of them stemming from ancestral knowledge and historical practices that promote better management of water, land and energy.
Regenerative agriculture practices are gaining more attention in Latin America. For example, agroforestry, which integrates trees into agricultural systems, can increase productivity, improve and increase biodiversity, and contribute to greater carbon sequestration. Meanwhile, the region’s coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and swamps, are recognized for their potential to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, while providing a number of other benefits.
Forests are also Earth’s most important carbon sequestration sites, but face significant threats—perhaps nowhere more so than in Latin America, where biomes such as the Amazon, Cerrado, and Gran Chaco have witnessed massive deforestation in recent decades.
“Covered by forests for nearly half its land area, Latin America and the Caribbean account for about 57% of the world’s remaining primary forests, storing an estimated 104 gigatonnes of carbon. Fires and deforestation are now threatening one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, with far-reaching and long-term consequences,” said WMO Taala at the opening of last year’s state of the climate report. Despite significant progress and statements from last year’s COP26, monitoring and preventing deforestation is likely to remain on the agenda at this year’s summit.
The WMO 2021 report also highlighted the need to strengthen early warning systems in Latin America. These are Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS) that alert people to extreme weather events and prevent millions of deaths. These are important tools for effective adaptation in regions threatened by weather, water and climate change, but for many countries, as with many solutions, their effective implementation may depend on increased funding – once again highlighting what is likely to be a major agenda. Latin America towards COP27.
COP27 will take place from 6 to 18 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
This article was originally published by ChinaDialogue
© Inter Press Service (2022) — all rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service