Key Takeaways from Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week

by CCAC Secretariat - 15 November, 2023
Latin America and the Caribbean stand to avoid 0.9°C of warming if SLCP targets are met globally.

On the 25th of October 2023, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition hosted a ministerial roundtable on near-term climate action in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) as a part of LAC Climate Week 2023, back to back to with the LAC Forum of Ministers of Environment. The meeting was attended by representatives from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panamá, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay.

The LAC region is already seeing the impacts of poor air quality and global warming through in premature deaths, crop yield losses, and damage to ecosystems. Agriculture, mobile and commercial refrigeration, transport, coal, oil and gas production and distribution, and waste disposal are amongst the key SLCP emitting sectors. If identified measures to reduce short-lived climate pollutants were implemented globally, warming in the LAC would be reduced by 0.9°C by 2050.

The ministerial roundtable was convened by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to share and discuss how the Latin America and the Caribbean region can advance implementation of effective climate change mitigation and clean air actions to reduce near-term warming and deliver on clean air goals in the region. Several participating countries led the discussions at the round table, raising points that reflect the challenges and stages of progress in climate and clean air action the region is encountering.  

The roundtable was moderated by UNEP Regional Director, Mr. Juan Bello – who focused discussions on the underlying challenge of identifying the best opportunities to scale up finance for integrated climate and clean air planning.

Key themes that emerged from the roundtable included:

•    The LAC region is leading through several examples of cross-border policies and efforts, such as on vehicle emission standards, climate and clean air policies, efforts to combat deforestation.
•    Many countries highlighted the need for cross-sectorial work, as in most countries climate and clean air issues overlap across several ministerial agendas and budgetary limitations. 
•    The continuing lack of finance, which can be addressed by adjusting evaluation criteria in financing, connecting air quality with climate change adaptation agendas, and using better data monitoring to unlock finance through carbon markets for developing countries. 
•    The need to better incentivise private sector engagement by highlighting the cost of inaction.

The meeting was opened by Brazil, who emphasised its commitment to all efforts to implement policies in the climate and clean air agenda, to combat climate change and promote better conditions for air quality. The county metioned the existence of a National Programme for Control of Air Quality, and Air Pollution Control Program for Motor Vehicles, and the fact that it has advanced with several measure to reduce deforestation in the Amazon region and mitigate climate change. The country considers CCAC as a key partner to advance in these fronts and agendas. The country can also play a strategic role in the region through its current presidency of Mercosur, G20 and upcoming host of COP 30 in 2025.

Chile raised the importance of integrating co-benefits of the SLCP mitigation in assessment and planning processes, particularly the health benefits and associated economic savings of SLCP mitigation. Chile highlighted that burning wood for heating was a major multi-faceted environmental challenge. Chile – which has already included black carbon targets in their NDC – derives most of its urban air pollution from wood burning for heating in the residential sector. It has also established a “green” tax on CO2 emissions and local pollutants such as PM2.5 particle matter.

Both Costa Rica and Panamá raised the need for new financial mechanisms to support mitigation action. This includes better including the private sector in climate action by linking financial systems into the Paris Agreement so as to reduce the strain on public funds. Uruguay also addressed the need for new financing mechanisms, and presented its update on reaching a Multilateral Agreement based on tax savings to support methane mitigation and develop the basis for an environmental fund. Argentina pointed out that currently loans help with pilot programs but are not large enough to achieve sectoral transformations.

Adding to the topic of financing, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic explained how current climate financing evaluation criteria disadvantage Latin American and other developing nations by restricting loans to nations with high levels of debt. They called for a restructuring of debt evaluation procedures commensurate with overall international debt restructuring.

Colombia and the Dominican Republic both highlighted the importance of identifying structural causes that historically produced both environmental and social problems such as the overall models of development and production in transport and intensive farming. Colombia emphasized that by acting on such structural issues, the efficiency of climate mitigation investments is greatly increased.  Argentina added detail to this discussion, noting the powerful influence of private sector lobbies hinders governments abilities to enact regulation efficiently and effectively.  

Guatemala reiterated the unequal impacts of air pollution on more vulnerable communities such as indigenous people, who predominantly use wood for cooking and heating in their homes and breathe highly polluted air as a result. Guatemala pointed out that while there have been advances in clean cooking solutions, heating still remained a challenge.

LAC Climate Week ended with the XXIII Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean adopting a decision to encourage countries in the region to commit to the implementation of the Regional Action Plan on Air Quality 2022-2025, as well as to engage in transformative regional actions to abate emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. 

A call was made to the United Nations Environment Programme and the Inter-Agency Technical Committee (ITC) to support country efforts to strengthen legal frameworks to prevent and reduce air pollution. This decision also promotes best practices, policies, infrastructure, and sustainable mobility initiatives that contribute to a just transition in the cities of the region, in order to reduce air pollution caused by fossil fuel-based transportation. The decision helps build momentum and examples for other regions at the Climate and Clean Air Ministerial at COP28.