Latin American civil society builds bridges at the COP17 in Durban

By Guy Edwards and Mónica López-Baltodano*

Today, at the COP17, a group of Latin American platforms, networks and fora organized by the Building Bridges initiative met with delegations from Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama to discuss the primary issues under negotiation including the longevity of the Kyoto Protocol, designing the Green Climate Fund and adaptation.

The Ecuadorian commented on her satisfaction at seeing so many young people participating in this important event, and that with Rio+20 around the corner, the outcomes from Durban will have an impact on the event to be held in Brazil, 20 years after the Earth Summit that gave rise to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The delegates pointed out that it is essential to continue with the KyotoProtocol which is the only existing legally binding system, and that it runs directly against the specific wording of the Convention for some developed countries to be trying to adopt a voluntary or ‘pledge and review’ system under which each country would set “their own goal” for emissions reduction, which would undoubtedly drag us even further from scientific benchmarks and the goal of holding global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees C. In turn, they mentioned the risk that some developed countries want to uphold the carbon market to transfer funds, but without undertaking any binding commitments to reduce emissions.

The Bolivian delegate confirmed the concerns of her Ecuadorian colleague, mentioning that they are working to keep the COP17 from not only losing the Kyoto Protocol but even the Convention itself. She reiterated that the promises to reduce emissions, made in Copenhagen by the developed countries, are completely inadequate to prevent dangerous climate change.

The Bolivian delegate explained the new proposal presented by Bolivia, called “Sustainable Life for Forests”, designed to promote integrated, sustainable management of forests beyond REDD+ mechanisms (reducing emission from deforestation and degradation) which is currently being negotiated in Durban. This initiative proposes to mobilize financial resources – but not from the carbon markets – to coordinate local and global efforts regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation, without including mechanisms to “offset” emissions, which do not address the actual source of global warming.

The Peruvian delegate underscored the priority of continuing to push for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and spoke about some of Peru’s mitigation actions regarding energy, waste management and forests.

Regarding climate financing, the Ecuadorian delegate mentioned some of the problems resulting from the draft report by the Transitional Committee responsible for designing the Green Climate Fund. These include the need to allocate funds and the importance for it to operate under the COP’s authority; and not only under the “guidance of the COP” as the text currently reads, since there would be a conflict of interests given the likely involvement of the World Bank. There was criticism of the fact that developed countries have offered no clear, concrete amounts for the financial commitments they made in Cancún, which weakens the negotiations and creates major uncertainty.

The Peruvian delegate said that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) must be established in Durban, which was reiterated by the delegates from Bolivia and Ecuador, who indicated their intention to amend some aspects of these texts being negotiated so that the GCF is designed properly. They stated that it is unacceptable for some countries to urge the signing of the GCF text – with the aforementioned deficiencies – in the name of multilateralism, since there is no point in setting up a fund that does not work.

The Panamanian delegate emphasized the demand by SICA (Central American Integration System) countries that call for official recognition of Central America as a highly vulnerable region, and consider this a key issue on his country’s adaptation agenda.

The Building Bridges facilitator, Osver Polo, is looking forward to at least minimal progress in three key areas: continuing the Kyoto Protocol, climate financing and adaptation, which the success of COP17 hinges upon. He reminded the Latin American delegations that civil society is ready to support them in this enormous endeavor, and that our delegates’ political will to meet and discuss with these networks is crucial.

Although Latin American countries do not have a common position at the climate negotiations, they all agree that COP17 should not bury the Kyoto Protocol. Similarly, they share concerns about the region’s vulnerability and the impacts of climate change, demanding additional and predictable funding for adaptation and mitigation actions. All these demands are shared by the civil-society organizations represented in Durban, so the battle for COP17 is not yet lost, but undoubtedly requires joining forces and continuing to build bridges.

Notes for editors:

Building Bridges is a group of Latin American platforms, networks and fora participating in international negotiations on climate change. It was formed in March 2011 in Lima, Peru, and its main activities focus on advocacy regarding decisions under the UNFCCC and the Rio+20 summit to be held next year. Acting as a facilitator, Building Bridgesfocuses on generating improved coordination, communication and dialogue between Latin American civil society and Latin American negotiators.

The members of Building Bridges are:

Nicaraguan Alliance to Face Climate Change (ANACC), Nicaragua

Meso-American Climate Justice Campaign

CAN-LA (Climate Action Network, Latin America)

Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA)

Climate Change and Justice Working Group (Bolivia)

Indigenous Climate Change Group, Guatemala

National Climate Change Group, Guatemala

Citizen Movement regarding Climate Change (MOCICC), Peru

Bolivian Platform facing Climate Change (Bolivia)

Latin American Platform on Climate

SUSWATCH (Observatory on Sustainability)

For further communication, please write to grupo.glacc[at]

*Mónica López-Baltodano, Nicaraguan officer for climate change advocacy from the Humboldt Center (a Nicaraguan environmental NGO), delegate for international negotiations for the SUSWATCH (Sustainability Observatory) network, member of ANACC (Nicaraguan Alliance to face Climate Change) and CAN-LA (Climate Action Network, Latin America).

Cross-posted from


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