Can EU and Latin America and the Caribbean lead the way towards a climate deal in 2015?

By Paola Eisner and Keith Madden 

Dilma Merkel

As the deadline for reaching a new global climate deal draws nearer, pressure is mounting on the international community to take definitive action. While the global scientific consensus hardens on the need to drastically reduce emissions to limit average temperature rise to 2 degrees, countries question whether it will be possible to come together by 2015.

With just two years on the clock, leadership is urgently needed. The EU-LAC Foundation’s new report makes the case for how existing relations and common goals between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean can serve as a solid foundation to build momentum towards a fair, robust and ambitious agreement on climate change in 2015.

The EU and LAC regions account for roughly 20% of global GHG emissions, over one billion people and nearly a third of the 195 UNFCCC Parties.

Together, they have the capacity to form a powerful group and provide the impetus to promote an adequately ambitious international agreement. All EU and LAC countries have expressed their will to adopt a new agreement and international surveys have shown that citizens in both regions are very concerned about climate impacts.

As detailed in the report, climate change and sustainable development are central pillars of EU-LAC relations, and EU cooperation and investment in climate-related activities through the Latin American Investment Facility and European Investment Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean are substantial.

The three Conferences of the Parties preceding the 2015 deadline will be held in EU-LAC countries, with Poland hosting the COP19 this year, Peru hosting COP20 in 2014, and France hosting COP21 in 2015. This succession may allow for greater consistency and continuity in a negotiating process that often lacks both.

As co-author Professor Timmons Roberts, founder of the Climate and Development Lab at Brown University put it, “Climate change presents a number of challenges but more importantly opportunities.  EU and LAC countries can ratchet up climate diplomacy, particularly to find common ground on ambition and equity.”

As the report discusses, some EU and LAC countries’ participation in the informal Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action has been an important space for improving trust and building consensus. The report credits the Cartagena Dialogue for some of the progress made at COP16 in 2010 and COP17 in 2011. Behind-the-scenes work by the EU and Brazil also generated consensus on securing the Kyoto Protocol’s Second Commitment Period and a road map for a new climate deal in 2015.

Guy Edwards, Research Fellow at Brown University and co-director of the Climate and Development Lab, adds, “Mexico’s experience in the Cartagena Dialogue as the incoming COP16 president proved crucial for its preparations and running of the COP. This experience will be very useful for Peru and France as future COP presidents, allowing them to be more active in the Dialogue without undermining their position or neutrality.”

Despite some positive examples of cooperation and diplomacy on climate change, much of EU-LAC trade and investment is in polluting and carbon-intensive sectors, which represents a significant stumbling block to mainstreaming sustainability and climate change into the partnership.

However, EU-LAC cooperation and diplomacy on climate change could prove a productive avenue for decisive, proactive and mutually beneficial climate action in the coming years.

“EU-LAC countries can promote a new climate narrative calling for action by all countries based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Some of these countries are in an excellent position to demonstrate how climate protection and economic growth can be complementary goals”, said Guy Edwards.

The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean have the means and the opportunity to promote a new climate deal by 2015. Their shared reliance on carbon intensive sectors makes their leadership and experience all the more compelling in order to create an international agreement that is both far reaching and realistic. EU-LAC countries have much to gain by capitalizing on this opportunity to the benefit of both regions and the UN climate negotiations.

The full report is available in English and Spanish

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