Chair's Summary from High-Level Dialogue on Climate Action in the Americas
The urgent need for bold action to protect vulnerable communities from the mounting climate crisis brought together heads of state and ministers from over 20 countries, as well as private sector, civil society, academia, and indigenous representatives, for the first-ever High-Level Dialogue on Climate Action in the Americas. Leaders issued an emphatic call for greater climate ambition and concrete actions from all nations, and especially from the world’s major emitters, to achieve a positive outcome at COP-26 that keeps alive the vital goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Many leaders reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate, including on the RELAC goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy capacity by 2030, to put the region on a more sustainable emissions trajectory. Participants also committed to working together to strengthen resilience to climate-related extreme weather events that are causing unprecedented destruction and loss of life, and to prioritizing a sustainable recovery from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The one-day virtual event was hosted by the government of Argentina and co-organized by the governments of Barbados, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, with support from the United States. During the high-level opening segment, several heads of state announced their commitment to scale up climate action in line with the crisis. Barbados announced it intends to be the first 100 percent fossil fuel-free island by 2030. Colombia, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic announced plans to increase the use of renewable energy, and Chile will accelerate its plan to phase out coal and decarbonize the energy sector. Argentina reaffirmed its commitment to formalize in Glasgow the enhanced mitigation goal announced in the Leaders Summit on Climate, and several other countries committed to accelerate climate action.
The first panel focused on Innovative Mechanisms for Means of Implementation, and featured announcements from regional development banks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank to scale up financial support to accelerate climate action. The Development Bank of Latin America announced plans to increase climate financing from 23 percent to 40 percent of the total portfolio by 2026, the Inter-American Development Bank pledged funds to support implementation of nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration pledged support to prepare bankable projects to spur climate action. The fiscal challenges facing many countries in the Americas prompted a discussion regarding the possibility of debt-for-climate action swaps and other innovative mechanisms that would facilitate a sustainable economic recovery. The IMF announced support for countries on development of sustainable macroeconomic plans that will facilitate conversations with creditors on these types of innovative mechanisms.
The second panel, Accelerating Climate Action Through Regional Cooperation, included discussions on diverse topics such as deforestation, ocean-based climate solutions, renewable energy, and methane. It was underlined that climate issues are transboundary, for example, as biodiversity and the high seas are interconnected with climate change, ocean protection emerges as one of the keys to solve the climate problem. Panelists also discussed the importance of regional collaboration, both at the national level through initiatives like RELAC, and with local stakeholders including cities, NGOs, civil society, local populations, and indigenous peoples. It was agreed that broad collaboration, as well as innovative mechanisms to allow access to finance and technology, are crucial to identify solutions.
In the third panel, Engaging the Private Sector in Climate Action, business leaders discussed their plans to reduce carbon emissions within their organizations and increase ambition in the private sector. Natura outlined its plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 by working with its suppliers to eliminate emissions across its supply chain and contributing to the preservation of forests. Ecopetrol, the largest Colombian petrol firm, shared its plan to reach net zero by 2050 by committing to targets across its operations: increasing renewable energy production, reducing emissions within the business, and reducing methane emissions. The company sees GHG reduction as part of its evolving business model where hydrogen capture and other emerging technologies represent profitable opportunities. SVG Ventures took a different approach by highlighting how climate change threatens food security both in agriculture and across the supply chain. Farmers would benefit from technical solutions that bolster resilience to climate impacts, but must not affect consumer affordability. The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment described how it works with multilateral organizations, governments, and industry to develop innovative instruments that mobilize capital. Gonzalo Muñoz, COP25 High Level Climate Action Champion, emphasized the need to step up financial mechanisms that are nature positive and redress biodiversity loss in tackling the climate crisis, as well as the private sector in the call to action.
The fourth panel, Building Coastal-Marine Resilience to Climate Vulnerability, began with a presentation of the outcomes of a recent climate vulnerability and risk assessment for the Dominican Republic. Fellow panelists compared risk assessment results and responded with lessons learned and best practices from their own experiences across the Caribbean region. Barbados’ Coastal Zone Management Unit presented the country’s Roofs to Reefs initiative as an effective whole-of-government approach, which recognizes the cross-cutting nature of climate change mitigation and adaptation and incorporates associated measures in social and economic policy and infrastructure planning. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) shared various interventions CARICOM countries are implementing to increase coastal resilience to climate change. These include establishing marine protected areas and restoring coral reefs and mangroves to increase natural buffers to storm surge and simultaneously improve coastal ecosystem health. The 5Cs also noted the importance of downscaling climate data to a resolution that is useful for individual island nations and reiterated that Caribbean countries do not experience the same levels of exposure, risk and vulnerability. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) closed out the panel with a call to action for regional and global solidarity on climate resilience and the need for increased south-south cooperation, including in the areas of sharing indigenous knowledge, producing better early warning systems, and using data for improved decision-making.
The fifth panel, Nature and Climate: Transformative Approaches for Adaptation and Climate Action, highlighted the shared drivers and solutions to the biodiversity and climate crises. Speakers from academia, government, indigenous communities, civil society, and private industry called for nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches that contribute to adaptation, mitigation, and development goals. The UN Environment Programme shared their Microfinance for Ecosystem based Adaptation program and the Inter-American Development Bank shared how multiple financial instruments support nature based solutions. Speakers called for community based models that support local livelihoods, advance gender and human rights, and integrate traditional and indigenous knowledge.
In the final roundtable, ministers of the environment responded to points raised throughout the day by event participants. Minister Orlando Jorge Mera of the Dominican Republic echoed statements from many speakers emphasizing the disproportionate climate impacts on small islands and developing states which contribute low GHG emissions. At the same time, the high percentages of GDP allocated to debt servicing prevents states from investing in the climate mitigation and adaptation measures required for their survival. Minister Juan Cabandié of Argentina noted the recurrent themes of adaptation finance, debt relief, sustainable competitiveness, and “debt burden” which prevents countries from taking climate action while being environmental creditors. Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson of Barbados stressed the need for climate financing options such as concessionary loans at favorable rates, grants, debt swaps, blue bonds, and green bonds. While Minister Carlos Correa of Colombia also spoke about debt swaps, he highlighted the private sector’s role in mobilizing financial resources for the sub-national level.
In the leadup to COP26, Minister Andrea Meza of Costa Rica called for states in the region to speak with a unified voice. Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship, Felipe Solá, closed the event noting that the region shares their vision on climate issues, especially when it comes to the commitment and urge to implement adaptation measures, particularly for those countries on the front lines of climate impact – and the hardest hit from the pandemic. He closed his notes highlighting that the environmental issue had become a social one.
Before closing the event, Minister Juan Cabandié pointed out that environmental authorities from all over the Americas had also sent messages sharing their country’s progress and commitment to climate ambition. The remarks from Ministers and Vice ministers of Environment of Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela expressed how the region is approaching the climate crisis.
Going forward, U.S. Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Jonathan Pershing pointed to not only COP26, but beyond to the Energy and Climate Partnership ministerial meeting in February which offers an opportunity to continue moving the Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean initiative forward. Further, the United States will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in summer 2022 for the first time since 1994. This event will sustain and advance momentum for climate action.