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Latin America hands climate bill to rich world at summit

November 30, 2015

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Latin America will demand at the Paris climate talks that started this week that the richest and most polluting countries foot the bill for reducing harmful emissions.

Countries in one of the world’s poorest and most environmentally diverse regions have failed to agree on many things and do not have a common negotiating position overall going into the talks. But they do agree that countries in their region suffer more than most from the effects of global warming, and that the big polluters should pay.

Leaders of 195 countries are aiming for an accord to limit global warming at the United Nations climate summit in Paris, which runs until December 11.

They will discuss limits to emissions and funding for the poorer countries who are fighting climate change. They hope to agree to limit global warming by 2030 to two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era.

Among the countries attending, eight form the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. They are promising to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 45 percent by 2030.

Mexico, the region’s second-biggest economy, does not belong to the group but shares it objectives. It has promised to cut harmful emissions by 22 percent by 2030.

“We are all pushing to develop early warning systems that will allow us to anticipate (weather) phenomena that are going to occur,” said Mexico’s environment minister Rafael Pacchiano.

Key player Brazil

As Latin America’s biggest economy, Brazil is a key player at the summit. It has promised to halt deforestation and cut greenhouse gas emissions 43 percent by 2030.

The host of the summit, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, said he was counting on Brazil to help seal a global pact.

“Brazil has set an example by making many ambitious commitments and that gives it credibility as a historical partner in the climate negotiations,” he said.

Latin America’s third-biggest economic power, Argentina, meanwhile has set a target of reducing its greenhouse emissions 14 percent by 2030. It plans to build more hydroelectric dams and develop its nuclear sector.

Those two countries’ neighbor Bolivia says it will present a series of social recommendations after a meeting with other states in the region last month. It will demand an even tougher target for limiting global warming: 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It will also demand that big industrialized countries pay for the environmental damage caused by climate change.

Political cost

Latin American powers “are going to demand more transparent mechanisms for cooperation, for transfer of technology and for financing,” said Jorge Caillaux, president of the non-government Peruvian Environmental Law Society.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said he will call for “environmental justice.”

“The big polluters should pay for that pollution,” he said. “They should compensate for the consumption of environmental resources and compensate the poor countries impacted by climate change caused by rich countries.”

The U.N. has called for countries to ramp up yearly joint funding to $100 billion a year by 2020 to reduce emissions and tackle the effects of climate change such as droughts and hurricanes.

In the past half-century, Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to have caused less than five percent of carbon dioxide emissions, but they have suffered more than most from extreme weather disasters.

“What has to be negotiated is who will contribute” to the cost of fighting climate change, said Caillaux. “It is not our countries that should contribute, but the richest and most industrialized ones.”

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