Earth Day -- Leaders Summit and Escazú (April 22, 2021)
U.S. President Joe Biden's virtual Leaders Summit on Climate starts today, Earth Day. The event aims to relaunch U.S. climate change leadership, and Biden is expected to announce a new goal for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions -- reportedly by perhaps as much as 50 percent by 2030. (ABC, Washington Post)
Forty countries will participate in the summit. Seven Latin American and Caribbean countries were invited: the five largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the region—Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia— and the Caribbean nations of Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda. Latin America is a critical region to any climate change accord, according to AS/COA. It is home to extraordinary levels of biodiversity, but also has a dependency on more destructive economic activities, such as agriculture, oil and gas production, mining, and logging. The region is also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change-intensified natural disasters like floods, droughts, and hurricanes. Many actors are also concerned at the economic opportunity cost of environmental protections.
Initial rumors that the U.S. would announce a bilateral climate change agreement with Brazil at the summit have dissipated, among a wave of criticism regarding Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental record and credibility. Bolsonaro's new promise to reduce deforestation -- which effectively reinstates a commitment by the Brazilian government that his administration had abandoned -- has been met with skepticism by Brazilian activists and the international community. And Bolsonaro's attempt to obtain cash upfront in order to curb rainforest destruction failed, reports the New York Times. (See last Thursday's post, and briefs on Tuesday and Monday.) U.S. officials have indicated they are looking for tangible evidence of environmental commitment ahead of any financing, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See also El País.)
Instead there are rumors that the U.S. is pursuing a bilateral deal with Colombia -- Biden’s top Latin America aide, Juan González, met with Colombian President Iván Duque last week to discuss the country’s regional climate leadership. Or that the U.S. will strike multiple deals with several Amazon countries, including governments in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, rewarding conservation efforts there. (Inside Climate News, Time Magazine)
But Brazil has 60 percent of the Amazon, and despite the risks, now may be Biden’s best chance of engaging Bolsonaro’s administration on the environment, according to Time.
Environmental aid is a crucial pillar for international conservation efforts, but "deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is not the result of a lack of money, but a consequence of the government’s deliberate failure of care," warn former Brazilian environment ministers Marina Silva and Rubens Ricupero in the Guardian. "What the government is missing is not cash, but a commitment to the truth."
An environmental agreement between Brazil and the U.S. should be preceded by confidence-building measures, including dialogue with civil society groups that could assist Brazil to fulfill its climate commitments, argue Jeff Burnam, Jorge Tortos and Ryan Berg in The Hill.
And the issue is broader: Brazil's request for cash is likely just among the first of many similar to follow as developing nations start to negotiate with industrialized countries about who pays for costly programs to address climate change, reports the Wall Street Journal.
A new regional pact, the Escazú agreement, comes into force today for Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the first to require member nations to provide legal protections to environmental defenders, in one of the most dangerous places on earth for conservationists.The agreement also aims to make environmental regulation more responsive to communities facing harm. The accord has been signed by 24 of the region's 33 countries, so far, and formally ratified by 12. Nicaragua is among the dozen nations that have agreed to make it legally binding. (Reuters)
In countries that have ratified, "the real work begins this week, when local environmental justice movements will start pushing for effective implementation," writes Vivek Maru in the Los Angeles Times.
Rights advocates say the pact's success will depend on the commitment of governments and big business, reports Reuters.
Recognizing Indigenous land rights is a way out of the false protection-development dichotomy when it comes to conservation, writes Julio Berdegué in the Washington Post. Deforestation rates in Indigenous Naso lands in Panama are one-tenth of those in government conservation areas -- scientific research from across Latin America, suggests that granting the Naso and other Indigenous and tribal peoples territorial rights is an affordable and effective solution for meeting a country’s climate action goals.
A coalition of conservation organisations bought 950 sq km of the Belize Maya Forest in order to save one of the world’s last pristine rainforests from deforestation. Combined with the adjacent Rio Bravo Reserve, Belize Maya Forest creates a protected area that covers 9% of Belize’s landmass, a critical “puzzle piece” in the Selva Maya forest region, helping secure a vital wildlife corridor across northern Guatemala, southern Mexico and Belize, reports the Guardian.
Uruguay continues to be Latin America's leading country regarding energy transition towards renewable sources, according to an index released jointly this week by the World Economic Forum and the Accenture consultancy firm. (Mercopress)
Anybody unconvinced that Amazon preservation is a priority (what rock are you living under, anyway?) should look at the work of photojournalist Richard Mosse, who uses a multispectral camera to show the multilayered destruction happening to the rainforest right now, even if the numbers attached to the climate crisis and deforestation are hard to fathom. (Buzzfeed)
Dominican Republic reproductive rights activists say police broke up a lawful protest they held this week outside of Congress, which is considering a slight relaxation of the country's total abortion ban. Lawmakers are debating whether to permit abortion when woman's life is in danger, the pregnancy is not viable or in cases of rape or incest, as part of a Penal Code reform. A vote is expected today. (CNN, La Diaria)
Abortion activists have been demonstrating for over a month, since lawmakers on the justice commission rejected the proposed modifications to the penal code. (NBC)
The Dominican Republic is one of six countries in the world that maintains a total abortion ban, along with Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Malta and the Vatican. President Luis Abinader said he supports the modifications, but cannot impose them on lawmakers, reports El País.
In February of last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights admitted for review the case of “Esperancita”, a 16-year-old girl who died in 2012 after being denied life-saving treatment for leukaemia because she was pregnant, noted Amnesty International in its annual report.
The U.S. government is invoking a Trump-era health policy to turn back migrant families with older children at the border, reports the Guardian.
"Brazilian police kill six times more people than the US ... in Brazil and the US, what we're asking is that the police take their knee off our necks," writes Thiago Amparo in response to the Derek Chauvin verdict. (Folha de S. Paulo)
Covid-19 is ripping through Brazil, and citizens who are angry about their government's pandemic policy have little recourse, writes Vanessa Barbara in a New York Times op-ed.
Business jets are on the radar of European authorities after the dismantling of a ring that used private aircraft to smuggle cocaine from Brazil to Portugal, reports InSight Crime.
In some parts of rural Colombia, teachers are the last line of defense against forced recruitment of children by armed groups, reports InSight Crime.
Slow-moving lava flows from Guatemala's Pacaya volcano threaten the local communities of El Patrocinio and San José el Rodeo. (Associated Press)
As the pandemic’s impact on jobs and income lingers – and looks likely to do so through 2024 – Latin American governments should start taking steps to improve their reputation and business climates by settling the many disputes that have languished in international arbitration tribunals, argues Arturo Porzecanski in Americas Quarterly.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...