The European Union has to revive its alleged climate leadership, build up trust and confidence, and form coalitions in order to make the 2015 Climate Summit (COP21) in Paris a success. Together, the EU and Latin American and Caribbean countries make up almost one third of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. An alliance between Europe and Latin America could revive and lead the negotiations towards a fair and ambitious global climate deal in Paris.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that humankind has ever faced and we are running out of time. The current negotiation process, as mandated by the Durban Plan of Action, aims at a new global climate agreement by the end of this year, which would take effect in 2020. Focusing on the ''big players'' is not enough, as has become apparent with the failure of the Copenhagen negotiations, which were mainly based on an EU-US vision. Integrating the views of middle-income countries will be particularly important to forge a deal at COP21 in Paris.
Europe and Latin America share important values and both strive for a multilateral, rules-based international climate agreement in 2015. The EU and many Latin American countries also take part in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action. A Euro-Latin American alliance has the potential to build support for greater ambition and could help overcome the North-South division present in international climate negotiations. According to a recent Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union report, there is also significant scope for European and Latin American civil society actors to collaborate for more ambitious collective climate action. This has been the case with the participation of civil society in the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat). Working hand in hand with parliamentarians, a Resolution proposal was advanced entitled “Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean join forces for an ambitious agenda at COP21”.
EU-CELAC Summit can boost bi-regional climate alliance ahead of Paris Climate Conference
The EU is currently vitalising its climate diplomacy and recognises the importance of climate change in its relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Ahead of COP21, EU officials are reportedly looking to establish a coalition with Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia and Peru, in recognition of the need to build trust between developing and developed countries. In order to be effective and credible, the EU’s climate diplomacy outreach must take into account the priorities of their partners, including climate finance and an adequate balance between adaptation and mitigation. Latin America, on the other hand, can build bridges between different continents and provide constructive insights and strategies into the underlying debate of how to reconcile development with the need to tackle climate change. An example for this is the concept of “Buen Vivir” (Spanish for “good life”).
The next EU-CELAC Summit is scheduled for June and will bring together European, Latin American and Caribbean Heads of State and Government in Brussels. In the aftermath of COP20 in Lima and in the run-up to COP21 in Paris, this Summit provides a great opportunity to strengthen bi-regional alliances on climate change. Indeed, climate change stands high on the agenda of the EU’s strategic partnership with CELAC. Climate protection also plays an important role in bi-regional cooperation, particularly in relation to the EUROCLIMA programme.
Diversity of views with potential to better advance an ambitious agenda at COP21
Latin America, however, does not speak with one voice within international climate negotiations. On the one hand, countries represented within the AILAC (Asociación Independiente de Latinoamérica), such as Chile, strive for an alternative approach to the North/South, rich/poor divide that is usually referred to in climate change negotiations. On the other hand, certain Latin American and Caribbean countries take part in negotiating groupings with, oftentimes, opposite positions, such as the Like-Minded Developing Countries, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the BASIC countries.
While these opposing positions can sometimes be problematic, the diversity of negotiating groups in Latin America can also help build trust and understanding on the basis of common values such as “development in harmony with nature” and the need to modify prevailing unsustainable production and consumption patterns. The region also faces many common challenges in the search for an alternative development paradigm that reconciles the need to fight climate change and to enhance equality and social cohesion. A declaration from the Pacific Alliance for COP20 and a CELAC declaration on climate change show there is potential to forge consensus at the subregional and regional levels. Notwithstanding the differences at the intra- and inter-regional levels, the run-up to the COP in Paris should therefore be used to strengthen a mutual alliance for an ambitious and fair global climate agreement.
Parliamentarians from Europe and Latin America to join forces for ambitious climate agenda
In spite of signs of optimism ahead of the 2014 Climate Summit (COP20) in Lima, the results of COP20 were rather disappointing. The EU failed to establish coalitions with its natural allies, and some Member States tend to slow down or even block the EU’s climate leadership. Some Latin American countries, on the other hand, claim that they do not want to assume the cost of reducing emissions unless they are financially compensated by the industrialised countries. Meanwhile, several Latin American states assumed a very constructive role during the Lima negotiations, offering innovative negotiating options and contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
Notwithstanding the importance of international climate negotiations, the necessary political will to tackle the climate crisis must be created predominantly at the national and local levels. With the participatory and democratic support of citizens and non-state actors, the involvement and engagement of Parliamentarians has also been indispensable for the climate negotiation process.
Such engagement is seen during the meetings of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat), which unites 150 Parliamentarians from Europe and Latin America. Since the outset, climate change has been an important issue on the EuroLat agenda. Engaging European and Latin American parliamentarians on climate issues can create support for an ambitious climate change agenda pre- and post-COP21.
The Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union together with civil society organisations and networks in both Latin America and Europe sent a Letter to the Members of EuroLat to adopt an Urgent Resolution before COP21. Additionally, several activities were organised on the sidelines of the 2014 Climate Conference in Lima and during the EuroLat Committee Meetings in Panama in this past March, to shed light on the potential of a bi-regional alliance and the role of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.
During the Panama Committee Meetings, EuroLat Parliamentarians decided to work on an Urgent Resolution on climate change, which may be adopted during the EuroLat plenary meetings in June. Such a resolution can send a powerful message to the EU-CELAC Summit and to COP21 and could intensify bi-regional collaboration for an ambitious agenda from Lima to Paris.