The United Nations climate change chief called on Latin American nations to fully capitalize on opportunities to take climate change action to the next level, building on the achievements reached at last year’s conference in Cancún, Mexico.
“The Cancún Agreements are a small step for the planet, but they are nonetheless a beginning that can spark more action,” Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said in a speech to the Conference of the Secretariat General Iberoamericana in Madrid, Spain.
The agreements reached at the Cancún conference, which concluded on December 11, 2010, include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.
Ms. Figueres noted that forests are one area in which Latin America can take climate change implementation to the next level through the Cancún Agreements.
“The sustainable use of forests has multiple benefits not only directly for forest-dependent peoples, but also for a range of critical issues including biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation,” she said.
Important agreement was reached in Cancún on REDD Plus, backed by the financial resources to implement it. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
REDD-Plus goes beyond deforestation – which some estimates show has contributed up to one-fifth of global carbon emissions, more than the world’s entire transportation sector – and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
“This has opened an important door for Latin America,” Ms. Figueres noted, adding that REDD-Plus is already being tested in some large-scale demonstration projects. For example, Norway’s commitment of $1 billion to help protect the Amazon rain forest contributed to Brazil’s pledge to reduce deforestation by 80 per cent by 2020.
“This is an encouraging example that merits duplication,” she stated. “Latin American countries need to seize this opportunity and craft forest-related policies on the national level that go hand-in-hand with the Cancún Agreements so that the greatest benefits can be achieved.”
She also noted that Latin American countries have “huge” potential for renewable energy generation, citing for example ideal wind conditions in Mexico, Central America, Northern Colombia and Patagonia, as well as significant geothermal resources.