LAC Countries Build Momentum for Climate Agreement, Chemicals and Waste Management

UNEP16 March 2104: The 19th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) resulted in a declaration and set of decisions to support the mainstreaming of environmental considerations into development, and establish a regional cooperation agenda to advance sustainable and inclusive development.

The Forum convened from 12-14 March 2014, in Los Cabos, Mexico, preceded by a meeting of high-level experts, on 11-12 March. The Forum was organized by Mexico's Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Decisions were adopted on: governance and strengthening of the Forum; environmental education; indicators on environmental sustainability in the framework of the LAC Initiative for Sustainable Development (ILAC); sustainable consumption and production (SCP); the regional plan of action on atmospheric pollution; the Regional Initiative on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration (access to information, public participation, and access to environmental justice); cooperation on chemicals and waste; small island developing States (SIDS); and cooperation on climate change. The forum also addressed challenges related to conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the region, on which much of the regional economy depends.

In his statement to the Forum, Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said 18 LAC countries have signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and the number of LAC countries adopting climate legislation “is on the rise.” He pointed to Mexico's General Law on Climate Change as a significant achievement as it establishes a comprehensive regulatory framework to address climate change, while encouraging the transition towards a green economy. He explained that UNEP is working with the LAC Parliament 'PARLATINO' and helping countries establish, pass and implement national climate change laws and regulations, and urged scaling up international cooperation initiatives in energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform, renewable energy, forestry and REDD+. He also: noted that infrastructure and coastal zones require the “lion's share of adaptation costs” in the region; emphasized transitioning to a low-carbon economy, adopting SCP patterns, resource efficiency and decoupling economic growth from the over-exploitation of natural resources; and said the region is at the forefront of natural capital conservation, with 20% of the total land area set aside for conservation.

Steiner said UNEP is working with partners to provide demand-driven policy advice, technical assistance and capacity building for countries to transition to a green economy, and highlighted the Partnership for Action on a Green Economy (PAGE), which aims to "green" 30 developing economies by 2020. UNEP also is facilitating technology transfer and action on climate change through its Regional Gateway for Technology Transfer and Climate Change Action in Latin America and the Caribbean (REGATTA). Through the en.lighten project, Central American countries approved an efficient lighting strategy for the subregion.

Participants in a special ministerial dialogue on climate change said national action must be complemented by a global framework. Christiana Figueres, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, challenged countries to reach a goal of 144 ratifications of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol before the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20), which will take place in Lima, Peru in December 2014. José Luis Samaniego, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said adaptation and mitigation can be profitable, cumulative loss and damage costs can be identified, and some policies, such as fossil fuel subsidies, “make no social, economic or environmental sense.”

The Forum concluded with a declaration and a set of decisions, which are expected to facilitate the mainstreaming of environmental considerations into development agendas and the establishment of a regional cooperation agenda to further sustainable and inclusive development.

UNEP serves as secretariat of the Forum, which gathers every two years and aims to strengthen regional cooperation. [UNEP Press Release, 16 March] [UNEP Press Release, 13 March] [UNEP LAC Press Release] [Statement of UNEP Executive Director] [Forum Documents, including Decisions]