Executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Alicia Bárcena has reaffirmed the urgency in addressing the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region’s climate crisis.
“The global governance system has not been effective in mobilising resources for developing countries. There is a lack of financing for climate action, especially for adaptation. This exacerbates the vulnerability of countries, reducing their capacity to finance their own actions,” she said, during the recently held launch of the State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2020 Report, produced by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
In her remarks, Bárcena pointed out that the LAC region generates just 8.3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but is highly vulnerable to their impact. She emphasised that, over the last 30 years, the number of natural disasters tripled in the Caribbean while the associated economic losses increased fivefold.
According to Bárcena, one of the unexpected effects of climate change — the solution for which is multilateral — is the downgrade of risk ratings by rating agencies, which consider climate vulnerability to be a criteria for downgrading a rating. As a result the cost of sovereign debt and interest payments increase for developing countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change.
“This worsens, for example, the capacities of the Caribbean, Argentina and Ecuador, which already have a very heavy burden due to high debt levels rooted in external shocks aggravated by the impact of disasters and social and economic structural weaknesses,” she said.
“There is a lack of financing for climate action, especially for adaptation. This exacerbates the vulnerability of countries, reducing their capacity to finance their own actions”— Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Alicia Bárcena
ECLAC’s executive secretary added that the fiscal efforts of the region’s countries aimed at recovering from the novel coronavirus also have very negative downsides as spending on environmental protection has experienced a decline in recent years.
Between 2016 and 2019, spending on environmental protection averaged just 0.4 per cent of central government spending, and in 2020, it fell to a mere 0.2 per cent.
Bárcena further reiterated calls for the creation of a Caribbean Resilience Fund that addresses the needs of the region.
“We have a proposal for that fund to be financed in part with debt relief of US$7 billion, which represents 12 per cent of its total external debt. This can be done, it should be done, and similar instruments should be developed for Central America and South America,” she contended.
At the end of the event, ECLAC and WMO signed a memorandum of understanding that seeks to establish a joint work agenda that would contribute to transforming scientific information into better proposals for economic, social and environmental policies for the sustainable development of Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The report presented by WMO reveals, among other messages, that 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record for Mexico/Central America and the Caribbean, and the second-warmest year for South America.
It warns that in the Chilean and Argentinian Andes, glaciers have retreated in recent decades and that the intense drought in southern Amazonia and the Pantanal was the most severe in the last 60 years.