LAC Climate Week ends with call for inclusive and nature-centric climate action

By Climate Champions | October 31, 2023


In a week marked by socio-political unrest and climate impacts, Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week brought forward an emphatic call for inclusive and adaptive climate action that puts nature at its core.

Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week (LAC CW) concluded on Friday, illuminating the acute need for accelerated regional climate action amidst heightened socio-environmental challenges.

Protests denouncing a renewed contract for the Cobre Panama mine and Hurricane Otis provided a stark backdrop to the week. As tensions rose over the mine, which contributes almost 5 percent of Panama’s economic activity, and as Hurricane Otis wreaked havoc on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the urgency for climate resilience, inclusivity and a fair and just transition became ever more palpable.

This emphasis on a just transition was echoed in discussions on the Just Energy Transition Collaboration (JET-Co). Ramiro Fernández, Campaigns Director at the Climate Champions Team, emphasised, “The energy projects need to be inclusive – they are installed in physical spaces that affect the communities.” Ana Carolina Espinosa from the Natural Resource Governance Institute highlighted the moral and practical imperatives of a just transition, while climate leader from Honduras, Ricardo Pineda emphasised the need to protect environmental activists. 

Governments, grassroots organisations, the private sector, and others united in their understanding that a net zero emissions, nature-positive and resilient world requires collective, collaborative action. 

Nature was a key theme throughout the week, from commitments to double down on action to protect oceans – encouraged by newly launched initiatives such as the Coral Reef and Ocean Breakthroughs – to acknowledgement of Nature-based Solutions as catalysts to the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns. Daniela Lerario, LAC Director at the Climate Champions Team, underlined that Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are at the core of the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda – which sets measurable targets for enhancing resilience by 2030. 

Global Leader of Climate & Energy at WWF, Global Ambassador of our Races, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal stressed that NbS is not merely a tool for carbon offsetting, but a holistic approach to societal wellbeing, ecosystem preservation, and meaningful community involvement. From bridging time-honoured wisdom with cutting-edge technology to valuing local perspectives and ensuring Indigenous rights, NbS is about understanding, collaborating, and implementing, he said. Economic and political dimensions, including securing funds and aligning policy objectives with NbS principles, were also highlighted.

Gonzalo Muñoz, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP25 in Chile and chair of the Non-State Actors Pillar of the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda, emphasised the bond between food systems and human health and the need to redefine our relationship with food. He announced that the High-Level Champions will launch a Call to Action at COP28 that aims to unite non-Parties – from banks to cities – under a shared vision to propel a food system transformation by 2030.

The conference celebrated the dynamism of youth and the intrinsic wisdom of Indigenous communities, recognizing their roles in climate discourse and the need to re-distribute finance towards higher participation of those less involved – and also to solve the climate crisis in a just way. Johann Delgado from Cornell Coastal Solutions stated: “We often wait for magic formulas, but young people can create their own solutions.” José Antonio Mendez, representing OPIAC, added: “Who are the Indigenous peoples? Usually, they are seen as a minority. But we have our own government, we have direct relations with mother nature. This is what keeps the balance between all beings.” 

Subsequent days delved into the intricacies of resilience and adaptation. It became evident that robust strategies required an interplay between grassroots initiatives, technical bodies, and private sector innovations. The dialogues emphasised not just the creation of resilient infrastructures but also resilient communities.

Finance was also held up as a potential linchpin in climate adaptation. Latin America and the Caribbean has one of the world’s largest adaptation financing gaps: the region needs up to US$18.1 billion more each year to respond to and prevent ongoing losses. With an increasing number of FIs adopting digital tools for climate risk assessment, and funnelling funds to at-risk communities, the sector’s role in a sustainable transformation was undeniable. One of the week’s pinnacles was the unveiling of the GFANZ Latin America & Caribbean Network, chaired by Patricia Espinosa, former UNFCCC Executive Secretary. By working together with local financial bodies, the network promises to be instrumental in amplifying climate finance in the region.

The pivotal role of cities was also spotlighted. The number of signatories to the Cities Race to Resilience has nearly tripled since 2021, from 30 in 2021 to 86 cities today, and more are urged to join. Emphasis was placed on the need for multi-level governance, coordinated efforts, and increased financing to empower cities to lead the charge in achieving net zero emissions and resilience. 

Finally, the importance of embedding science in approaches to climate action was evident as the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) gained momentum in countries like Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. And the potential for green energy, namely green hydrogen, was spotlighted for its opportunity to help countries, particularly Panama, transition from fossil fuels and become epicentres of green energy.

Commenting on the week, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, H.E Razan Al Mubarak said, “Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week brought to the fore the power and urgency for collective action in driving the transformations our planet demands. Each story, each perspective shared, reminds us that our environmental actions must resonate with the heartbeat of our diverse communities, from the innovative spirit of the youth to the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. Above all else, we must remember that in protecting and respecting nature, we nurture a legacy of resilience and sustainability for all generations.”

UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP27, Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin said, “Finance is the lifeblood of sustainable development and climate action . As we’ve seen throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the right investments can catalyze transformative change, bridging current adaptation gaps, building resilience in communities most at risk and contributing to mitigation targets. As challenges escalate, it becomes imperative for global financial systems to align with the region’s needs, championing innovative solutions that not only address immediate climate risks but also pave the way for a prosperous, fair and healthier future.”

Just over a month before COP28 begins, the week underscored the importance of leaning on nature, championing young voices, and ensuring that every strategy, every action, and every decision is in harmony with a shared vision for a net zero and resilient world. 

The final regional climate week, Asia-Pacific Climate Week, will take place from 13 to 17 November 2023, hosted by the Johor state government in collaboration with the Government of Malaysia. Learn more here.

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