By Caroline Mwanga
The three-day Virtual Thematic Sessions of the Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week 2021 (LACCW2021), which wrapped up on May 14, hosted by the Government of the Dominican Republic, are reported to have provided important momentum for a successful UN Climate Change Conference COP26 from November 1 to November 12 in Glasgow.
The primary aim of regional climate weeks, organized every year in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Middle East, and North Africa, is to bring together diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors to address climate issues under one umbrella and unity of purpose.
Impetus from the sessions came from more than 5,000 registered attendees joining in the conversation, including from the host Government of the Dominican Republic, governments at all levels, private sector leaders, academic experts, and engaged stakeholders.
About 300 speakers, in collaboration with more than 30 global and regional organizations took part in 83 events in virtual sessions and close to 100 hours of live presentations and discussions.
At the opening of the sessions, the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic, Orlando Jorge Mera, said: “Ahead of COP26 we are going to increase the ambition of our national climate action plan and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 27% and progress towards climate neutrality in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals. (…) For us climate action is not just about mitigation, we need to prepare for what is coming ahead.”
The four-day virtual sessions managed to catalyze commitments in three key areas: integration of climate action into national planning; adaptation to climate risks; and transformative opportunities towards carbon neutrality. Subsequently, the region came “one step closer” to consolidating strong positions for COP26 in Glasgow.
Dr. Max Puig, Executive Vice President of the National Council on Climate Change of the Dominican Republic, said: “Amid the complex and conflicted situation that humanity is living in, there are also grounds for optimism. Some of the most belligerent deniers of the scientific evidence of climate change have lost and continue to lose ground. On the other hand, there is a growing awareness of the dangers that lie ahead. Global citizenship is gaining momentum as more and more leaders in more and more countries recognize the need for vigorous climate action as a means of securing humanity’s common destiny.”
Chile’s Environment Minister and President of the UN Climate Change Conference COP25, Carolina Schmidt, said: “The countries of the region must be united on the way to COP26, to promote the greatest possible ambition with a common goal: carbon neutrality and resilience by 2050 at the latest.”
LACCW2021 provided a major platform to boost regional as well as global climate ambition. The wide array of regional stakeholders will showcase climate action to date and track progress on the submission of stronger national climate plans—Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)—under the Paris Agreement ahead of COP26.
A further focus of LACCW2021 was to provide information on the UN’s Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns, and to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard in the multilateral climate process.
“Ambitiously updating NDCs is more important than ever. NDCs can truly be a beacon that, together with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), guide the sustainable and clean recovery after the COVID crisis with a clear vision of how to improve people’s quality of life,” Chile’s Environment Minister Schmidt said.
Ms. Schmidt and COP26 President Alok Sharma have meanwhile called on all countries to either follow through on commitments made under the Climate Ambition Alliance or to join its efforts. Launched by the Chilean Presidency at COP25 in Madrid, the Alliance brings together countries, businesses, investors, cities and regions which are working towards achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, as well as countries committed to updating their NDCs.
Underlining the critical importance of success at COP26, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said: “COP26 is nothing less than a credibility test for our collective efforts to address climate change, implement the Paris Agreement and continue building climate ambition.”
“2021 must be the year of tough decisions and significant progress by nations. Yet it also offers an unprecedented opportunity, as nations build forward from COVID-19 to structure resilient, sustainable and green post-recovery economies aligned with the Paris Agreement.”
LACCW2021 focussed on three key areas: A) Integrating ambitious action in key economic sectors into national planning; B) Adapting to climate risks and building resilience; and C) Seizing transformational opportunities to put the region on a low-emission and highly resilient development pathway.
Around 4,000 people registered for the virtual thematic sessions of LACCW2021, including government ministers and senior representatives of multilateral agencies and non-governmental organizations, as well as civil society, including indigenous leaders and youth.
“The fruitful sessions held over the last four days here in Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrate that the climate urgency is well recognized,” agreed UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary Ovais Sarmad. He said he was impressed, how LAC countries are working on climate action whilst battling the COVID-19 pandemic. “With only six months to go to COP26, we are at a crucial moment.”
Indeed. Many nations are right now developing new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions—national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement—and this is the year we determine if we can get on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals. LACCW 2021 gives us optimism for success at COP 26 because of the momentum we see now, and the potential for more in the future.”
Over three days, core organizing partners led discussions on themes that are crucial to meeting the world’s common climate challenge:
The World Bank examined national actions and economy-wide approaches, seeking synergies and shaping national planning for a sustainable, green recovery.
UNDP led sessions on integrated approaches for climate-resilient development, looking at how both climate risk and climate solutions are reshaping different sectors.
The UN Environment Programme led discussions on seizing transformation opportunities that explore a reimagined future and the behaviours, technologies, and financing needed to get there.
On the final day of LACCW2021, the COP26 Presidency has hosted a series of events reflecting the UK’s four goals for COP26: mitigation, adaptation, mobilising finance, and collaboration.
Conversations ranged from capacity building on NDC ambition in the region as part of the COP26 Catalyst for Climate Action, to dialogues with Indigenous Peoples on leading nature-based solutions, as well as research and innovation and climate finance.
Fiona Clouder, COP26 Regional Ambassador for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “LACCW2021 has enabled us to come together and focus on the challenges and opportunities to deliver on the Paris Agreement and move to net zero in the Latin America and Caribbean Region.”
Next steps to COP 26 include the upcoming May–June 2021 Climate Change Conference (sessions of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies) and the Asia Pacific Climate Week and Africa Climate Week in July before COP 26 convenes in Glasgow in November.