LAC climate plans show good progress - but now plans must be put into practice

All governments must more clearly make the links between protecting climate, nature and people, writes Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF’s Global Lead Climate & Energy. He is also a former Minister of Environment for Peru and COP20 President.

© Gianfranco Vivi / Shutterstock

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is a good example of the threat posed by climate change and the opportunities that aggressive climate action offers, being a vulnerable and biodiversity-rich region. Many governments have stepped forward with ambitious climate plans — but now they must turn those plans into action. And the ones who are yet to do so must follow suit. The region must appreciate that a new global economic system, framed by climate considerations, is starting to form. Not to consider this is to jeopardize the region’s future development.

WWF has assessed 15 of these plans — known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or (‘NDCs’), which set out countries’ emissions reduction goals as part of the Paris Agreement process. In assessing these submissions, we thought about what ambition looks like, and we wanted to look beyond emissions targets, vital as they are. There are other crucial elements of countries’ climate plans: how they enable adaptation to inevitable impacts; how they contribute to sustainable development and a green recovery; whether they are inclusive; how they allow progress to be tracked.

Overall, governments across the region have made good progress in increasing the climate ambition contained in these plans, the first versions of which were drawn up in 2015, ahead of the Paris climate talks. We have categorized five of them (Colombia, Suriname, Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica) as “NDCs We Want”.

There are two notable exceptions to this positive story. Brazil and Mexico have not raised ambition compared with their earlier NDCs and now, due to methodological issues, their new targets allow them to emit even more carbon than before. It is especially discouraging that these are the two largest economies in the region; they should be leading by example.

Yet even for those countries who have drawn up commendable NDCs, this is just the latest step on a long journey. There is no time to lose in moving from ambition to implementation.

The targets in these NDCs will not be met without a whole-of-government — indeed a whole-of-society — effort. Legislation must be enacted. Regulations must be drafted. Ministries must be properly resourced. And civil society, the private sector, local government and academia, must all be mobilized to deliver these NDCs. Participatory governance structures must be strengthened where they already exist or put in place where they do not.

Doing so promises numerous benefits above and beyond climate protection. Most importantly, well-designed climate action can help create jobs and provide economic growth. It can promote public health in urban areas, by reducing pollution. And, critically in Latin America and the Caribbean, it offers the potential of protecting some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, such as the Amazon rainforest.

Several Latin American and Caribbean countries in the region are already making a positive start to this journey — recognizing the potential to link climate action with economic recovery from the pandemic. Some are making the connections between protecting nature, mitigating climate change and creating jobs. These elements are vital and timely. An opportunity exists — that we all must exploit — to use climate action to drive systemic change, address inequalities, delivering a green recovery and protecting nature.

In this crucial year for climate action, many governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have stepped up with credible, ambitious NDCs.

But neither the work, nor the scrutiny, stops here. They must put these plans into practice, and begin to deliver the carbon reductions, social benefits and protection of nature that we need to see.

Learn more about WWF’s assessments of NDCs in Latin America and the Caribbean by visiting our #NDCsWeWant website.

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