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CLIMATE CHANGE: Latin America, EU Set Sights on Cancun Summit

Tito Drago* - Tierramérica

MADRID, May 25 2010 (IPS) - Governments from the European Union and from Latin America and the Caribbean are confident that at year’s end the international climate conference will produce a concrete legal mandate to truly protect the environment.

The 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place starting Nov. 29 in the Mexican resort city of Cancún.

Leaders from both regions have pledged joint actions for sustainable development, especially strategies to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón stated that one of the ways to achieve that goal is the upcoming launch of the European Union-Latin America/Caribbean (Eurolac) Foundation.

“It is a space for dialogue and agreement between the two regions,” said Calderón of the initiative that came out of the 6th European Union-Latin America/Caribbean Summit, held May 18 in Madrid.

Spain’s Secretary of State for Climate Change Teresa Ribera told Tierramérica that her country “will dedicate itself to using the lessons learned in the Ibero-American forum in our international cooperation policies for the region through various initiatives.”

Among them, she named the Clean Development Mechanism, as set out in the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change; the UN Development Programme’s Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund; the REDD initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries); and cooperation among meteorology services on climate matters.

As for the pollution caused by Spanish transnational corporations in Latin America, Ribera said, “The government has promoted a law that regulates the environmental responsibility of those companies… although it is difficult to ensure they obey the laws of other countries.”

“Other tools are essential, such as, of course, the local governments, but also the companies’ social responsibility and brand image in public opinion and the markets,” she added.

“Today, environmental ethics are a factor of leadership in business, and the market value of companies is increasingly linked to the presence or absence of risk in their environmental behavior,” Ribera said.

The Spanish official added, “If we want to halt the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, we have to make the best practices and available technologies widespread, we have to reverse deforestation, and we have to promote innovation and consistency in the decisions of government and the private sector.”

However, environmental activists are wary of the market-based nature of the agreements.

“Most of the agreements between the two regions are determined by their market profile, which responds to a clearly liberalising and deregulatory model, in which environmental issues do not play a determining role,” Pablo José Martínez Osés, coordinator of Plataforma 2015 y Más, an umbrella of 14 Spanish non-governmental organisations.

“The potential joint accords that will materialise either through international cooperation or the Cancún Summit, sadly, will remain subordinate to market interests of profitability for a few owners on one side or the other,” Martínez Osés said.

“We have asked the Spanish government to help put an end to the impunity with which our country’s companies operate in foreign territories, limiting regulations and rights to the maximum,” he added.

In the activist’s opinion, “to achieve a true reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we must reform the norms and mechanisms of an irrational, predatory system.”

“Proposals must be introduced that are linked to food sovereignty, an economy based on and oriented to human rights, and the capacity of governments to plan and decide on economic policies,” he said.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)

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