'We can't accept rules from developed countries'

LIMA — Looking relaxed as he praised the beauty of Peru’s capital city, Vice-President Amado Boudou reappeared yesterday at the United Nations Climate Summit, where he pointed the finger at developed countries for being the main contributors to climate change and argued they should make the lion’s share of the necessary sacrifices to deal with the effects of global warming.

But Boudou’s speech also inadvertently made clear how Argentina is falling behind the region when it comes to fighting climate change.

Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile revealed much more ambitious and global-thinking plans to combat climate change than Argentina and made pledges toward the Green Climate Fund, which will be used to deal with the effects of global warming.

“We can’t accept developed countries imposing rules on the rest of the countries, trying to make us fulfill their historic and current responsibilities regarding climate change. Global warming has been caused mainly by developed countries,” Boudou declared, speaking at the Conference of Parties (COP). “They are the ones who emit most of the greenhouse gases and have led the world to its current situation.”

The Argentine VP asked developed countries to change their “consumption and production habits” and assign resources for developing countries so they too can deal with the effects of global warming. In the same speech, he also briefly described Argentina’s efforts, but he made no new promises or pledges unlike the other Latin American leaders.

“We have taken action to deal with climate change in ways such as organic agriculture, direct seeding, biomass energy, the rotation of crops and forest sustainability. Argentina has a big commitment to food security,” Boudou said. “We will fulfill the objectives agreed at this summit so to improve life for all of us that live on Earth.”

Boudou said Argentina has “finished its investigation” into climate change, which has produced “irrefutable results,” such as an increase in temperatures in several parts of the country. But in truth, the country has only released partial results a week prior to the Lima summit.

According to the government, climate change is being felt most directly in the Patagonia region, where the average temperature has risen one degree Celsius over the past 50 years — the highest increase in the country, where the average increase over the same period has been half a degree. Adding to the evidence, extreme weather events have become more frequent and intense, as has rainfall.

Boudou sent the political leaders in Lima greetings from President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and from “all the Argentine people” and thanked Peruvian President Ollanta Humala for organizing the summit in Lima, a city “where many of the Latin American fights against colonialism have taken place.”

No other events have been scheduled for Boudou’s agenda and he will return today to Buenos Aires.

Committed to change

Following Bolivian President Evo Morales’ speech on Tuesday, the second day of the high-level segment of the COP20 kicked off with many of Latin America’s leaders present, including Michele Bachellet (Chile), Enrique Peña Nieto (México) and Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia). Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff didn’t attend, sending her Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira instead.

All of the region’s leaders agreed that Latin American countries can continue growing and deal with the effect of climate change at the same time, with most laying out their national climate change plans and objectives for the near future. Peru and Colombia even pledged US$6 million for the Green Climate Fund, something that Mexico has also already done. Argentina hasn’t offered any assistance to date.

“We are convinced that economic growth and the fight against climate change aren’t exclusive objectives. Latin America has a key role because of its natural resources, forests and glaciers,” Bachelet said in an address. “We don’t have the opportunity to fail. Future generations will demand from us explanations if we let this opportunity pass by.”

Bachelet, the first Chilean president to attend a COP, said that even though her nation has “low levels of greenhouse gas emissions” the country wants to have an “active role” in solving the issue. With that objective in mind, she described Chile as an environmentally friendly country.

“We have set concrete goals and implemented ambitious plans. We hope to reduce 20 percent of our emissions by 2020,” the president said. “We have coherent energy policies, as up to 45 percent of the new energy projects have to be based on renewable sources. Our Climate Change Council passed a national plan to adapt our economy to climate change with more than 100 actions.”

As members of the Pacific Alliance, Bachelet signed an agreement with Santos, Humala and Peña Nieto in which they recognized that climate change requires concrete actions and expressed their will to implement adaptation and mitigation measures. At the same time, they hope Lima’s deal can lay the foundation for an agreement to be signed in the next COP in Paris next year.

“Climate change is now a variable integrated into all Peru’s objectives. We will soon announce our goal for reducing the country’s emissions and we will create an inventory of greenhouse gases,” Humala said. “Our electricity is obtained from renewable and clean sources with 54 percent from hydroelectric plants, wind farms and solar panels. Half a million solar panels will be installed for the people who still don’t have electricity.”

Humala and Santos agreed that climate change can be considered a danger to humanity and the planet, comparing it to such acts as terrorism and drug-trafficking. Santos said Colombia’s FARC guerilla rebels have contributed to global warming as they have chopped down many trees to grow “illegal drug crops.”

“Colombia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. It threatens our society, our development and our natural resources. We have been registering severe summers and really long winters,” Santos said. “If we achieve a deal with the FARC, we will be able to stop deforestation caused by illicit crops and clean the water resources that have been polluted because of the war. There will be no more deforestation in the Amazonas region.”

Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said it was “not fair” of developing countries to demand more from developed countries, who have to “live up to their responsibilities.” She argued that Brazil has done “it’s fair share” regarding climate change, highlighting her country’s work done to stop deforestation in the Amazonas region.

“We started fighting deforestation four years ago and we have been able to stop a large part of it. We hope to have 60 million hectares of protected forest by 2020 as well as reducing our emissions between 36 and 38 percent by then,” Teixeira said. “We are determined to fight climate change and work alongside our neighbouring countries.”

The UN summit is set to end on Friday, but negotiations will probably continue until Saturday morning in an attempt to reach an agreement that lays the foundation of a deal that could be signed in Paris in 2015. Many leaders and luminaries are expected to stay in Lima a while longer, with environmental ministers from several countries including Spain, Nigeria and Israel scheduled to speak today.

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