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A Green Alliance With Europe

SANTIAGO/SAO PAULO – In December, world leaders will meet in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is expected to produce a new agreement to tackle global warming. But, in the run-up to the conference, heads of state and ministers will meet at various other related events. Having attended countless summits, we can attest that, if these other meetings are correctly prepared, and heads of state engage meaningfully in them, the prospects of success in Paris could be improved.

One such meeting in particular could be decisive: the June 10-11 bi-annual summit in Brussels between the European Union and the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean States (CELAC). Efforts by Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean have set the groundwork for the world’s strongest bi-regional partnership on climate change. Leaders in both regions have declared their commitment to holding the rise in global temperature to below 2º Celsius and to achieving legally binding outcomes in Paris.

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The EU and CELAC heads of state can – and should – forge a close alliance and capitalize on favorable political conditions to advance a progressive climate agenda, one that mandates their negotiators to push for a fair, equitable, and ambitious agreement in December. Together, the two regions represent nearly a third of the 195 parties that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and account for roughly 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Given soaring climate-related economic costs in Europe and Latin America, both sides have much to gain (and save) from a global regime that significantly reduces emissions and strengthens resilience to climate risks.

This common sense of purpose is reflected in our regions’ policies. Latin America and the Caribbean are taking concerted action to help bringing down global emissions and could do much more with funding and technology transfers from developed countries. Brazil, for example, has drastically reduced deforestation in the Amazon – a major contribution. Chile is on track to reach its goal of producing 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. And in 2012, Mexico enacted a climate-change law that aims to reduce emissions by 30% below their business-as-usual level by 2020, and by 50% by 2050.

For its part, the EU is offering the strongest pledge yet for the Paris agreement: a reduction in domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40%, relative to their level in 1990, by 2030. This is in line with the EU’s long-term goal of reducing emissions by 80-95% (again, relative to the 1990 level) by 2050.

The EU-CELAC summit can also benefit from diplomatic efforts within CELAC, which includes all of the region’s 33 countries. A regional effort led by Brazil and Chile is promoting dialogue among CELAC countries to build trust, with the goal of identifying common positions for the UN climate negotiations.

CELAC has emphasized that a new global climate-change deal should treat adaptation and mitigation in a balanced manner. In keeping with its commitment to the 2º C cap on the rise in global temperature, CELAC not only supports a legally binding agreement, but also calls for wealthy countries to meet their promises to provide developing countries with $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020.

Wealthy countries that have not complied with the emissions-reduction commitments enshrined in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol owe this debt to the planet. CELAC seeks rules to ensure the transparency and verification of countries’ climate actions, and calls on developed countries to increase their technology transfer and capacity-building efforts to support its member countries.

Latin American and the Caribbean countries can also use the upcoming summit in Brussels to reassure the EU that it is a valued partner. It can call on Europe to provide greater predictability of financial flows and alignment on climate and development objectives, especially to reduce inequality and poverty, boost clean energy, and build sustainable urban transport and other infrastructure.

Following the difficult climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, we understand why some European leaders may be lowering expectations for the Paris talks. They are understandably reluctant to expend too much political capital by calling for a far-reaching deal. But, at a time when concern about global warming among citizens in both regions is growing, this is no time for indecisiveness.

European leaders should boldly show that they are committed to an ambitious outcome in Paris, and that Europe will enhance its support of CELAC climate actions. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that CELAC can more than meet its future energy needs through renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and geothermal. Indeed, such resources are sufficient to cover projected 2050 electricity needs 22 times over. The EU can play a leading role in promoting renewable energy cooperation, in part by transferring technology that is adapted to our tropical conditions, which would support CELAC countries’ efforts to reduce emissions and pollution, increase their resilience to climate change, and create jobs.

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This type of enhanced cooperation and diplomacy could pay large dividends. Progress in Brussels next week would increase CELAC countries’ confidence, thereby encouraging them to offer the strongest-possible commitments – known technically as “intended nationally determined contributions” – in Paris. More generally, a successful meeting in Brussels could help bring all sides closer together on thorny issues, such as the scale and scope of efforts that countries at different levels of development should make to address climate change.

By forming an ambitious alliance – which could be enlarged to include other groups, such as the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least-Developed Countries group – EU and CELAC heads of state can contribute to setting the course that the world must follow to create a low-carbon, sustainable, and resilient future. We urge them to take the necessary steps in Brussels next week to achieve that goal.