The world is facing an unprecedented environmental crisis. Its impact on Latin America can already be seen, and it requires urgent answers and actions. We cannot minimize the severity of this global emergency; our region is deteriorating and the evidence is becoming clearer. We are facing a massive extinction of species, crop losses, droughts, deficiency of safe drinking water, deforestation, fires, floods, an alarming loss of the region’s flora and fauna, and a worrying increase in the number of natural disasters, such as the hurricanes that affect countries every year, especially in the Caribbean. To understand the seriousness of this ecological crisis, it is enough to remember how the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs of the planet” shared by nine South American countries, was burning down a few months ago.
The 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25), held last December in Madrid, brought together 25,000 representatives from 196 countries to advance efforts to address the climate emergency under the theme “It’s Time to Act”. António Guterres, UN Secretary General, warned in his opening speech with an alarming tone that “the point of no return is in sight, it is upon us”, assuring that climate action is of utmost urgency. For two weeks, heads of state and government, scientists, and political, business, and social leaders participated in tense discussions and negotiations.
But how concrete and significant were the COP25 agreements?
The truth is that many participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the conference, claiming that the talks to curb global warming do not yet address the urgency and magnitude of the climate crisis. The COP25 was also criticized in the media as a complete failure, especially because countries failed to take concrete steps to regulate carbon markets. The lack of consensus among the participants and the inability to reach concrete agreements on the development of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement of 2015 on the regulation of carbon markets, resulted in a summit two days longer than expected. In addition, the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, and India, who account for a large share of the world’s total CO2 emissions, were not present at COP25.
However, the European Union’s ambitious commitments in its fight against climate change should be highlighted. Days before the COP25, the European Parliament declared a state of emergency on the continent, and presented the draft of the European Green Pact, in which Europe declares its intention to mobilize 100 billion euros over the next seven years and which aims to make the continent a climate-neutral economy by 2050. With these commitments, the European Union is leading climate action throughout the world and serving as a benchmark for success in the fight against global warming.
Latin America cannot be left behind; we must follow the European example and take clear, firm and effective measures. While it is true that the tangible consequences of climate change in the region have led to a growing awareness of the alarming environmental situation in the political, business and social spheres, the appropriate measures to ensure the conservation of our planet earth have not yet been taken. Significant, concrete, and much more ambitious commitments have yet to be made to contain global warming and guarantee the survival of humanity. For this reason, it is essential to continue the conversation on climate change at the regional level. As a region, we must commit ourselves to the established objectives of sustainable development, and position the fight against climate change as a political conviction of absolutely all states. In addition, civil society must participate, not only with individual actions, but also by demanding that environmental protection be one of the primary struggles of all governments, organizations, businesses, and international agencies.
Maria Fernanda Espinosa