Latin America in the climate negotiations

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while but never had a chance to do it. But since we are only a couple of weeks away from the climate negotiations, I think it becomes even more relevant.  The Knight Science Journalism Tracker posted a story earlier this month about the Barcelona negotiations from a Latin American perspective, and summed it up this way:

(English intro to Spanish lang. post) Latin American journalists at the Climate Change meeting in Barcelona are making one thing clear: “we are already suffering the consequences of the global warming that you – rich countries — have caused. You should mitigate – not us – and also give us quite a lot of money for adaptation”. But as El Comercio (Peru) complains in a fabulously persuasive story, nobody paid attention to L.America in Barcelona. Spanish newspapers say that US is the key player and the country with most cumulative emissions. EU won’t start reducing if US doesn’t have a clear commitment first.

Full story in spanish here

Now I’m wondering, from a communications point of view – putting aside for a moment the politics and the policy making discussions- why have Latin American countries failed to make their voices heard in this pivotal moment? Latin America does not contribute significantly to greenhouse gases emissions diminishing its role and bargaining power in the negotiations – but as the article mentions, some countries will  be some of the most affected by the effects of climate change. However, the message coming from some countries have not effectively communicated this urgency. In fact, one of the main arguments used by the Amazonian countries (Brasil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) refers to the mitigating potential of forest conservation, which could be translated in significant funding for projects. However, this funding will do little to address the present and future impacts (e.g. water scarcity due to rapidly melting of tropical glaciers).

Can we expect a different communication strategy in the face of the upcoming Copenhagen meeting?  Should the forest conservation card be continued to be played, or should a strategy outlining adaptation needs be further persuaded? I have no clear answers, but I do recognize both the potential and limitations of the later. Focusing on adaptation needs might have an influence in the urgency of reaching a stronger binding agreement than Kyoto (which will unlikely happen in Copenhagen). On the other hand, the limited salience of the issue within the public in LA, and the lack of voice of the most vulnerable populations (mostly the poorer) will probably do little in changing the strategy, as long as mitigation funds are available.

It surely be very interesting how all this unfolds in just a couple of weeks, and how the expected increase in public attention to the issue could play a role in these communication strategies in future negotiations.

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