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“Development needs to be respectful of the environment”
Ramiro Escobar*
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Interview with Peruvian environmental scientist Eduardo Calvo, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Eduardo Calvo is a Peruvian environmental scientist and vice president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change´s working group on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability that is assessing the impact of climate change on socio-economic and natural systems ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Mexico later this year.

Latinamerica Press collaborator, Ramiro Escobar, spoke with Calvo about Latin America´s role in climate change talks and the need to reach real agreements on emissions cuts.

Are Latin America and the Caribbean important in the world debate on climate change?
Latin America and the Caribbean have played a predominant role in the talks, both for having one of the countries most responsible worldwide for deforestation-caused emissions – Brazil – as for having industrialized economies, as is the case of Mexico. This was also the case because it is an economically dynamic region that is seeking development that drives low carbon emissions countries.

Does the region have a real impact in decision making here?
Without a doubt. This was clear when we saw Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica named [on May 17] as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

How is the region approaching greenhouse gas emissions? Does each country have a different focus for this problem?
Every country in the region recognizes that they are highly vulnerable and that the impacts are serious for each of them. But their mitigation strategies and visions differ. In more industrialized countries such as Brazil and Mexico, or countries with large cattle farming, such as Argentina and Paraguay, there are focuses according to their situations. It also changes according to political orientation. There are countries that lean to the left, or are pro-market. There is also the line headed by countries such as Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela that emphasize the right for duty of developed countries faced with a historical and ecological debt.

What are the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the region?
Just like the rest of the planet, the consumption of energy ... but the central problem is deforestation. We have to remember that Latin America is one of the last regions to change their soil use process. In some countries, agriculture is a very large industry, while in countries such as Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela, hydrocarbons production is also a significant source of emissions.

Does this create dissent regarding this issue?
Yes. The heterogeneousness of development within Latin America and the Caribbean does not make it easy to reach a consensus, like they were able to in Africa, a more homogeneous region. It is also difficult to reach a consensus because even if we speak mostly Spanish or Portuguese, some countries in the Caribbean communicate in English or French. This creates a small language barrier.

What would be the best way for Latin America to contribute to effective climate change policies?
I think it must continue with its proactive role. The generation of proposals is the most important thing and the lack of them the most negative. Even if some proposals do not coincide, each of them can use aspects that have valuable elements, and finally, we would be able to reach a consensus.

Are we approaching a day when Latin America will have to reduce its emissions?
The largest economies that are part of the G20 are already under pressure to limit their emissions. It is the case of Chile, which has entered the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or Peru, that is experiencing strong economic growth. The rest of the world is asking us to collaborate with emission reductions. And there are countries that do it voluntarily, like Costa Rica.

Does the debate between the environment and development need to be resolved before these commitments can be made?
I think most of these countries believe that development must be respectful of the environment. About the level and form that this is manifested, there are many systems. But I don´t think there is one single country in Latin America and the Caribbean that doesn´t recognize that they have to be putting in the maximum effort. 

So, Latin America and the Caribbean will be important in Cancun?
Yes, without a doubt. First because the region will have Mexico at the head of the conference. Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa will organize the negotiations and put her effort in to advance a global according, even though this is a very complicated year. The presence of China, the crisis in the European Union, the political dynamics in the United States may make it very difficult to reach that agreement. It will require a strong amount of optimism and a lot of luck. In any case, I think that the Mexican government is prepared to get results. And if they can´t, at the very least we have to find the path to it, as soon as possible.

But the problem is getting worse as the years go by.
This process has been going on for 18 years, since the approval of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. The first meeting of the [Convention of the Parties] was in 1995 so the meeting in Cancun will be Number 16. At the same time, it will be the sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in 2005. 

The debate is as hot as the planet.
The debate is going to be very hot, but the global community is increasingly clear. There is no country that denies this problem. They diverge on how to take on the issue. But the doubts have been left behind.
—Latinamerica Press.


Peruvian environmental scientist Eduardo Calvo (Photo: ProActivo)
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