FEATURE STORY

Latin America applies the weight of the law to confront climate change

March 13, 2014


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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Several Latin American countries lead the list of nations in the world that have most actively legislated to protect the environment

In some Latin American countries, attacking nature is a crime whereas others promote the buying and selling of gases that destroy the atmosphere. They are different means to the same end: to address inevitable climate change, which is already being felt throughout the region, whether in the form of extreme weather, such as twin storms, or less perceptibly, such as rising sea levels.

Fortunately, Latin America, along with Africa, is the region in the world that has most actively passed laws to prevent or mitigate atmospheric change, according to a global report on legislative advances.

Of particular note is Bolivia, which adopted the Framework Law on Mother Earth, and Costa Rica, which recently gave the green light to one of the world’s most ambitious climate laws and has promoted carbon emissions trading as a strategy for becoming carbon neutral by the next decade.

For their part, Mexico, El Salvador and Ecuador adopted strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to promote the sustainable development of their populations.

“In Latin America, climate change plans are beginning to transform into concrete legislation,” according to the report by GLOBE International, which brings together legislators from over 80 countries committed to enacting laws for the rational use of the planet’s resources.

Legislative advances in Latin America include:

·    Mexico: The government announced the adoption of a national climate change strategy, which focuses on reducing emissions and promoting multi-sectoral public policies on climate. 

·    Costa Rica: Congress adopted the Framework Law on Climate Change, which mandates the teaching of the subject in schools. A ministerial decree creates voluntary carbon emissions trading.    

·    Ecuador: The legislature established the national inter-sectoral strategy on climate change. The National Good Living Plan promotes sustainable development. 

·    Bolivia: The government has enacted the Mother Earth Law, which broadly redefines national management of natural resources, climate and the ecosystem.

·    El Salvador: The country adopted a national climate change strategy to reduce the social and economic impact of global warming.

In the rest of the world, the legislative drive to mitigate the effects of climate change is also gaining ground. The report states that 61 of the 66 countries studied – which are responsible for 90% of CO2 emissions – have passed laws to promote clean sources of energy whereas 54 nations have legislated to increase energy efficiency. All of this reduces reliance on fossil fuels and improves the environment, according to the study.

Even so, legislatures of the world must do much more. “We should be clear that the legislative response thus far is not yet sufficient to limit emissions at a level that would cause only a 2 degree Celsius rise in global average temperature, the agreed goal of the international community,” said John Gummer, member of the House of Lords and GLOBE International president.

However, experts warn that at our current pace, global temperatures will rise an average of 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which will threaten the survival of future generations and the social advances made to date.

In a warmer world, one of the biggest losses for Latin America would include parts of the Amazon Basin, whose eastern and southern areas would slowly dry up. This would also have an impact on food production since the Amazon rainforest generates part of the rains that irrigate crops in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil.

“Feeding the world would be difficult in a more extreme global warming scenario. In addition, it would test the capacity of Latin America to be the breadbasket of the world,” warns World Bank climate change expert Erick Fernandes.


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