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Spotlight: Latin-American countries expand common ground to secure climate deal amid divisions

by Chris Dalby

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Some Latin American countries, despite disagreements inside the region, have strived to bring a more unified strategy to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21).

The COP 21, scheduled in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, will be attended by more than 150 heads of state to strike a binding climate change agreement.

CONCERNS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), said the current intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs (Intended National Determined Contributions), combined with policies over the last few years, present a real increase in ambition levels and demonstrate an unprecedented commitment and engagement by member states in tackling this major global challenge.

While making their own commitments, Latin American nations are hoping that Paris will help them stave off the horrifying impacts of climate change by uniting behind common banners.

According to the Pew Research Center, Latin America had the highest number of people taking climate change seriously (74 percent), followed by Africa (61 percent) and Europe (54 percent).

This is in line with their circumstances.

In the past 50 years, Latin America and the Caribbean contributed only a very modest share of the global carbon dioxide emissions, but they have suffered more than most from extreme weather disasters.

In early November, Latin America received two projects funded by UN's Green Climate Fund to fight global warming.

However, the self-centered nature of the INDCs prevented Latin America from coming up with unified targets, which could have been incorporated into separate INDCs based on each country's ability.

Upon releasing the INDC, each country sought to defend its own position against criticism rather than looking for common ground.

Collaboration may remain distant as Latin-American countries still view climate change targets as purely domestic matters subject to electoral pressure, among others.

Meanwhile, a top negotiator for Peru, Maria Cristina Villanueva, acknowledged a lack of ambition in the country's first INDC target.

"We are a diverse region, with countries and ecosystems particularly vulnerable to climate change. But we are also able to take action and this renders us a strong voice in the negotiations," Villanueva said in August.

ENDEAVORS FOR BETTER PRESENCE

In March, Mexico vowed in its INDC to reduce 2013 greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030 and stop deforestation by 2030, a promise greater than even many Western countries, receiving worldwide applause.

In late September, Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, announced its INDC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, including reducing deforestation and increasing renewable energy to 45 percent of the country's power mix.

At past COP conferences, the stance of Mexico and Brazil might have represented the region's climate change mitigation efforts. This time, however, Latin America is vowing to stand united.

In September, Chile hosted the Latin America and Caribbean Carbon Forum to discuss the best practices for climate mitigation, including financing alternatives, new technologies and economic models.

Some active intra-regional alliances, also allowing smaller countries to have their voices heard, have brought about common ground to Paris.

The AILAC group of Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Peru and Paraguay has decided to adopt pro-market mitigation strategies and reduce emissions by halting deforestation. Besides, Costa Rica pledged to go carbon-neutral, or achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2021.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), made up of 11 countries, has banded together insisting on industrialized nations bearing the brunt of mitigation costs.

Such groups have promoted Latin America's presence at the summit by enlarging their voices in standing together.

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