“The cost of inaction today is going to be much bigger tomorrow,” former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos told The Herald before attending a University conference Wednesday to discuss international climate change policy.
The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies partnered with the Climate and Development Lab to organize the conference, entitled “Governing Climate Change: New Ideas and Latin American Leadership as Peru Prepares to Host the 2014 U.N. Climate Negotiations.”
The conference focused on the desired outcomes of the annual United Nations Climate Summit, which will take place in Lima, Peru this December.
Climate change experts from several Latin American countries attended the event, including former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and current Peruvian Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, as well as Lagos, who is also a University professor at large.
“The value of this is it’s a collaborative effort on the part of Brown,” said Richard Snyder, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and professor of political science. “It is bringing together so many key stakeholders from Latin America and beyond in a neutral, third-party, university environment.”
The conference included both public and private sessions. Discussion at the public sessions centered on Latin American leadership on climate change, presidential influence on climate change policy and how to make progress during the negotiations at the summit.
The conference aims to lay the groundwork for the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, which marks the deadline for producing a new international agreement to reduce emissions.
“They have to produce a draft agreement this year in Lima, and a final agreement in 2015, which would come into force in 2020,” said Guy Edwards, research fellow at the Center for Environmental Studies and co-organizer of yesterday’s conference.
“The timing is very important,” Snyder said.
Many of the key players from the 2010 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Mexico — which Snyder said was heralded as a success in terms of facilitating negotiations — were able to meet with some of the leaders of the upcoming Peru conference, he said. “We’re hoping there would be some productive thinking that wouldn’t otherwise happen. … By bringing them together, we can actively promote learning from past successes, so this is a useful role for us to play as a university,” he added.
One of the goals of this conference was encouraging countries to develop climate change policies with more ambitious goals, Edwards said.
“It’s not only that we cannot keep going, we have to start reducing,” Lagos said, adding that he thinks every country shares equal responsibility for reducing emissions.
Several members of the Climate and Development Lab who attended the conference will also be attending the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Peru.
“These small negotiations are so important because you can’t just arrive in Lima and expect to create, from scratch, a climate negotiation that will be able to pass,” said Paola Eisner ’14, who attended the U.N. conference in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013 as part of a University delegation. “You have to have these smaller conferences so that people can arrive to politically salient decisions before the big day.”
“The Climate and Development Lab has historically had a focus on least-developed or developing countries, and we have an advantage in Latin America, because we have had some of our lab members based in those countries,” said Sophie Purdom ’16, a member of the Climate and Development Lab. “We have built up, over the years, trust with those countries,” she said, adding that Latin America’s abundant resources present both opportunities and challenges, especially regarding deforestation in the Amazon.
“If we have accepted that there is this problem, then it’s time to use the system in the best way possible to leverage strengths of different countries and innovation to … find solutions to climate change,” Purdom said.