The Conference of the Parties (“COP28”) being held in Dubai, witnesses the active involvement of Latin American leaders, spotlighting diverse approaches to climate action. Brazilian President Lula and Colombian President Petro emerged as key proponents of environmental initiatives, highlighting both the region’s achievements and ongoing challenges. While Lula underscored significant reductions in Amazon deforestation, some leaders, like Argentina’s President-elect Milei, dismissed climate change as a “socialist lie.” Amidst such disparities, Latin American countries grapple with varied approaches towards climate issues.
COP28 presents a significant diplomatic platform for Latin America to showcase its leadership on energy transition, biodiversity protection, deforestation reduction and climate education. The regional Forum of Ministers of Environment set clear goals, laying the foundation for COP28 discussions and future engagements like COP30 in Brazil. Latin America’s rich natural resources play a crucial role in global decarbonisation efforts, offering opportunities to supply key minerals like copper, lithium and nickel.
“At COP28, one of the region’s major commitments is to seek funding to significantly increase the resources that are currently being received through cooperation and greatly leverage the funding gap that exists between industrialised and developing countries,” asserted a political analyst and university professor in Colombia. President Lula highlighted Brazil’s strides in rainforest protection while grappling with expansions in oil drilling operations. The contemplation of joining the OPEC+ oil exporters bloc poses a potential challenge to Brazil’s climate commitments. Nevertheless, Lula aims to position Brazil as a climate leader, prioritising renewable energy generation, envisioning the country as the “Saudi Arabia of green energy” within a decade. However, the region faces financing challenges in attracting investments for renewable energy due to high interest rates and limited accessible finance.
The International Energy Agency (“IEA”) underscored the region’s financing hurdles, emphasising the necessity of contributions from wealthy nations, private investors and international financial institutions. Debates on green finance initiatives, including Barbados’ Bridgetown Initiative, took centre stage at COP28, highlighting the need to streamline the investment process. Securing funds remains critical for achieving climate targets, making COP28’s success contingent on practical steps toward financing climate commitments. However, “one of the main criticisms of this COP is that its president is an important executive of the state oil company of the United Arab Emirates, one of the largest oil producers in the world,” explained our source with more than 20 years of experience in the public sector and international cooperation in environmental matters.
“one of the main criticisms of this COP is that its president is an important executive of the state oil company of the United Arab Emirates, one of the largest oil producers in the world.”
Political analyst and university professor, Colombia
Efforts to garner G-20 support for phasing out fossil fuels showed potential progress at COP28, with the United States and the European Union aiming to halt new coal plant construction. Unfortunately, “there is a lot of misgivings about the issues around decarbonisation and the use of fossil fuels,” commented the university professor in Colombia. “This is an issue that continues to be controversial because there is still a significant dependence on these fuels, so countries such as Venezuela, which already have new exploration and extraction projects in their sights, which at the end of the day is what drives their economy, will probably be more reluctant to adopt this type of measure.”
China’s stance on reducing coal reliance became a focal point, potentially challenging its global climate leadership. Financial concerns, discussions about the adequacy of climate funding and a new Loss and Damage Fund faced scrutiny, especially concerning capitalisation, management and accountability.
The Loss and Damage Fund, initiated at COP27, aims to finance developing countries in climate change efforts and adaptation policies. “This is very important because it is not only developing countries that tend to be most impacted by climate effects, but also because implementing these actions, plans and policies is extremely costly,” highlighted the political analyst. However, debates around the fund’s functioning, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, continue. The analyst expanded, “what is even more complex is that when they manage to inject resources, it is because natural disasters, serious health effects, among others, have already occurred, so it is necessary to act to mitigate, not to prevent.”
“developing countries tend to be most impacted by climate effects, but also because implementing these actions, plans and policies is extremely costly.”
Expert on environmental matters, Colombia
COP28 discussions will clarify decisions about responsibilities, the role of institutions like the World Bank, and the allocation of resources. “Colombia, along with Brazil and Chile, are part of the 24 countries that make up the transition committee that seeks to provide guidelines for the implementation of the fund,” aiming to have it operational by 2024, potentially benefiting the region beyond highly vulnerable nations. “There is a lot of political pressure around how the fund should work,” the professor commented. “The level of CO2 emissions produced by the United States, China, Russia, is not the same as that produced by Colombia or even Latin America. However, many of these powers are seeking to evade these responsibilities.”
Latin American countries are exploring innovative financing mechanisms such as biodiversity credit systems and debt-for-climate-action swaps. “With the Paris Agreement, developed countries committed to mobilise USD 100 billion a year for developing countries to support climate action, but although many resources have been mobilised, we are far from reaching the goal,” expanded the political analyst. Colombia’s habitat bank and President Petro’s advocacy for debt swaps signify potential pathways to channel resources into climate change mitigation and adaptation. “It is the possibility of generating financing for low- and middle-income countries, so that they can invest significant resources initially intended for the payment of public debt in the fight against climate change,” highlighted the analyst.
“developed countries committed to mobilise USD 100 billion a year for developing countries to support climate action, but we are far from reaching the goal.”
Political analyst, Colombia
Key leaders from China and the United States won’t attend COP28 but will send delegations. Latin American presidents like Petro, Lula and Díaz Canel will be present, making this “the ideal scenario for Latin America to show its leadership.” A prior Forum of Ministers of Environment helped solidify regional objectives for COP28, impacting future COP30 in Brazil. Latin America “is extremely rich in natural resources that are key elements in the process of decarbonisation and energy transition,” retorted the university professor in Colombia. Additionally, the region aims to take “advantage of the extensive developments in green hydrogen projects to supply the existing demand in other regions of the planet.”
This year’s COP28 acts as a pivotal platform for Latin America to highlight its climate commitments, secure funding and navigate regional challenges. The outcomes will determine the region’s progress towards climate targets and its role in global climate leadership.