By Patricia Martinez, Expedition PR
Latin America is rich on natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable: oil in Mexico and Venezuela, the Amazonas jungle in Brazil and part of Colombia, the mountain chain and volcanoes that stretch from Mexico to Chile on the Pacific Coast – better known as “Aro de Fuego”, or “Fire Ring” -, Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and the Iguazu Falls in Argentina are only a few examples of the treasures that Latin America could lose if environmental issues are not being addressed properly and timely.
In this context, the Latin America Platform on Climate (LAPC) has produced a report on the Status and Quality of Public Policies on Climate Change and Development in Latin America (2012). A research team analyzed and evaluated the status and quality of public policies related to climate change in the region with a comparative study of 10 different countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. The report focuses mostly on forestry and agricultural sectors.
The concern for environmental issues is relatively recent, and the local and global initiatives to reduce the negative effects of climate change have had a slow start. Latin America is no exception, because in the last decades the region has dealt with major political issues, including the transition to more democratic governance structures, the restoration of economic activities, and social violence. Because of these and other factors, according to the report “, the topic is still in a rather marginal position on the domestic policy agenda for most countries in the region”.
However, the efforts of putting the environmental conscience on the political and social agenda are increasing in Latin America, thanks mostly to NGOs, academic institutions, youth organizations and socially responsible companies that support initiatives aimed to improve the ecosystem.
Since 2005, after the Kyoto Protocol went into effect, Latin American countries have increased their policy-making and institutional development efforts on the topic of climate change. National strategies and policies about climate change have been created in most countries of the region, which usually complement existing legal framework related to environmental concern.
For example, in Argentina there are national institutions responsible for climate issues such as the National Directorate of Climate Change, or the Argentine Office of the Clean Development Mechanism, national strategies or plans are yet to be created.
Even if some other countries in the region do have national plans, they have encountered barriers for an appropriate and consistent implementation. “National reports show that climate policies are only weakly integrated or coordinated with other sector policies or macroeconomic policies”.
Coordination is one of the main challenges of effective implementation of public policies related to the climate change in the region, according to the report. So the goal should be to find innovative ways to match the environmental conscience into development and economic policies, so the climate change is not only seen as an “optional” matter, but taking care of the natural resources is seen as a path to walk the walk towards development.
The next years will show whether public policies will continued to be set in place and help Latin America address climate change.
 Latin America Platform on Climate (LAPC). Report on the Status and Quality of Public Policies on Climate Change and Development in Latin America, September 2012.