An expert’s perspective on the current event.
June 2, 2021, 6:39 pm
This year, leaders from the United States, Canada and Latin America will gather for the Triennial Summit of Americas. It will be the first time the United States will host the meeting since its introduction in 1994. For US President Joe Biden, who has led his presidency to address climate change at home and abroad, this is the perfect moment for a new hemisphere treaty, this time protecting the region’s battered natural environment. Former US President Donald Trump abandoned Marking America’s final summit first time A US president did not participate. Biden’s mere presence at the next summit would be a welcome change of pace. But the new administration should aim higher.
Latin America is one of the most naturally biodiversity zoneHome to more than 30 percent of the world’s species crowded housing From the lowland forests to the high-altitude grasslands of the Andes Mountains. The Amazon, the planet’s largest tropical rainforest, is bursting with a kaleidoscope of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and freshwater fish. But the management of the area of these natural spaces has been uneven. Habitat loss from agricultural land expansion, pollution, illegal mining and logging, excessive fishing, and halter-skelter development has accelerated the rate. extinction.
Brazil is the most notorious case. President Jair Bolsonaro’s War at the Cost of Trees 4,280 square miles Amazon’s 12-year high last year, while forest fire destroyed A quarter of Brazil’s vast Pantanal wetlands, kill or injure Hundreds of Jaguars. The destruction is so severe that it threatens the very existence of indigenous communities. But Brazil is hardly the only culprit in the hemisphere. In Argentina, wildfires in Cordoba, reportedly ignited by ranchers, burned hundreds of square miles of forest last year, a disaster the country’s own environment minister described as “ecology” – a term commonly used Goes large-scale and systematic environmental destruction That advocates say should be punished under international law. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador is doubling oil production. In the United States, Trump adopted 74 verbs During his presidency for undermining environmental protections, undermining climate policies and setting aside regulations that protect the country’s air and water.
This recent history may suggest apathy in environmental protection. But Brazil, Mexico and the Trump-era United States are outliers in the hemisphere. In contrast, Costa Rica is a leader in land conservation and policies. carbon neutrality. of Ecuador Constitution Gives nature the right to “respect for its existence”.
About 82 percent of citizens of Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama view climate change as one. grave danger, according to Vanderbilt University polls in 2016 and 2017. Chile. was an early adoption of electric buses and now operates one of the largest fleets outside China. Colombia has one of the most ambitious plans in the region reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
In environmental circles, Uruguay is praised for its rapid adoption of wind and solar energy. Argentina and Chile are the two largest suppliers of used lithium in the world electric vehicle battery, and several countries in South America are promoting “green hydrogen”, a hydrogen fuel produced using renewable energy. In February, the region’s environment ministers issued joint declaration Agreeing Latin America’s economic recovery strategies must be “accelerating environmental and climate action” as it emerges from the economic wreckage of the pandemic.
Protection can be united when it comes to regional diplomacy, even as ideological divisions impede cooperation on other challenges, including the refugee crisis, corruption and domestic political turmoil. In Latin America, 17 of 34 governments ratified the 1988 San Salvador Protocol, which recognizes “The right to live in a healthy environment.” Twenty-four countries in 2018. signed on escazzi pact, which mandates increased access to information about the environmental impact of development projects; It came into force on Earth Day this year as the first treaty globally to ensure the rights of environmental defenders. The Organization of the General Assembly of American States has adopted several resolutions on environmental rights, with members urging greater cooperation to address climate change and to implement the Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development. territorial agreement To promote environmental protection.
The sector is also a leader in environmental protection through international law. On several occasions, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has warned governments about environmental degradation and its impact on human rights. In a landmark 2017 advisory opinion, for example, the Regional Court recognized a right For a healthier environment and ordered governments to conduct environmental impact studies, prevent abuse of the environment and minimize any harm. Last year, the court concluded Argentina violated those obligations by allowing illegal logging and animal husbandry on indigenous lands.
Latin American governments, particularly Costa Rica, have also supported global campaigns for environmental rights, including the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and in 2018 a United Nations Human Rights Council expert report on environmental protection. rights have been investigated. and the obligation of governments to prevent environmental destruction. Small islands in the Caribbean, vulnerable to sea level rise and frequent storms, have been at the forefront of multilateral efforts to combat climate change. Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru played key roles in the negotiations of the Paris Agreement, and their environment ministers are a major highlight in the UN climate talks.
A regional environmental treaty is a logical and realistic next step for Latin America. A hemispheric environmental agreement that also includes the United States—compared to the historic Inter-American Democratic Charter signed by then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell two decades ago—would greatly strengthen existing environmental protections, a measure of the region’s commitment will send a strong signal. protection, and provide novel tools for monitoring and enforcement. Seven Latin American presidents attended Biden’s climate summit on April 22. As host of America’s summit later this year, Biden has a chance to build on that momentum, while deepening US cooperation In an area the United States largely neglected under previous administrations.
To promote conservation, this charter should include a far-reaching action plan for environmental protection – on land and at sea – with an evaluation of progress at the annual inter-American meeting of foreign and environment ministers. Similar to the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council, these gatherings will evaluate progress in meeting deforestation and other obligations under the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The United States may also use the summit to establish new regional partnerships with federal agencies, such as the National Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and pursue more ambitious ideas, such as the Peace Corps’ environment. equivalent.
The treaty would also encourage the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect environmental rights. Until now, the commission and the court have relied on advisory opinion or novel interpretations of existing treaties to protect the region’s environment. An environmental treaty would create legal obligations, give the court of the hemisphere the power to enforce, and allow individuals in the Western Hemisphere to petition national and international bodies for clean air, clean water and healthy forests. Finally, the treaty should allow, in extreme cases, the naming and shaming of environmental derision in the country-specific Chapter 4(b) section of the Inter-American Commission’s annual report.
As a bonus, this charter would separate the United States from China, which is notorious for environmental mistakes abroad, including Latin America. Although China has supported Latin America’s renewable energy sector, most of its investments in the region, through the Belt and Road Initiative, are concentrated in extraction industries—such as oil, gas and mining—as well as industrial-scale agriculture that contributes. Chinese fishing fleets are notorious for abusing sensitive habitats such as the waters around Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
Finally, an environmental pact will help guide the priorities of the Inter-American Development Bank as the regional lender helps rebuild Latin America’s faltering economies in the wake of the pandemic. Ensure that government stimulus spending prioritizes sustainable infrastructure projects, including renewable energyInstead of flushing out traditional polluting sectors like state-owned oil companies, starving environmental protection agencies.
During the last four years, such a proposal would have seemed far-fetched. Trump paid little attention to Latin America and no attention to its environmental problems. But Biden is implementing a ambitious agenda for the area he visited 16 times as Vice President, and environmental issues are at its core. In addition to global actions, such as rejoining the Paris Agreement, he let’s imagine A more integrated energy grid from Mexico through Central America and Colombia, as well as clean energy investments throughout the region. His climate envoy, former US Secretary of State John Kerry, is negotiating with Brazil to reverse deforestation. Biden has made important promises when it comes to climate, and to achieve his goals, he needs the cooperation of Latin American leaders.
It may be tempting to use the summit to retire Trump’s hostile regional platform or to revive the sensible but divisive hemispheric trade policies initiated by former US President Bill Clinton at the 1994 summit in Miami. Instead, Biden should drive a bold agenda to urgently address regional climate and ecological crises while demonstrating a renewed American commitment to Latin America.
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