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OPINION: COP20 pulsing with promise: the Latin touch


What are the clear signs of a country committed to hosting talks that provide the building blocks for global agreements on climate change in 2015? In this blog, Pippa Heylings gives us a taste of the contagious ‘Latin Effect’ that is palpable for all delegates and participants as they arrive in Lima for the 20th meeting of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention – that lifts us all with a sense of promise.

We are all agreed that a transformational shift is needed to move beyond the impasse in global negotiations and to achieve the ambition of climate stabilisation. At our South-South learning event on the 5th December here at COP20 in Lima, CDKN seeks to understand the forces of transformation that drive climate compatible development. Here, I look at the organisation of COP20 in Peru to explore its potential for transformation – and I’m convinced that Latin America adds a couple of powerful ingredients to the mix:

Vision and Leadership: Effective leadership provides vision and has the power to take a critical mass of people on a journey. On Friday 28th November, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala presented the COP20 premises to the UN Organising Committee, declaring that Peru had taken a “political decision to participate actively and to have a voice, to contribute to building hope for the planet”. He spoke “with the conviction of a representative of a set of countries [climate-vulnerable countries] that are not discussing the issues of capitalisation but that are paying the costs of climate change”. As a further signal to this political decision, Humala was accompanied in this event not only by the COP President and Minister of Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, but also by all key Ministers of his Cabinet, including the Ministers for Energy and Mining, Economy, Social Inclusion, Agriculture, Transport, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Preparation is key; and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, has declared the organisation of COP20 a “Peruvian miracle”, as everything has been finished according to schedule – and with engagement of society at scale.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal has set out a clear vision of success at COP20: to build trust and develop a coherent draft text that will facilitate agreement in Paris at COP21. The Peruvian President has declared that COP20 is “an opportunity to build the biggest alliance against global warming in history”. An alliance amongst governments, big business, NGOs, academics, youth, civil servants and civil society. Henry, the immigration official at the Peruvian border who stamped my passport on entry, was very enthusiastic when he heard I was coming for the conference and proudly showed me the COP20 badge on his lapel. He told me that they had all received training about the conference from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that he understood how important COP20 was for Peru – and for the world. “Welcome to Lima – and thank you!” he said, eyes shining.

Innovation: Peru has decided to address the key challenge of making climate change an issue for politics, big business and for everyday life – and not just an environmental concern. Therefore, the COP20 Presidency decided very early on to harness the powers of marketing. It charged a Peruvian branding strategy company to come up with a logo that could encapsulate the complexity of the climate change message – together with the sense of urgency of its importance to life – as well as a message of passion and hope. The COP20 badge that Henry showed me has a simple image – a series of concentric circles in different colours. We have been bombarded with this image for over a year now on all communications around the COP – and it is omnipresent for everyone arriving in Lima. As with modern-day branding, it is aimed at seducing you with aspirational status, urging you to acquire the things necessary to attain the lifestyle of which you dream. The logo aims to beguile everyone of us with the aspiration of a cooling climate. The 21 concentric rings represent the different temperatures around the world; the internal rings represent worrying current global temperatures and the outer rings represent the goal of reverting this warming tendency. In video animations, the pulsing nature of the logo’s circles represent the beating heart of healthy business, healthy environment and healthy society; it is the heart that beats in every one of us – and our children; and the beating heart of the planet.

Dialogue and Trust. Latin Americans love to talk! They also know, after decades of social and environmental conflicts, that dialogue is critical – and is key to transformational change. The COP20 Presidency knows this more than most – with experience and expertise honed through some of the most difficult conflicts around water, mining and oil extraction in Peru and other Andean-Amazonic countries. There has been a steady erosion in the possibilities of global governance through international conventions such as the UNFCCC. Latin America wants to put dialogue back on the menu – knowing that it is critical to global agreement.

President Ollanta Humala has declared that his government “Peru will turn into the global centre of debate, discussion, reflection and expression for all stakeholders seeking to solve the problem of global warming”. In order for dialogue to be meaningful, trust needs to be developed between the different actors that action is, and will be taken.

The global community has agreed that trust-building is crucial for the UNFCCC process and has responded with action with the – better late than never – capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund with close to the 10 billion dollars pledged in 2010. This provides an important trust-building element for serious dialogue around the draft text that Peru needs to facilitate. Trust will also be strengthened by the level of bottom-up ambition in the INDC that each country is preparing (see our blogs: Clarifying intent – Key principles for preparing INDCs and INDCs – what existing building blocks can developing countries use?). There is a sense of urgency around COP20 as being the last chance before the big bang of 2015; however, crucially for the purposes of dialogue – it provides a critical breathing and negotiating space for developing coherent draft texts without all the pressure for reaching final decisions. The vision of success of COP20 is focussed on being a critical paving stone on the pathway to that global agreement in 2015 and beyond, and the government of Peru is working hand in hand with France on a longer timeframe to overcome the general view that each COP meeting can succeed or fail on its own.

Passion and optimism. In the same weekend that the installations of the COP20 venue were being handed over to the UN, the COP Presidency also took part in street processions around the city that took ecology and climate change to families and children through music, theatre and fun; Manuel Pulgar-Vidal and Christiana Figueres also addressed the 10th Conference of Youth (COY10) of 1000 young leaders for climate change who have come from all over the world to meet in Lima prior to their participation in COP20. Manuel’s message was received with shouts, screams and standing ovation: “You are the ones with passion, optimism and enthusiasm. The only way maintain the driving forces toward success is optimism, and the only way to move the forces is by being proactive. You are the generation of solutions to climate change.” Christiana praised their passion and creativity and she, herself, has brought the Latin touch to serious politics in her YouTube dance phenomenon when she shows how she and her staff at the Secretariat are dancing Fit for Lima and Paris.

So, Latin America is showing the world how to be deadly serious…with a passion.

 

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