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FEATURE: Transformative climate agendas: experiences from Action Lab Latin America

A three-day Action Lab, held in Quito, Ecuador in March 2015 brought together representatives from different organisations across 10 Latin American countries. The aim was to come up with innovative ways to generate environmental policy agendas in the region. Jorge Villanueva of CDKN reports.

The Latin American countries represented at the CDKN Action Lab share a number of challenges in incorporating climate change into national climate agendas. As found in a Latin American Climate Platform (PCL) study, measures to combat or adapt to climate change are often not integrated with one another and are poorly implemented.

The positioning of climate change within Latin American national policy agendas is shifting but the issues remain marginal within the media and public opinion. Participants in the Action Lab noted that in Peru, host of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), the topic is receiving growing attention; there is a greater awareness of the issues and people are increasingly hearing the language of climate change from some media outlets.

In Argentina, climate change is positioned more at the margins of public debate – coming up only after a disaster has occurred; this makes it a very short-term agenda. 2015 could be a turning point as forthcoming presidential elections provide an opportunity to bring climate change to the national stage. Similarly in Ecuador, climate change issues are becoming more visible and progress is being made in some sectors.

Among the topics covered during the three-day Action Lab was the need for Latin American governments to move away from placing climate change within the “green sector” or from viewing it purely as an environmental issue. Rather, it should be positioned as a cross-cutting problem that affects a multitude of national, regional and global issues. In practice, this would see climate on the agenda of more than just the environment portfolios and integrated into decision-making in sectors where low carbon development and competitive business is relevant: the economy, transport and energy. This requires a longer-term and wider-reaching approach where initiatives are not curtailed at the end of a political term.

The role of civil society

According to Yan Speranza, from the Fundación Moisés Bertoniand member of the Latin American Climate Platform, civil society in Paraguay is focusing on creating institutions that will be responsible for a regulatory framework in tackling climate change. They say that it is time to pay much closer attention to the effective implementation of policies and regulations.

Meanwhile, Ana Maria Majano, from INCAE Business School and coordinator of the LAC Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS), suggested that there should be mechanisms in place to ensure that society’s voice is properly taken into account in climate policy-making. This is crucial to generate constructive dialogue and to defend the interests that are otherwise not properly protected by the state, according to Isabel Street from the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA). She argued it is vital to ensure that decision-making is a participatory process.

In addition, as Ana María Majano noted, civil society is not a uniform or homogeneous group but a sector with different positions and interests and with different levels of knowledge of the issues.

Transformative climate agendas

It is clear that the lack of coordination on climate agendas among different sectors must be addressed. Space is needed for dialogue among various sectors to establish a common ground, opportunities and challenges. For example, the private sector could coordinate with the environment ministry to produce a climate agenda for the transport sector. Further, the mitigation from and adaptation to climate change cannot be seen as separate policy areas.

A truly transformative agenda would see opportunities in climate change as a way to boost economic development and social equality. Similarly, it must be recognised that taking the wrong development path could cause future climate change (by increased greenhouse gas emissions) and therefore the two must be fully integrated in policy.

According to Yan Esperanza, the Latin American Climate Platform (PCL) offers a great opportunity for innovation, allowing us to observe and share experiences, from what is happening in other countries in the region. We will not need to “reinvent the wheel,” rather we can learn from others and adapt the learning to national contexts.

What’s next?

At the end of the Latin American Action Lab, participants questioned and proposed what could be an innovative agenda in their respective countries. Proposals were presented in full and it is hoped that in the future, these initiatives will receive funding for implementation.

Co-initiate, co-witness, co-create and co-evolve were the foundations of Action Lab Latin America. This approach allowed all the activities and discussions to facilitate transformative thinking about climate agendas, going beyond what is seen as the standard process of generating national agendas. Innovation and specifically, innovative thinking, was the foundation of the meeting.



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