LATIN AMERICA: Frightening Numbers

By Emilio Godoy | IPS

MEXICO CITY, Nov 22 – The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean need billions of dollars to deal with the economic impact of climate change — funding that is not easily found on the international market.

A World Bank study presented Friday, the first day of a Nov. 21-23 congress of legislators from the Americas meeting in Mexico City to discuss the challenges of the global financial and climate crises, says natural disasters related to climate change, like storms, drought and flooding, cost 0.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the affected countries, on average, in Latin America and the Caribbean.

If the frequency of natural disasters increases from one every four years to one every three years, per capita GDP could shrink by two percent per decade in the region, according to the report presented by Laura Tuck, director of the World Bank’s department of Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The economy of the Caribbean region alone could experience six billion dollars in losses by 2050 in tourism, coastal protection, and the pharmaceutical and fishing industries.

Although Latin America accounts for a small proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, the region will need to take measures for staying on a high-growth low-carbon track, Tuck said at the meeting taking place in the Mexican legislature.

A total of 77 lawmakers are taking part in the Americas Legislators’ Forum on Climate Change, held under the auspices of the Mexican Congress, the World Bank, the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE), the Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development (COM+), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This is the first time politicians from the entire region have come together to discuss measures to address climate change.

“We need funds to take measures against climate change, but financing is scarce,” Jamaican legislator Noel Arscott told IPS.

Over the next five years, Jamaica will need one to two billion dollars to develop renewable energies in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Latin America is responsible for 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which according to the scientific community are causing global warming and climate change. Brazil and Mexico, Latin America’s giants, are the biggest emitters in the region.

“We can adopt measures to modify our energy base, but what we need is adaptation,” for which funds must come from industrialised countries, “which are the ones who must take measures to cut emissions,” Salvadoran legislator Lourdes Palacios told IPS.

El Salvador needs 130 million dollars to carry out water and environmental sanitation projects. The legislature of that Central American country recently gave the go-ahead to a decision to take out an Inter-American Development Bank loan for 20 million dollars for that purpose.

This weekend’s GLOBE meeting is intended to open up discussions ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland next month.

The Dec. 9-10 conference in Poland will assess compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in 2005, setting specific targets for industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Read on here.

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