By Malgorzata Wasilewska
In July this year, we observed a defining moment in the worldwide endeavour to address climate change and other pressing global issues, as leaders of the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) met in Brussels for the first EU-CELAC Summit in eight years.
Co-chaired by the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and prime minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (who currently holds the presidency of CELAC), the Summit marked the reinvigoration of a long-standing partnership and reaffirmed the fundamental need for unity in the face of the multifaceted challenges we face today.
The summit was convened as the world continues to confront the impacts of the interrelated planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, which transcend borders and extend beyond the capacity of any one nation to solve. In the face of this monumental challenge, the partnership between the European Union, Latin America, and the Caribbean, grounded in shared values and mutual interests, emerges as a ray of hope and a force for change of our collective destiny. Indeed, leaders of the EU and CELAC collectively recognize that collaboration as sovereign partners is not merely advantageous, it is an imperative for addressing the immediate and existential threats we face.
As we look ahead to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, to be held in Dubai later this year, we find ourselves on the cusp of a critical juncture. Indeed, eight years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, record-breaking summer temperatures challenge us to continually reflect on our ever-increasingly ambitious commitments to change.
The Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW 2023) scheduled for October 23-27 in Panama City will help to set the stage for this latest COP Climate Conference. LACCW 2023, which will run concurrently with the XXIII meeting of the forum of ministers of environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, offers an invaluable platform for international collaboration on climate solutions, barrier-breaking innovations, and the pursuit of opportunities across diverse regions.
We can all agree on the utility of these conferences as platforms for focused dialogue, negotiation, and joint positions on key issues amongst decision-makers.
However, there is a growing sentiment among Latin America and Caribbean leaders, who are acutely aware of the risks of inaction, on the urgency to translate this talk into meaningful transformative action on the ground. For the Caribbean, where the impacts and costs of climate changes are already seen and felt, the time for rhetoric has long passed.
A solitary Tweet from St Vincent and the Grenadines’ finance minister Camillo Gonsalves prior to COP27 in Egypt in 2022 summed up the region’s frustration: “If Caribbean leaders want to go to COP27 to tell tales of woe from hurricanes Ian and Lisa, we might as well stay home. Been there, done that.” Caribbean leaders went to Egypt last year hoping to see progress on loss and damage and adaptation finance.
Eventually, COP27 saw the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund, which aims to provide finance assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by climate change. The EU’s role in the negotiations was instrumental to achieve this result long awaited by Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) around the world. However, many know that success depends on how quickly this Fund gets off the ground.
We recognize that in the face of these global climate realities, it is tempting to despair and to miss the opportunities that may emerge from the collective discussions and renewed commitment to positive actions. We are therefore acutely aware that the urgency of this challenge necessitates a concerted response to staying within a 1.5-degree rise in temperatures, advancing the shift to renewable energy use, and supporting climate action.
We equally recognize the critical need for increased climate financing and enhanced access to private investments has been a driving force behind the EU’s engagement. LACCW 2023 provides an unparalleled opportunity for policymakers, industry professionals, businesses, and civil society to engage in knowledge exchange, thereby strengthening synergies and aligning stakeholders toward shared goals.
In this juncture, the EU’s Global Gateway Investment Agenda (GGIA) for the Caribbean is a concrete and ambitious contribution designed to confront these global challenges head-on. The GGIA highlights our commitment to increase green investment that addresses regional infrastructure needs while simultaneously generating localized value and fostering growth, employment, and social cohesion.
In addition, through Euroclima, our flagship programme in the region, we are deeply committed to fostering increasingly ambitious, transformative, and equitable action on climate and environmental issues, particularly in the LAC region. In 2023, we introduced Euroclima to the Caribbean, effectively expanding the programme’s support to 33 governments in the LAC region. This partnership helps to foster the conditions necessary for a green and just transition. By catalyzing key initiatives in priority sectors and facilitating green financing and investments, we’re setting the stage for profound change.
Our longstanding and steady relationship in the region has been forged through this work, our continued introspection on how to meet the ever-increasing ambitions and our shared experience in the midst of the climate crisis. We are therefore excited to bring these and other tools to the table to add meaning to the discussions and turn the talk into tangible action on the ground with positive impacts on people in ways that they can see and feel.
In the Words of Barbados’ prime minister Mia Mottley: “If it matters enough, we can choose to end climate change. Our only limits are the limits to our imagination. We achieve what we put our resources behind.”
As we look forward to the upcoming days of discussions during the Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week, we renew our commitment to an equitable transition to a sustainable and green future. We remain optimistic as we talk and work with you to ensure that our combined actions keep pace with our shared ambitions and promises to the region.