By J. Timmons Roberts and Guy Edwards
Over the past two years, the Watson Institute partnered with Brown’s Center for Environmental Studies to provide partial support for Visiting Fellow Guy Edwards. Edwards has led Brown student participation in the United Nations negotiations in Cancun and Durban, and in a web portal on climate change in Latin America called Intercambioclimatico.com and on the Global Conversations website.
“Intercambio” is now the web portal of the Latin American Platform on Climate Change, which was created in 2009 with support from the AVINA Foundation and consists of 17 member organizations across nine countries in the region with plans to expand to 25 members. The Platform’s mission is to generate answers, from and for Latin America, for the global problem of climate change.
Currently led by the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, the Platform strives to promote and facilitate dialogue, generate and gather knowledge, advocate for the generation and implementation of public policies on climate change, create innovative collective proposals and share messages with the public.
In 2010 Brown’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES) signed an agreement with the Platform, which led to the CES creating Latin America's first multilingual web portal, Intercambioclimático.com, which is co-owned by both parties and which bears the Brown and Watson logos. The website has been described by leading news sources, policy-makers, and negotiators as the region’s leading site on climate change and Latin America. Since the site’s launch at the Cancun Climate Conference in 2010, over 13 Brown students* and faculty have contributed to the site.
In Lima at the Platform’s third Annual Assembly last week, Edwards presented an update on the advances and challenges facing Intercambio Climático in the coming months. The Platform acknowledged Brown’s key role in developing the website and the quality of the material presented on it, which includes two undergraduate theses and articles by former Chilean President and Brown Professor-at-Large Ricardo Lagos.
In Cancun, a group of Brown students led by Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology Timmons Roberts, with funding support from Watson, the Office of International Affairs and CES blogged on Intercambio Climático from the conference and prepared ‘The Brown Report from Cancun’ which was presented at the April, 2011, Conference: ‘Latin America and Climate Change: Regional Perspectives on a Global Problem’.
In addition to working directly with the Latin American Platform on Climate and writing two papers for the Latin American office of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (here and here), Roberts and Edwards are under contract with MIT Press to produce a manuscript this year on Latin America’s leadership on climate change. Additional writing projects include a co-authored chapter on human security and climate change in Latin America, and a policy paper for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung with Brown MA student Linlang He on the relationship between Latin America and China in a carbon constrained world. That paper will be released in the run-up to the 18th Conference of the Parties of the U.N. climate treaty in late November.
Last week Edwards also participated in a two-day workshop in Lima analyzing the policies of climate change in ten countries: Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador Argentina and Brazil. The reports prepared by the Latin American Platform on Climate were assimilated into a regional report entitled ‘The status and quality of public policies of climate change and development in Latin America’ which was presented at the workshop following key note addresses by Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal and Ecuador’s former Environment Minister Yolanda Kakabadse.
The summary report acknowledges that although there has been a big increase in the creation of policies and institutions on climate change, a general trend suggests these policies are reactive, following a spate of extreme climatic events across the region. The report states that there is very weak integration between climate and development policies revealing that climate change continues to occupy a marginal space on political agendas. This situation is reinforced by the deficit in implementation of existing climate policies. On the plus side, the report mentions the existence of bureaucratic structures within governments with technical capacity to sustain the climate agenda over time and different administrations.
These activities form part of Watson’s support of a cluster of student/faculty research on human security in a changing environment under the leadership of Professor Roberts. The ‘Climate and Development Lab’ (CDL), a research group launched by Roberts in 2010, contributes timely, accessible and impactful content that informs more just and effective global policy making on climate change, particularly on the issues of climate finance, equity issues and Latin America. Watson financial support contributed to the CDL trip to the COP17 in Durban last year with ten students. The program also organized the conference “Beyond Competition: China, the U.S., Climate Change, and the Developing World,” held April 6th, and co-sponsored by Watson, CES and Brown’s Year of China.
Brown’s timely contribution to the Platform has been well received and is having a substantial impact across the region and in the U.N. negotiations. With extreme climatic events continuing to hit the region and with Latin American citizens increasingly concerned, the Platform has a vital role to play in precipitating greater government and civil society action on the search for solutions with Brown in a strong position to support and learn from these important efforts.
* Adam Kotin
Ana Karine Pereira
Jin Hyung Lee