As the world celebrates adoption of the Paris Agreement where 195 countries committed to action to address climate change, 20 countries from Latin American and the Caribbean continue to work towards a regional agreement to ensure environmental justice, access to environmental information and public participation in environmental governance.
Unfortunately, the negotiations progressed rather slowly as delegates engaged in discussions on the Preamble and Articles 1 and 2 of the Preliminary Document of the regional agreement. The slow pace of the meeting could be attributed to three Latin American countries who indicated that time did not permit them to engage in national consultations on the Preliminary Document and although they would participate in the discussions and not oppose the consensus that was achieved, they could not be part of the negotiations.
Nonetheless, civil society representatives at the meeting were pleased that many other countries were successful in engaging their citizens in the review of the Preliminary Document (the Preamble and Articles 1 – 10) and submitted these in a timely manner to the technical secretariat for the process, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) by the August 31st deadline. Special mention must be made of Chile and Peru that conducted face to face consultations with highly participatory standards in various cities in their respective countries. Additionally, several countries like Uruguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Panama, and Chile amongst others must be congratulated for announcing the importance of attaining a legally binding agreement by December 2016 when these ambitious negotiations are expected to culminate.
The LAC P10 process is known for its inclusive nature, this is primarily because the public has been involved in this participatory process from the onset. Five of the six elected Representatives of the Public were present as well as three independent experts, along with 30 civil society organizations from 18 countries.
In her address at the opening ceremony, Ms. Danielle Andrade- Goffe, one of the elected Main Representatives of the Public said, “Having a binding instrument on access rights will allow the region to advance the implementation of the Post-2015 Agenda, and particularly the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which many governments have already committed to”. Furthermore, she said, “This unique opportunity reflected in the document on one hand incorporates the best legislation in the region in the area of access rights and on the other hand looks to the future to establish capacity building partnerships and mechanisms that will allow us to face the challenges for the better implementation of access rights”.
Although the meeting did not achieve everything it intended to, the coordination by the government of Panama as well as the continued facilitation by ECLAC must be commended. The elected Representatives of the Public pledged their continued support to the process and encouraged signatory countries to carry out the requisite consultations needed to ensure that the 3rd meeting of the Negotiating Committee scheduled for April 2016 in Punta del Este, Uruguay progresses at a much faster pace because there is much work to be done if the
region is truly serious about advancing environmental governance. Additionally, non-signatories like Saint Lucia and many other Caribbean countries have an equally important role to play, as they are urged to sign on to the instrument before the next meeting. That way they can actively participate in the negotiation of a regional instrument geared at setting higher standards to improve how our rich yet fragile environment is protected for the benefit of present and future generations and not just a selected few.