Brussels, 04 March 2008
First ever meeting of environment ministers from EU and Latin America and Caribbean countries held in Brussels
Climate change adaptation, renewable energy, biodiversity loss and deforestation were at the top of the agenda of the first meeting between EU and Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) environment ministers which was held in Brussels today. These issues are especially significant given their importance for the economic well-being of EU and Latin American and Caribbean countries. The issues raised at the meeting will provide the basis for the EU-LAC Heads of State and Government Summit in Lima this May. More than two dozen ministers from the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean attended.
Slovenian Environment Minister Janez Podobnik said: "Tackling climate change is the main environmental and development challenge of the mankind. We already feel negative consequences of our behaviour and unless we act decisively now on a global level, the consequences will become unmanageable. It was for this reason that countries of the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean decided to launch a strategic political dialogue on the environment at the 4th EU - LAC Summit in Vienna 2006".
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "While Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean are geographically separate, we share a common environment, a common future and common challenges. Many of these challenges require global action for them to be overcome. The European Union is actively working to combat climate change, for example, but this battle cannot be won without the support of our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean. Given that these countries are a reservoir of biodiversity and forests it is absolutely essential that we work with them to stop the loss of species and their habitats."
Fresh impetus to the EU-Latin American/Caribbean partnership
The meeting between the environment ministers of the two regions is the first step in a process designed to give greater weight to environmental issues within the EU-LAC partnership. The relationship between EU Member States and Latin American and Caribbean countries have thus far largely focused on sub-regions such as the Caribbean, the Andean Community, and Mercosur and with specific countries such as Brazil and Mexico.
The aim of this meeting was to identify common priorities and cooperation between EU and LAC countries on the environment. It prepared the way for the Lima Summit in May this year where Heads of State and Government will discuss further cooperation between the two regions. Given the historical, cultural and economic links between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean it is vital for these two regions to address global challenges together.
A reservoir of natural resources
Latin America is endowed with a wealth of natural resources and biodiversity. It is considered the world's richest biological area with about 40% of its plant and animal species. To preserve such riches it is crucial that they be properly managed and cared for, especially in light of the environmental challenges faced by the region.
Latin American and Caribbean countries are already accustomed to the consequences of climate change and natural disasters. In recent years, for example, the western coast of South America has experienced substantial increases in rainfall while many areas further inland have suffered from drought. Glaciers in South America are under threat and their disappearance would considerably decrease the amount of water available for human consumption, agriculture and energy production.
Biodiversity will also be severely affected by climate change as many species may die out in tropical areas. Rising sea levels will have considerable effect on Caribbean islands where half of the population lives within 1.5 kilometres from the coast.
EU support for the environment in LAC countries
In recent years the European Union has provided support to a number of environmental initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes some €345 million from 2002 to 2007 for environment and climate change related activities, including promoting renewable energy, disaster preparedness, natural resource management, forest and biodiversity preservation, and desertification.
From 2002 to 2006 the EU also co-financed 74 scientific and research projects for a total sum of €210 million which focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation, integrated ecosystem management, coastal zone and water management, biodiversity, and the health impacts of environmental problems.
For the years 2007 to 2010 the EU is expected to provide €100 million for projects in Latin America and the Caribbean in the area of forest management, deforestation, governance, and climate change adaptation. This support will also be complemented by financial assistance for projects focusing on themes such as the environment, the management of natural resources and energy (ENRTP), and on funding for research projects under the 7th Research Framework Programme. The European Investment Bank will also make available approximately €2.8 billion in loans for projects focusing on environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation, greenhouse gas reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and carbon capture and storage.
In the area of disaster preparedness the European Union is expected to set aside some €24 million for the Caribbean as part of its strategy for disaster risk reduction and preparedness in developing countries, which it will adopt this October.
Commission webpage on the European Union-Latin America and Caribbean Summit
 Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
 Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay