EUROCLIMA+: Combatting climate change in Latin America
Climate change poses a major threat to Latin America – from an increase in extreme weather events to the loss of livelihoods, the most vulnerable risk suffering most.
"Latin America is really extremely important for biodiversity. The planet is changing a lot and we need to ensure that future generations are still able to benefit from it,” said Horst Pilger, Head of the Climate Change and Environment Section at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).
Indeed, Latin America is the region with the greatest biodiversity on the planet – but its ecological wealth is far from just a boon unto itself. “[Latin America’s] economy very much relies on natural resources and climate change risks eroding the economic base,” said Pilger.
Matched to the region’s high rates of inequality and evidence that the poorest of these countries are most vulnerable to natural disasters, “there’s a huge mandate to work on climate in Latin America,” Pilger said.
Watch Horst Pilger discuss the connection between climate change and development in Latin America here:
EUROCLIMA+ is a flagship programme of the European Commission, actively engaging with 18 Latin American countries to help implement commitments taken in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conferences.
Launched in 2017, the programme brings European expertise to bear on some of the most pressing climate challenges faced by the region. The programme is funded by the Commission, along with the German, French and Spanish governments – and is implemented by five Member State Agencies (MSAs), two United Nations agencies, and a Brussels-based Secretariat overseeing the process.
With a budget of €88 million to date and growing, the programme targets six key sectors:
- Forests, biodiversity and ecosystems
- Energy efficiency
- Urban water management
- Disaster risk reduction and management
- Urban mobility
- Resilient food production
A cross-cutting focus on climate governance, meanwhile, will promote coherence throughout the approach, with an eye to the legacy of the programme in ensuring longer-term country-ownership of interventions.
From EUROCLIMA to EUROCLIMA+
EUROCLIMA+’s hands on approach to climate change mitigation would not have been possible without the success of its predecessor programme, EUROCLIMA.
Launched in 2010, EUROCLIMA focused on political dialogue and capacity building with Latin American states in response to climate change.
“The countries appreciated what this programme did for them, because between the 18 countries it covered, they were not able to meet so often among themselves,” Pilger said.
Despite a modest budget (a 10th of EUROCLIMA+’s) an evaluation of the programme found that it had achieved marked successes.
From promoting South-South cooperation and encouraging knowledge sharing in the lead up to the Paris climate change conferences, to an impact on awareness of the problems posed by climate change across Latin America, the programme was able to pave the way for more ambitious climate action.
EUROCLIMA+’s structure involves a lot of moving parts, but this – Pilger believes – is its strength. In the absence of a regional environmental body, the programme’s Secretariat engages directly with country-based National Focal Points (selected by each country as a representative to EUROCLIMA+).
“I think this way of operation has been quite efficient,” Pilger said. “Fewer intermediaries make it more to the point.”
Indeed, a bilateral engagement means that the programme can be tailored to each country situation, while avoiding entering into complex regional financing agreements.
The sheer scope of the programme creates its own challenges, however.
Avoiding duplication between EUROCLIMA+ and pre-existing initiatives within and across countries requires keeping an overview of all the different actors, though also permits to seek synergies. An effective response requires a good understanding of the major issues across the sectors and an acknowledgement of operational constraints, Pilger said. “You mustn’t spread yourself too thin,” he added.
Gender in EUROCLIMA +
“It’s not common knowledge, but women are by far more exposed to the dangers of climate change,” said Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Development Coordination with Latin America and Caribbean at DG DEVCO.
Women have a 14 times higher risk of dying from natural disasters than men, she explained, which shows that they are a vulnerable population requiring targeted support measures.
EUROCLIMA+ will maintain a gender perspective throughout its implementation, with gender-sensitive monitoring frameworks, statistics and gender-based budgeting.
Other solutions will be found as the programme rolls-out, said Butkeviciene, with answers in their variety coming from the work being done on the ground.
“We hope the resources we bring will benefit women in Latin American and contribute towards finding common solutions,” she said.
“The estimates are that, for Latin America alone, the investment needs in these sectors are in the trillions of dollars – and we can [only] offer millions,” he said. “Our contribution will be modest, but we want to make sure that it’s as relevant and strategic as possible.”
With the programme still in its infancy, looking at the first results and continuing a dialogue both within the European Commission and with partner governments will be an important step in the development of future actions, according to Pilger.
“We’ll need to continue the discussion to see if we’re doing the right thing and how to adapt from there,” he said.
A coordinated approach
A central finding for EUROCLIMA was the importance of having a mechanism that coordinates activities and improves cooperation between implementing partners. The EUROCLIMA+ Secretariat was established with this in mind.
“We have a main objective – to make sure that the European partners work cohesively with the Latin American countries,” said Roberto Canessa, Head of the EUROCLIMA+ Technical Assistance team.
A part of EUROCLIMA+ aims at building public policies, Canessa explained. Ensuring an open dialogue on what works and what doesn’t, and learning from the experiences of state actors and implementing parties will remain a central challenge.
The programme will favor communication between public institutions and specialised actors in Europe and Latin America.
“We have a main objective – to make sure that the European partners work cohesively with the Latin American countries”
“These aren’t actors who are normally engaged in international cooperation,” said Canessa, pointing to the importance of such exchanges in the work of other regional programmes (ex. EUROsociAL), where the exchange between European and Latin American public institutions has proven very effective.
Following a first stage of proposals, EUROCLIMA+ will select close to 50 projects to be initiated in 2019.
These will include collaborations between European MSAs and corresponding partners in Latin America, but also collaborations within Latin American countries under a South-South mechanism.
Implementing parties will range from public and private sector bodies to academic institutions and civil society – encompassing the intervention sectors decided on with partner governments and across the region as a whole.
“The purpose of building a strong coordination system is to avoid the risk of dispersion of all these actions,” Canessa said.
Watch Philipp Schoenecker discuss the structure of EUROCLIMA+ and the role of MSA’s in it’s implementation here:
The Member State agencies were chosen based on their experience in Latin America and/or on their work in the same sector in other regions.
“These agencies have huge portfolios in energy, water [and] the forest sectors. We can really draw from their complementary expertise and experiences for tackling such a complex and multifaceted challenge as climate change. EUROCLIMA+ is a pilot for improving synergies of EU activity in Latin America, in line with the spirit of the new EU Consensus on Development, ” said Philipp Schoenecker (GIZ), MSA Coordinator at EUROCLIMA+’s secretariat.
From the agencies’ country offices to sectoral experts and working relationships with national bodies, “EUROCLIMA+ builds on existing trustful cooperation relationships with partners in the region, while leveraging the existing networks and structures,” Schoenecker said.
Each of the six sectors selected for engagement will be managed by two separate agencies, Schoenecker explained, with one mainly responsible for calls for proposals, project selection and financing, and the other focused on technical assistance to projects and knowledge sharing.
“A close coordination among the partners involved is crucial and I am very glad that we have such a spirit of team-work, mutual trust and respect,” said Schoenecker.
The Member State Agencies:
“What will be key for success is our participatory approach, that we are demand-driven and in line with the national priorities of the partner countries,” he said. “Country ownership is necessary for the sustainability of the impact we want to achieve.”
Achieving success together
In addition to the six sectors, a seventh component of climate governance will focus on transversal issues like monitoring, reporting verification, and policy and capacity development.
Implemented by FIIAPP (lead), GIZ, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), these will add a regional perspective and encourage dialogue between countries.
“It is not only the role of the government or of the private sector; everyone needs to play a part in order for us to achieve our success together”
“Our role has been to try and promote the transfer of technology, developing an analysis of the situation in the region and promoting the adaptation to climate change,” said Leo Heileman, Regional Representative and Director for UNEP in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The issue is bigger than just the long-term impacts of climate change, Heileman explained.
A growing population means that attention needs to be given to ensuring food security and managing pollution rates, along with their impact on health and livelihood.
“These are critical challenges in order to achieve the changes that are required in production and consumption patterns, in terms of the lifestyles that we have, and on how these impact on climate,” Heileman said.
Watch Leo Heileman discuss UNEP’s involvement in EUROCLIMA+ here:
In response to this, UNEP will focus in part on electric mobility and ecosystem-based approaches to climate change, along with their work on political dialogue. Heileman stressed the importance of the private sector and the need to ensure that financial aid is available at reasonable rates.
“If we look back at the support for the Paris agreement, it’s a clear sign that there is political will,” he said. “But with political will, one needs the finance to be able to do it, the capacity and the ability to develop, manage and operate the programmes.”
Heileman also stressed the importance of citizen involvement. “It is not only the role of the government or of the private sector; everyone needs to play a part in order for us to achieve our success together,” he said.
EUROCLIMA+'s yearly event was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between the 8-10th of October. For more information, please refer to the video summary and keep checking the EUROCLIMA+ news page for all the latest updates.
Image credit: EC/ECHO/FAO
This article was written by Craig Hill, Journalist and Content Editor at Capacity4dev.