Illustration Credit: Kap, Cagle Cartoons
World leaders will converge on Glasgow this Sunday for the UN Climate Change Summit (COP 26). While U.S. President Joe Biden will participate in the summit on the heels of a G-20 meeting in Rome, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have declined to attend.
This year’s summit, part of a series of meetings that has previously led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Climate Accords, has garnered particular attention for its implications in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Amazon rainforest has historically been one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, but due to increased deforestation and fires in recent years, the forest now emits more carbon dioxide than it absorbs. At a virtual summit in April, President Bolsonaro committed to net-zero deforestation by 2030. However, his tenure has seen Brazil’s annual deforestation rate increase by 64 percent over the 2010-2018 average, while Bolsonaro has accused the Brazilian agency responsible for monitoring deforestation of tarnishing the country’s international image.
Meanwhile, governments in Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, and other countries have proposed to increase oil and gas production. And in the small island states of the Caribbean, the effects of climate change—rising sea levels and stronger storms—threaten industries such as tourism, agriculture, and fishing. As Ricardo Raineri and Anders Beal wrote in Global Americans this week, COP 26 may present an opportunity for the United States and Latin America to reverse these trends and lead on climate action.
Originally scheduled for 2020, COP 26 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and follows a UN climate report that Secretary General Antonio Guterres labeled a “code red for humanity.” The summit will take place from October 31 to November 12.