31 Mar 2016 Press release Air

Latin America and Caribbean Nations Pledge Coordinated Action on Climate Change, Air Quality and Chemicals Safety

Cartagena de Indias, 31 March 2016 - Latin American and Caribbean Ministers of Environment committed on Thursday to accelerate collective action on a set of priorities ranging from climate change and air quality to safe management of chemicals, ahead of the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), which will convene in Nairobi, Kenya, in May.

The ministers and high-level representatives of 33 countries adopted the Declaration of Cartagena, in which they pledged to promote the "healthy functioning of ecosystems as a global, crosscutting and comprehensive condition, key for a better and fairer future for all, fundamental to achieve sustainable development and the eradication of poverty".

They also agreed to provide global leadership on delivering the environmental dimension of the universally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, by pushing for ambitious resolutions and decisions at the upcoming UNEA-2.

UNEA is the world's highest level decision-making body on the environment, responsible for tackling some of the most critical issues of our time, such as the environmental dimensions of public health and national security, plastic in oceans and trafficking of wildlife.

This year, hundreds of key decision makers, businesses and representatives of civil society will gather to set the stage for early action on implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and drive the world towards a better, more-just future.

Latin American and Caribbean Ministers nominated Costa Rica to chair UNEA-2 and Barbados to act as co-chair.

The 20th Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean was hosted by the Government of Colombia with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) acting as the secretariat.

Gabriel Vallejo López, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia urged the participants of the meeting to transform the decisions taken at the Forum into concrete actions to benefit the people of Latin America and the Caribbean. "The citizens count on us, more than ever, to provide immediate responses to the environmental problems that affect them. It is our responsibility to attend to their needs and that is our reason for being here," he said.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "Growing interaction between people and their environment will bring new issues such as an increase in health problems, like Zika or Ebola, which shape and then reshape our management of ecosystems, pollution and land degradation. Latin America and the Caribbean recognized this many years ago, so their experience will be invaluable to the UNEA-2 ministerial dialogue, which will reinforce our efforts to support the region."

"Such experience - particularly indigenous knowledge - is invaluable in managing the ecosystems that support activities as diverse as climate regulation, food security and, of course the eco-tourism that drives so much economic development in the region," he added.

Climate Change

Latin America and the Caribbean are responsible for less than ten per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions yet the region is at the forefront of efforts to tackle them. All of Costa Rica's electricity in 2015 came from renewable sources and all of Brazil and Uruguay's new electricity generation tenders since 2013 have been won by solar and wind technologies.

The forum of ministers agreed to establish a Regional Cooperation Platform on Climate Change for Latin America and the Caribbean, which will advance action on adaptation, mitigation, loss and damages, as well as financing and means of implementation of the Paris Agreement, including transfer of climate technologies and capacity building.

Air Quality

Deaths from non-communicable diseases, mostly attributable to air pollution, amount to up to 8.2 million each year, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly a million premature deaths in the Americas can be linked to environmental factors, most of them to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The Cartagena Declaration calls for urgent action and increased financing to cut the emissions of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) within the Regional Plan of Action on Atmospheric Pollution. Globally, large scale mitigation of SLCPs would prevent 2.4 million deaths from air pollution annually, avoid the loss of 52 million tonnes of crops and reduce the rate of sea level rise by 20 per cent by 2050.

Chemicals

The ministers agreed to establish an intergovernmental network on chemicals and waste for Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen the environmentally sound management of chemicals and waste, reinforcing sub-regional and regional cooperation and facilitating the exchange of experiences.

Other Key Decisions

The ministers adopted an updated Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative for Sustainable Development, which underscores the need to foster fast, ambitious and integrated action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Particularly, the Forum supported the resolution on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to be considered at UNEA in May, which urges to support national and regional programmes and projects in priority areas such as climate change, biodiversity, land degradation and water resources management that are critical to the long term development.

The Latin America and Caribbean region will continue to support the implementation of the Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP), promote environmental education, and support the full implementation of the Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

The Ministers expressed their support to the Mexican Government as incoming Chair and host of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The region will promote the sustainable use of biodiversity in policies related to fisheries, forestry, agriculture and tourism.

Argentina and Paraguay will host the 21st Forum of Ministers of Environment in 2018.

Notes to Editors

The Cartagena declaration, decisions, and other documents of the 20th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean are available at: www.pnuma.org

For more information please contact María Amparo Lasso, UNEP Regional Communications Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, [email protected], (+507) 68523459.

About UNEA In May, hundreds of key decision makers, businesses and representatives of intergovernmental organizations and civil society will gather in Nairobi for UNEA-2 at the United Nations Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi. The assembly will be one of the first major meetings since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The resolutions passed at UNEA-2 will set the stage for early action on implementing the 2030 Agenda, and drive the world towards a better, more just future.