Argentina Plans Latin America Climate Summit for Next Month
(Bloomberg) -- Argentina plans to host a summit as soon as September to bring together leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean, according to people familiar with the matter, in an effort to build a united regional strategy to fight climate change at global talks in November.
President Alberto Fernandez’s government has been seeking to bring U.S. climate envoy John Kerry to Buenos Aires for the event, according to the people, who asked not to be identified without permission to speak publicly. Invitations are being sent to presidents, although the conversation is more likely to take place at the ministerial level and may wind up being virtual, the people said.
A State Department spokesperson said that Kerry plans to participate virtually in the event.
Plans for the summit are still being finalized and remain subject to pandemic travel restrictions and health needs, the people said. Covid-19 has savaged Latin America, which accounts for about one-quarter of all virus deaths globally despite having only 8% of the world’s population. Last year’s recession was the worst for the region since the early 19th century.
Chile, Costa Rica and Colombia have signed on as co-organizers of the climate event, according to a Biden administration official, who also asked not to be named. Barbados and the Dominican Republic are additional co-organizers, while Mexico plans to participate, two other people said.
Costa Rica has been a leader on climate and environment issues for years and hosted a pre-COP meeting when Chile presided over the global conference in 2019. Fernandez’s administration in Argentina has rarely mentioned wind and solar as it’s focused instead on policies to boost fossil fuels -- including its big bet on Vaca Muerta, a rock formation in the Patagonian desert that’s home to the world’s second-biggest shale gas reserves.
The summit is intended to give the region a forum to agree on a coordinated climate agenda to bring to the table for the United Nations-backed COP26 climate talks scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, at the start of November, according to the U.S. official. It’s also meant to build on a virtual gathering of 40 world leaders that Biden hosted in late April.
Argentina in recent months presented the Latin America conclave idea to Kerry, who was receptive, according to one of the people familiar with the plans.
For Argentina, staking a claim to climate leadership also serves another purpose, aligning Fernandez with President Joe Biden on a key priority for the U.S. That’s important because the South American nation needs the Biden administration’s support as it prepares to reschedule payments on a record $45 billion owed to the International Monetary Fund.
The U.S. will be key to gaining approval for a new IMF program, because it’s the fund’s largest shareholder. Thus, Fernandez is seeking to bolster the bilateral relationship with the Biden administration, according to two of the people.
Fernandez also wants to travel to Washington to meet with Biden in person this year, although that plan is still at a preliminary stage, two of the people said.
Preparations for the climate summit are set to be a main topic of discussion Friday when Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere on the National Security Council, visit Buenos Aires and meet with Fernandez, as well as economy minister Martin Guzman and foreign minister Felipe Sola, according to the people. The trip is Sullivan’s first to the region.
Other topics on the agenda for Friday’s meeting include ideas to strengthen manufacturing and production in Latin America. The U.S. delegation, which includes State Department official Ricardo Zuniga, also is set to discuss the problems facing Central America’s Northern Triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The region is grappling with violence, poverty, hunger and climate change, all of which are fueling undocumented migration to the U.S.
Biden’s aides traveled to Brasilia on Thursday, where Sullivan met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the presidential palace. They discussed 5G networks, the bilateral relationship, Covid-19 and the economic recovery, according to a statement following the meetings.
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