Climate, Environment & Energy

Europe and Latin America & the Caribbean: together for a greener, safer and fairer future.

03/12/2021 - 18:27
News stories

The ocean has never been an obstacle between Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Europeans and Latin Americans have always felt close despite this natural border. However, it has been more than six years since the Leaders of the European Union and the LAC countries last met. The regions have never stopped working together but today´s challenging reality demands renewed political commitment.

Leaders of the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) met virtually yesterday with one main goal: to resume the dialogue and strengthen cooperation to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. President Michel and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, represented the EU, with the participation of the HR/VP Josep Borrell. Latin American and Caribbean partners were represented by the heads of state or government of LAC countries holding the presidencies of regional and sub-regional organisations in 2021: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Suriname.

“Today’s Leaders’ Meeting is an important step to relaunch the dialogue between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean at the highest level. We hope it will also be a stepping-stone towards a fully-fledged bi-regional Summit as soon as conditions allow”.
Charles Michel

This is the first meeting at this level in 6 years and sends a strong message of the political commitment to join forces to tackle common global and regional challenges. HRVP Josep Borrell has consistently insisted on the geo-political importance of working more closely with LAC. The informal EU-LAC Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Berlin December 2020, and his visit to the region, have contributed to the momentum to relaunch high-level political engagement. With 1/3 of the United Nations and 7 members in the G20, the EU and LAC can do more to shape the global agenda and build back a greener, safer and fairer future for all.

Sustainable recovery for all

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some of the weaknesses of our socio-economic model, brutally confronting the world with the need to rebuild more resilient and just societies under principles that guarantee our common planet and future. Leaving no one behind.

Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions of the world that has suffered most from the impact of the pandemic. From the onset, Team Europe -European Union, its Member States & European financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) - has taken a leading role in the global response to the pandemic.  The EU has already allocated €3 billion in immediate health support to the region, focussed on the most vulnerable groups, and has exported more than 130 million vaccine doses to LAC countries. It is a main contributor to COVAX, which has delivered more than 50 million doses to LAC. Beyond vaccines, the EU is exploring support to improve their future health preparedness in the region including regional initiatives such as the UN ECLAC Plan for self-sufficiency in health matters, endorsed at the recent Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the ongoing efforts of the Pan American Health Organisation.

The health crisis has triggered a global socio-economic crisis, which has hit LAC countries particularly hard. The EU announced during the Leaders Meeting that €3.4 billion will be made available under NDICI-Global Europe (2021-2027) to support long-term sustainable recovery from the pandemic in the region.

“Our regions are vital partners. We share culture and values, we are supporters of multilateralism, and we connect through trade and investment (…) We must now work together for a long-term response to the crisis.”
Ursula von der Leyen

The most disadvantaged are the main victims of the crisis. The pandemic has widened the social gap and exacerbated inequalities. Social cohesion must be at core of the partnership between the regions; the EU announced that it will launch a regional Team Europe Initiative to tackle inequalities in 2022, building on the success of the EU funded EUROsociAL+ program. This initiative will focus on addressing structural challenges, such as building resilient social protection systems, reshaping fiscal policies and promoting inclusive public policy design, while furthering gender equality. Sustainable recovery is only possible if it is inclusive.

The future is green and digital

The current growth model based on immediate benefits and unsustainable consumption, as well as an energy matrix still too dependent on fossil fuels, can no longer continue. The EU and LAC must work together to transform their economies towards a development path that  respects the environment, guarantees human rights, and generates jobs and prosperity for their citizens. Accounting for more than 50% of global biodiversity, the Latin American continent are the lungs of the planet. Europe is ready to do more to help preserve this global resource and find sustainable ways to full the region’s economic potential.

Under the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) the EU supports Caribbean countries in fulfilling their commitments resulting from the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Caribbean region is severely impacted by the effects of climate change, which is why the EU has funded projects in climate smart agriculture, sustainable forest management and sustainable coastal zone management.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) supported Latin America and the Caribbean with €486 million of financing for projects mainly in support of the energy sector, small businesses and sustainable transport, with a particular focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation. In 2021, EIB activity in the region focused on supporting climate action, coupled with the priority of addressing the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the EIB and Banco Regional de Desenvolvimento do Extremo Sul (BRDE) have joined forces to support small and medium-sized enterprises hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in the States of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná in Brazil. In Ecuador, the EIB has invested in modernizing water supply infrastructure and wastewater treatment facilities.

At the Leaders’ Meeting, the EU recalled its €1 billion contribution to the Global Forests Finance Pledge announced in Glasgow, a 5-year support package to help partners worldwide protect, restore and sustainably manage forests. A new edition of the EUROCLIMA+ programme will support LAC partners with €140 million to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The energy model is not the only challenge for a sustainable future. Inequalities in access to and management of information is wider than the ocean that separates us, and is today decisive for the development of our societies. Europe and LAC have made history together, bridging the digital divide through EllaLink. Under the BELLA programme (Building the Europe Link to Latin America), this high-speed submarine digital cable that connects the two continents, interconnecting 12,000 education and research institutions, about 65 million users and opening new horizons for companies on both sides. Yesterday, Leaders welcomed the launch of an EU-LAC Digital Alliance in 2022.

Great minds come together

The EU and LAC are ready to step up their game with a new joint strategy for research & innovation. From finding cures, to cleaning our planet and the opening of new digital highways, scientists from the two regions are working closer than ever before.

To support this unprecedented step forward, the new Horizon Europe programme stands ready to finance research of the best scientific minds in Europe and LAC. Building on the success of Horizon 2020 and its €1.6 billion support to EU-LAC research projects, the newly launched Horizon Europe is taking openness to another level. From safeguarding our food production to connecting the remotest areas of the Amazon rainforest - the nearly 500 joint research projects over the past seven years tell a remarkable story. The EU funding is making a difference where it matters, opening new opportunities for innovative and sustainable lives in the digital future.

Together for a fairer and safer future

There can be no resilient societies if security, justice and the rule of law are not guaranteed. At yesterday’s meeting, the EU announced a new regional Team Europe Initiative on Security and Justice to support bi-regional cooperation on citizen security, organised crime and the rule of law. This brings renewed impetus to a decade-long cooperation in the fight against drugs, through the COPOLAD programme, and the EU-CELAC Drugs Mechanism. The EU contributes to security and justice in LAC through various programmes: EL PAcCTO supports the fight against transnational organised crime; the Global Illicit Flows Programme tackles trans-regional trafficking while EUROFRONT supports Integrated Border Management (IBM).

We can do much more. The EU and LAC face the same challenges, share the same vision for the future and have a strong network of trade and association agreements. Yesterday the Leaders of the two regions reaffirmed their commitment to do much more together for a better and sustainable future for their citizens.