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LATIN AMERICA | 06-08-2021 16:07

Argentina plans to host Latin America climate summit next month

President Alberto Fernández’s government plans to host a summit as soon as September to bring together leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean, in an effort to build a united regional strategy ahead of the COP26 conference in November.

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 Fernández’s government wants to bring US 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.

Kerry’s press office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Plans for the summit are still being finalised 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 eight percent 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-organisers 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-organisers, while Mexico plans to participate, two other people said.

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 US 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 Fernández with President Joe Biden on a key priority for the United States. That’s important because the South American nation needs the Biden administration’s support as it prepares to reschedule payments on a record US$45 billion owed to the International Monetary Fund.

The United States will be key to gaining approval for a new IMF programme, because it’s the fund’s largest shareholder. Thus, Fernández is seeking to bolster the bilateral relationship with the Biden administration, according to two of the people.

 

IMF power players

Fernández 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 González, senior director for the Western Hemisphere on the National Security Council, visit Buenos Aires and meet with Fernández, as well as Economy Minister Martin Guzman and foreign minister Felipe Solá, 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 US 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 United States

Biden’s aides travelled to Brasilia on Thursday, where Sullivan met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the presidential palace. They were set to discuss strategic partnership, regional stability, climate objectives and collaboration on digital infrastructure, and help forge a path on pandemic recovery, according to NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne.

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by Eric Martin & Jorgelina do Rosario, Bloomberg

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