The second meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 2) to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean – known as the Escazú Agreement – was inaugurated today, Wednesday, April 19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the presence of the country’s President, Alberto Fernández, and authorities from various countries in the region.
The COP 2 of the Escazú Agreement, which is an extraordinary meeting with the main goal of electing the inaugural members of the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance of the Agreement, is taking place through Friday, April 21 and features delegations from 24 Party, signatory and observer countries and more than 600 accredited participants.
At the meeting, the delegates also welcomed the new States Parties that have been incorporated since the COP 1 – Belize, Chile and Grenada – giving them special recognition.
The Conference’s opening session was held at the Centro Cultural Kirchner (CCK) in the Argentine capital and was led by Cecilia Nicolini, Secretary of Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Innovation of Argentina. The speakers on this occasion included the Environment Ministers of Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina: Robert Bouvier, Marina Silva and Juan Cabandié, respectively; Senator Maureen Hyman-Payne of Antigua and Barbuda; Raúl García Buchaca, Deputy Executive Secretary for Management and Programme Analysis of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which is the United Nations organization that serves as Secretariat of the Agreement; Mijael Kaufman, Elected Representative of the Public; and Corporate Vice President of Strategic Programming at CAF–Development Bank of Latin America, Christian Asinelli.
At the end of the session, Argentine President Alberto Fernández addressed those in attendance and declared the meeting to be officially inaugurated. “The Escazú Agreement had the enormous merit of putting the problem of the climate crisis in the public discussion and allowing members of civil society to find out what is happening and what governments are doing to try to emerge from that crisis,” the leader indicated.
“What does Latin America and the Caribbean have to offer the world at this time of climate crisis? First, we have to inform the world that we are climate creditors, not debtors, we did not cause this tragedy. And we have to understand that we must work together… And we have to take care of environmental activists. They are caring for our lives. The environment does not discriminate between the rich and poor,” President Fernández declared.
In her welcome remarks, the Secretary of Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Innovation of Argentina, Cecilia Nicolini, emphasized that putting the environmental agenda at the center of the debate in the region is truly urgent. “Escazú is much more than a tool of international law. It is really a human rights treaty and that is why we have a commitment to environmental defenders, to indigenous peoples, to young people and environmental organizations that have set an example for us in the fight for environmental issues. All of us who are here have the moral duty to transform the present,” she stated.
In his speech on behalf of ECLAC, the commission’s Deputy Executive Secretary for Management and Programme Analysis, Raúl García-Buchaca, highlighted the fact that the Escazú Agreement has already attained 15 States Parties “that demonstrate their political commitment to working on deepening environmental democracy and making sustainable development a reality in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
“Three days before International Mother Earth Day, we must not forget that caring for our environment means caring for ourselves and ensuring our ability to develop. However, our region remains the world’s most dangerous one for those who defend the environment. We know that it is not possible to conserve the environment without protecting these people. The Escazú Agreement is also pioneering in this regard, since it is the first treaty in the world to contain specific provisions for protecting human rights defenders in environmental matters,” the senior United Nations official underscored.
In their remarks, the ministers from Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil and Argentina agreed on the Escazú Agreement’s importance for effectively fulfilling the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as well as for leading by example by tackling the agenda for an energy and climate transition with inclusion. They also deemed the Agreement to be an important and powerful tool, not just for now but also for new generations, since it puts people at the forefront and contributes transparency, commitment and accountability in environmental matters.
The COP 2 of the Escazú Agreement will continue on Thursday, April 20, in the conference rooms of the Hotel Libertador in Buenos Aires with the Presiding Officers’ presentation of the roster of candidates for the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance, in addition to a Special Session entitled Comparative experiences of bodies to support implementation and compliance. Also scheduled to take place is the Regional Dialogue: Strengthening capacities for national implementation.
Meanwhile, on April 21, two Special Sessions will be carried out: one on follow-up to Decision I/6 on human rights defenders in environmental matters, and another on follow-up to Decision I/4 on financial arrangements and report of the Voluntary Fund. In addition, the members of the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance will be elected and the COP 2’s decisions will be adopted.
Numerous virtual official side events are being held on April 19-21 in the framework of the conference, the details of which are available on the meeting’s website.
Thus far, the Escazú Agreement has been signed by 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and features 15 States Parties: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Grenada, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay.