- Author: Vanessa Cardenas
As the United Nations' climate talks (COP21) begins its second week, the pressure is on for negotiators to produce a global agreement that puts us on track toward a sustainable future. New voices from across the spectrum add to the chorus calling on our leaders to take the bold steps needed to protect our planet from the devastating effects of climate change. One of those critical voices is the US Latino community.
Today, Latino organizations and leaders representing labor, education, and the civil and immigrants’ rights sector have joined conservation leaders calling on Members of Congress to support President Obama’s efforts to reduce US emissions and support developing nations’ efforts to prepare and respond to climate change. Acting at home and cooperating with other nations is needed if we truly want to reduce global warming and slow climate change. These leaders feel so strongly, they supporter a full-page ad in today’s POLITICO:
Latinos from North to South America experience firsthand the widespread devastation of climate change: 28 million Latinos live in the states hardest hit by climate change impacts, like California, Florida, and Texas; 50 percent of US Latinos live in the most ozone-polluted cities in the country; and Hispanic children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Meanwhile, in Latin America 13.2 million people have been affected by disasters such as droughts, excessive rains and floods in 2015 alone.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Countries across the globe are showing that it is possible to implement policies to reduce emissions and slow global warming which contributes to extreme weather while transitioning to a cleaner economy. Costa Rica for example, achieved a gigantic feat this year by generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources for over 6 months. And Brazil has had significant success in reducing deforestation in the Amazon which has reduced carbon emissions while growing its economy. In the US, the Obama Administration has also taken significant steps to reduce power plants emissions by 32 percent by 2030.
These efforts must accelerate because climate change is real and already here. Further environmental degradation, runaway weather, and even more migration will continue if we fail to act. As President Obama so eloquently said during his speech at the global summit last week “no nation, large or small is immune from the impacts of climate change.” We agree. Strong action both domestically and in the region is needed to reduce our collective vulnerability, strengthen regional ties and to ensure future generations have the chance to live in a healthy, safe, and decarbonized world.
Vanessa Cardenas is Climatico Program Director at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/vcardenasDC .