Past Initiative News

Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change at the OAS headquarters

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The impact that climate change is having on human lives, infrastructure and economies is well documented and scientists agree that its effects are expected to intensify in the near future. Beyond the scientific discussion, there is a need to improve the understanding of individuals, businesses and governments on what they can do to mitigate climate change and its effects, as a fundamental element for achieving long term sustainable development.

A Public Discussion Forum: Energy and Climate Change Education was held on January 16, 2014, at OAS headquarters to enhance climate change literacy, hone institutional collaboration and facilitate greater access to relevant information; all of which are considered key factors for promoting a culture of sustainability in the Americas. The forum was held under the auspices of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), an initiative coordinated by the OAS-SEDI Department of Sustainable Development (DSD).

Panel of experts at the Public Discussion Forum. This is the first of four Public Forum Discussions in a series geared toward fostering energy and climate change dialogue. Participants included close to 50 government, academic and civil society representatives, who partook in a robust discussion on sustainable energy alternatives and climate change mitigation solutions. The event included high-level speakers such as Sherry Tross, Executive Secretary for Integral Development at the OAS; Bill Wetzel, Director of the Clinton Global Initiative University; Joe Casola, Program Director for Science and Impacts at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions; Jorge Piñon from The University of Texas at Austin and Pablo Benitez, Senior Economist and manager of the World Bank Capacity Building Program on Low Emissions Development.

“It is not possible to look at climate change issues from a purely national perspective. The implications and impacts are trans-boundary and the solutions, of necessity, must be both multifaceted and shared” declared Secretary Tross in her welcoming remarks. On this note, she observed that “ECPA, through its different initiatives, has sought to engage multiple stakeholders, facilitate the sharing of best practices, and support innovative, community-based solutions.”

For his part, Dr. Casola spoke of the importance of climate change literacy, mentioning that education contributes to “personalize the threat of climate change”, which he called as “fundamental for better understanding and embracing the challenges that this shared reality imposes”. Dr. Casola made reference to the fact that the conversation on climate change is driven by informational “elites” – scientists and policy specialists – and is not always inclusive of “on the ground” actors such as farmers, resource managers, health providers, and business leaders, who, motivated by a new understanding of their environment, could alter every day choices that could potentially curb climate change. Other issues raised by panelists and participants included working with teachers to support education for younger generations, facilitating access to public information and ensuring that the right information is provided to the right stakeholder.

Ambassador Emilio Rabasa Gamboa, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OAS closed the dialogue by highlighting the importance of the issue for his government, noting that “Mexico’s National Climate Change Strategy and Climate Change Law, among other activities prove that we are moving forward to comply with our international commitments.” As a regional leader, Mexico chairs ECPA’s Energy Efficiency Working Group, which provides an effective platform for collaboration in this area. In this regard, Ambassador Rabasa mentioned the importance of recent technical exchanges between Mexico’s Commission for the Efficient Use of Energy (CONUEE) and similar energy efficiency institutions in the Americas.

During 2014, the dialogue series will continue to engage multiple stakeholders in an exchange of best practices that will support effective energy and climate change policy making and strengthen collaboration in the Americas. ECPA was created at the 2009 Summit of the Americas as a hemispheric mechanism to foster partnerships for greater dialogue, collaboration and awareness on energy and climate. Its clearinghouse is operated by the OAS-SEDI as it complements and builds on the organization’s efforts to advance cooperation in the area of sustainable development.

This news article was originally published by the OAS Executive Secretariat for Integral Development Press team, here.