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  • Indigenous leaders from around the world demonstrate in Paris alongside COP21 to draw attention to the plight of indigenous communities facing climate change.

    Indigenous leaders from around the world demonstrate in Paris alongside COP21 to draw attention to the plight of indigenous communities facing climate change. | Photo: EFE

Published 8 December 2015

CELAC presented a joint position to demand COP21 reach a binding climate deal to limit global warming and support the global south's energy transition.

Latin American countries called for a legally binding agreement at COP21 in Paris on Tuesday that would see rich, northern nations lead a global transition to clean energy by transferring technology and financing to poorer countries in the global south.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, known as CELAC, urged world leaders to agree to a deal to limit global warming to 1.5 or maximum 2 degrees Celsius, the tipping point scientists say would push the planet into catastrophic and irreparable damage. It marks the first time CELAC put forward a joint position at an international climate summit.

“COP21 presentation by Minister Daniel Ortega Pacheco as pro-tempore president of CELAC explaining the regional position.”

Ecuadorean Minister of Environment Daniel Ortega Pacheco told leaders at COP21 that climate change threatens Latin American countries’ efforts to eliminate poverty and stimulate development, as many of the 33 countries in CELAC are among the most vulnerable in the face of climate change. He called on wealthy countries, largely historically responsible for fueling climate change, to step up to provide financing and technology to drive a transition away from fossil fuels.

Ortega Pacheco stressed that a legally binding agreement at COP21 must work for the poor people of the world and consider the framework of climate justice, which would see the biggest climate change culprits pay their “ecological debts” to vulnerable countries to help tackle climate change without sacrificing poverty reduction efforts.

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Latin American countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia have been on the front lines of pushing for climate justice to be considered at the international level. A climate deal with this framework would force the most polluting countries to recognize the damage caused in poorer nations through resource exploitation and contamination and pay economic reparations to settle these climate debts.

But climate reparations and climate justice are not officially on the COP21 agenda.

In a telling sign, the draft climate agreement being finalized this week has removed the words “Indigenous peoples” from the text of the deal, despite many movements arguing that Indigenous people are on the front lines of the negative impacts of climate change. The cut was made despite Indigenous leaders from around the world gathering in Paris to demand respect for indigenous rights and recognition of the role indigenous people play in protecting land, water, and natural resources.

IN DEPTH: Latin America's Fight for a Just Climate Solution

As the second week of COP21 kicked off in Paris, world leaders were hopefully that the draft deal could be finalized by the end of the week. However, it remains unclear how leaders will resolve disagreements over the key issue of funding.

France, the host of COP21, is pushing leader to finalize the draft deal by Wednesday, two days ahead of the conclusion of the summit Dec. 11.

A universally binding agreement to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius is the main goal of the COP21 summit. COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 was widely criticized and largely seen as a failure, due to its inability to reach a legally binding climate deal.

OPINION: How to Avoid a ‘COP Out’ at the Paris Climate Talks

Many leaders, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have expressed cautious optimism that world leaders will heed the urgency of climate change and reach a binding deal.

However, it is likely that Latin American countries and social movements will have to continue to fight for climate justice long after the conclusion of COP21.

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