First Report on the State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean

The first report on the State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2020 (WMO-No. 1279) was launched at a high-level conference on 17 August entitled Working together for weather, climate and water resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean. The event was jointly organized by WMO, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). It attracted 420 participants from 53 countries and 2 614 people watched the live broadcast.

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas presented the report highlighting some of its key messages:

  • 2020 was among the three warmest years in Central America and the Caribbean, and the second warmest year in South America, with temperatures 1.0 °C (Central America), 0.8 °C (Caribbean) and 0.6 °C (South America) above the long-term average for the 1981–2010 climatological reference period.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is among the regions most challenged by extreme hydrometeorological events. This was highlighted in 2020 by the death and devastation wreaked by hurricanes Eta and Iota, with the greatest impact in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and by the intense drought and unusual fire season in Argentina and the Pantanal region of Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.
  • With almost half of its area covered by forests, LAC is home to about 57% of the world’s remaining primary forests, storing approximately 104 gigatons of carbon. Fires and deforestation now threaten one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, with far-reaching and long-lasting repercussion.

The presentation of the Report was followed by high-level statements from Mr Pernell Charles Jr., Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Jamaica; Ms Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR and Ms Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of UNECLAC.

Ms Mizutori emphasized that interaction and collaboration between Disaster Management Agencies and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services had become critical to ensure a consistent assessment of climate risks and to allow for timely decision-making.  Ms Barcena, however, highlighted an unexpected effects of climate change – the solution for which is multilateral: the downgrade of risk ratings by rating agencies, which consider climate vulnerability a criterion for downgrade. This has very severe consequences because it unfairly increases the cost of sovereign debt and interest payments for developing countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

The presentations were followed by panel discussions between high-level authorities from Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. These resulted in two recommendations:

  1. Develop partnership for weather, water and climate resilience
    • For the agricultural sector: climate resilience relies on more robust, integrated and accessible information systems, consolidated cooperation and innovative approaches for risk transfer.
    • Support from governments and the scientific and technological communities is critical to strengthen weather, climate and water resilience as well as to improve data collection and storage and to firmly integrate disaster risk information into development planning. Strong financial support is fundamental to achieve this outcome.
    • Only 2% of the total climate finance provided and mobilized by developing countries went to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from 2016 to 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the financial challenges of SIDS and placed them in a fiscally precarious situation.
  2. Improved Cooperation and Integration of Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems
    • Adaptation measures, particularly multi-hazard early warning systems (EWS), are poorly developed in the LAC region.
    • The value of multi-hazard EWS was dramatically illustrated when the Caribbean region faced a volcanic eruption that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and tropical cyclones. Strong regional and national institutions that cooperated and coordinated on EWS saved lives and eased disruptions caused by the La Soufrière eruptions. The investments in improving forecasting capabilities and regional research capacity and in the development of predictive models for hydrometeorological and geological hazards were of tremendous benefit.

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