Experts: Venezuela’s climate-change response remains inadequate

By Sarai Coscojuela

Caracas, Mar 17 (EFE).- Venezuela’s leftist government recently established a “presidential commission” to combat climate change, but environmental experts say that step does not go nearly far enough in tackling the problem and seeking out potential solutions.

The Ecosocialism (Environment) Ministry said on March 3 that the commission had presented its proposal but that it still must be green-lighted by other government agencies.

“The proposal is innovative and complements all of the national government’s decisions,” Ecosocialism Minister Josue Lorca said. “So it’s not just the central government and the Bolivarian revolution but also private companies and universities that commit to caring for and preserving Mother Earth.”

But the general manager of Fundacion Tierra Viva (the Venezuelan partner of the London-based non-profit Living Earth Foundation), Alejandro Luy, told Efe that Venezuela only appears on paper to be doing its part in the global climate-change effort.

He said it went through the formalities of signing and ratifying the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the 1990s, signing the 2015 Paris Agreement, naming a representative to the Green Climate Fund and updating its initial climate commitments under the Paris accord, known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

“But if you ask the (Ecosocialism) Ministry or the commission what the plan is for Venezuela, there is no plan to adapt to or mitigate climate change,” Luy added.

He also said the government needs to update its data, noting that its most recent greenhouse gas inventory, for example, dates back to 2010.

“We’re talking about a Venezuela (of 12 years ago). We’re talking about a Venezuela where in any city it used be normal to find long lines of vehicles on a highway.” Luy said, alluding to a longstanding crisis that has made it much more difficult for people to afford vehicles. “Those changes have to affect targets, proposals and adjustments.”

He said he is curious to know what the current level of greenhouse gas emissions is and which sectors are the biggest contributors.

“We haven’t made that diagnosis for 12 years, so we’re working on the basis of something that happened in 2010, which very likely differs from where we are at present,” Luy said.

Alicia Villamizar, a member of the Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, told Efe for her part that her organization has received little or no institutional support.

“And without any institutionality capable of accommodating policies and implementing them nationally, we can’t address climate change,” she said.

She also agreed that a lot of data needs updating, noting the need for have accurate figures on emissions both from the oil industry and those arising from deforestation, land-use changes and the improper disposal of solid waste, which also is “one of the country’s biggest environmental problems.”

Plans for adapting to climate change also must respond to local realities, Villamizar said.

“If we have 24 states and 335 municipalities, we should have 24 regional climate change plans and 335 municipal plans, like what most of the countries in our region are doing,” she said.

Villamizar, however, acknowledged that the country’s serious socioeconomic crisis causes attention to be diverted from a problem that should have begun to be tackled more than 20 years ago.

Venezuela has been mired in a longstanding economic crisis that was exacerbated by severe economic sanctions imposed by the United States during former President Donald Trump’s administration.

“The situation is complicated,” she said. “We’re in a multidimensional crisis where climate change is one of the aspects of that crisis.”

Villamizar, who also is a professor at Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar University, said more climate change-related studies must be carried out and that the task falls to the national government.

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