NEW YORK CITY, U.S.A. Latin American heads of state expressed their commitment to fight global warming and lambasted industrialized nations for not abiding by environmental regulations at the United Nations Climate summit in New York on September 23.

They joined a guest list of 150 heads of states as well as business leaders, civil society representatives and celebrities during the one-day event at the United Nations headquarters.

The United Nations warned that global temperature rose by 0.85°Celsius between 1880 and 2012. It predicted that temperature will increase between 1°Celsius and 3.7°Celsius this century.

A joint effort

Amongst the first speakers, Peru’s president Ollanta Humala stressed that “building consensus on this topic” was a priority.

Lima will host the next United Nations Climate conference in December 2014.

President Humala called for developed economies, the major greenhouse gas emitters, to take responsibility for their contribution to global warming. “It is time for developed countries to acknowledge their responsibility in climate change,” he said.

Giants China and India account for one third of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. The United States is the second largest emitter in the world.

A Global Carbon Budget report published on September 21 found that China produced 28% of global emission, compared with 14% for the United States, 10% for the European Union and 7% for India in 2013.

“The extent to which developing countries will effectively implement their commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will depend on the effective implementation by developed countries of their commitments under the Convention,” said Bolivia’s president Evo Morales.

He added that industrialized countries have to provide “financial resources and transfer of technology and […l take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries.”

Venezuela’s president Nicolas Madura scolded the Western capitalism model of growth that has led to a dramatic increase of carbon emissions.

“Until when will we follow a capitalist model?” he asked.

President Maduro asked the audience to be realistic about world business leaders’ commitment to climate change. “Does anyone believe that multinational companies can change themselves into protagonists of salvation for the planet?”.

“If you want to change the climate, we need to change the system,” he said.

The address of Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was along the same lines.

“The main cause of the world environment crisis, including climate change, continues to be the irrational and unsustainable production and consumption patterns that support the capitalist economic domination system, which generates greater poverty and inequalities,” he said.

He also explained that “less luxury and less waste in a few countries would mean less poverty and hunger in much of the world.”

Ecuador’s Environment minister Lorena Tapia affirmed “the importance of negotiation on climate change” but lamented the “lack of commitment of developed countries.”

She said that the Kyoto protocol is the “cornerstone” of climate change efforts and deplored the fact industrialized states – like the United States – did not ratify it.

Costa Rica’s president Luis Guillermo Solis acknowledged that all countries contribute to global warming due to industrial activities but at different levels.

He emphasized that the largest economies should “lead these efforts” for global consensus.

Chile’s president Michele Bachelet said that “equity and justice must be the central pillars of our actions.”

She explained that reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 was “subject to international support,” as she reminded the audience that Chile is often hit by earthquakes.

Sustainable development

Ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that will adopt a global agreement, Latin American countries pledged to promote to sustainable development.

President Bachelet listed various measures Chile is taking to combat climate change such as the launch of an energy agenda for “more diverse, safer and cleaner systems”.

She said that her country will add over 1,000 megawatts into our energy grid in 2014 and recover degraded soils to combat deforestation.

President Enrique Pena Nieto acknowledged that Mexico was a “moderate emitter”. He pointed out that his country voted the general climate change law in 2012 that aims to reduce 30% of the 2000 gas emissions by 2020 and 50% by 2050.

He also vowed to generate 34.6% of electricity production from renewable energies by 2018.

“Climate change is not only an obligation but also an opportunity to transform our economy and make it more competitive in the future,” said Peru’s president.

Peru’s president reiterated its country’s efforts to fight deforestation and illegal mining.

Costa Rica’s president reaffirmed its commitment to be a carbon neutral nation by 2021.

He mentioned that Central American country will develop an electric railways system and a bus system that use fuel only so as to substantially decrease traffic and carbon emissions.

President Solis stressed the need for developing countries to have access to “appropriate and affordable” energy technologies.

Honduras’s president Juan Orlando Hernández said that Latin America is a “highly vulnerable region” as there are seismic zones.

The price to pay

A September 2014 report published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) set out that the region “has made a minor contribution to climate change, given the region’s low levels of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Yet, it found that it is “particularly vulnerable to its negative impacts.”

ECLAC released the report titled “The Economics of Climate Change in Latin America and The Caribbean: Paradoxes and Challenges” one day before the United Nations Climate summit.

The cost Latin American nations would have to pay – should the world carry on along this road – would include long term agricultural loss in a region where many economies depend on export of agricultural products.

“The projected losses in the agricultural sector will also have multiple effects, such as slowing progress towards poverty-reduction and food-security goals,” reads the report.

Due to rising gasoline consumption, Latin American countries already suffer from deteriorating air quality in congested cities, a “serious” degradation of natural assets like water and forests as well as health issues.

Kamilia Lahrichi is the recipient of the United Nations Foundation’s “Global Issues” Journalism Fellowship in New York City.