The vanishing forests
Floods, droughts and hurricanes
Retreat of continental glaciers
A number of key regional events helped to
further the environmental agenda in the region. However, an ongoing
challenge is still to address the growing levels of poverty and inequality,
while at the same time integrating environmental and social concerns
into development policy
- In 2003, the number of people living in poverty was 225 million,
nearly 44 per cent of the total population.
- LAC has the world’s largest area of arable land, 576
million ha, 30 per cent of the total region. During the 1990s,
profits from the region’s agricultural exports increased
at an average
annual rate of 6.4 per cent.
- LAC lost almost 47 million ha of forests in the period 990–2000,
the second largest loss after Africa.
- T he 178 eco-regions identified in LAC contain more than 40
per cent of the world’s flora and fauna species. Brazil,
Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela are all considered
- LAC possesses more than 30 per cent of the global renewable
water resources. Agriculture is the principal consumer of water
in the region, accounting for 73.5 per cent of total withdrawals.
- 60 per cent of the population live within 100 km of the coast,
and coastal and marine ecosystems continue to be threatened
by pollution and degradation caused mainly by growing demographic
pressure and associated increase in coastal resource use. Over
60 per cent of sewage from public drainage in LAC is discharged
into water bodies without treatment.
- More than 80 million people in LAC are permanently affected
by low air quality.
- LAC is the most urbanized region in the developing world:
the level of urbanization was 75.3 per cent in 2000 and is expected
to reach 80.4 per cent by 2020.
- The period 1995–2003 was the most active for Atlantic
hurricanes on record, with a high social economic and environmental
impact on the region, especially the highlyvulnerable
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean. Between
1970–2001 natural disasters killed 246 569 people, affected
another 144.9 million and caused economic losses of US$68 600
|Sources: UNEP 2003a, FAO 200
Despite the continued economic and social crisis in many countries,
the legal and institutional frameworks were maintained during the year.
In November 2003, the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America
and the Caribbean identified concrete actions for the implementation
of the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative for Sustainable Development
Box 1: Forum of Ministers of Latin
America and the Caribbean
The 14th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of
Latin America and the Caribbean was
held in Panama in November 2003. The Forum, created in 1982, helps
activities and ensure that regional and international cooperation
is efficient and coherent, targeting
the priorities of the region.
At an extraordinary meeting of the Forum held within the framework
of the World Summit on
Sustainable Development, the Latin America and Caribbean Initiative
for Sustainable Development
(ILAC) was approved and included in the WSSD Plan of Implementation.
The ILAC objectives include:
- increasing the use of renewable energy sources until 10 per
cent of the regional energy
requirements are met;
- increasing natural protected areas and forests;
- improving the management of watersheds and marine and coastal
- adopting regulatory frameworks for access to genetic resources;
- implementing plans and policies to reduce urban environmental
vulnerability to disasters.
ILAC has become one of the most important policy tools for promoting
sustainable development in
Latin America and the Caribbean. The 14th Meeting of the Forum
of Ministers reaffirmed the
importance of the initiative and adopted concrete activities to
further its goals, focusing on issues
such as: access to genetic resources and fair and equitable sharing
of benefits arising from their use,
water resources, human settlements, vulnerability and land use
planning and laws, renewable
energies, trade and the environment, economic instruments and
fiscal policy, climate change, and
|Source: UNEP 2003b
Other progress in 2003 included the development of plans for biological
corridors in the Andean region and the Amazon basin, the designation
of new protected areas in numerous countries, as well as national legislation to enhance the
role of the private sector in protected area management (Box 2).
While more state regulations have been introduced, enforcement emerges
as a major problem. This is either due to an imbalance between economic
and environmental goals or to the lack of adequate human and financial
Box 2: Regulation for private
protected areas in Chile
|New Chilean legislation introduced in 2003 provides
a solid legal framework for the creation and maintenance of private
parks. It promotes private investment in the protection of natural
resources and biodiversity and is complementary to the existing
system of public parks. With 14 million ha, the Chilean National
Protected Areas System (Sistema Nacional de Areas Silvestres Protegidas
SNASPE) covers almost 20 per cent of Chile. However, 19 of the 85
eco-regions remain unprotected and others are insufficiently protected.
Private protected areas, currently covering more than 500 000 ha,
could make a considerable contribution to biodiversity protection
in the country. With the new regulation, the government aims at
significantly expanding the current four per cent of private protected
areas and providing for more continuity and coordination in the
protection of priority areas.
Sources: Corcuera and others 2002, University of Chile 2003, Villarroel
and others (in press)