Panama Delegation at COP26

Panama closes out week two of COP26, highlights leadership as one of few carbon-negative countries

During COP26, Panama firmly positioned itself among the world’s environmental leaders, showcasing through example how countries of all sizes and incomes can have a tangible impact on the global effort to fight climate change. The country also made history by leading the youngest delegation of negotiators at COP26

At the outset of the conference, Panama announced its formation of a carbon-negative alliance with Suriname and Bhutan. These countries, the only three to absorb more carbon than they emit, will work together to share unique best practices and technical expertise with other countries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. During a panel at the New York Times Climate HubForeign Minister Erika Mouynes emphasized that even as all three members of the alliance have different geographies and economies, “we’ve all taken extremely bold measures.” Panama’s President, Laurentino Cortizo, lauded the creation of the alliance: “While Panama may be one of only three carbon negative countries right now, we seek to build a future where carbon negative countries are not the exception, but the norm.”  

Relatedly, Panama held a panel in conjunction with the International Chamber of Commerce entitled “The Symbiotic Relationship Between Conservation and Prosperity.” The panel featured insights from Panama’s National Secretary of Energy, Dr. Jorge Rivera Staff, as well as experts from Panama’s Ministry of Environment and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Dr. Rivera Staff highlighted Panama’s energy transition plan, through which 70% of Panama’s energy supply will come from renewable sources by 2050. This plan comes as Panama has already reached its 30×30 goal of conserving 30% of its territorial waters by 2030, nine years ahead of schedule. Amidst this progress, Shirley Binder, Panama’s National Director of Protected Areas and Biodiversity, emphasized the importance of communicating with impacted communities and industries about the rationale and benefits behind conservation measures. 

Panama used COP26 as an opportunity to take its marine conservation efforts global, unveiling the protection of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor in partnership with Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Together, these countries will form one of the largest protected marine areas in the world. In addition, as a member of the “Blue Leaders”, Panama signed the third Because the Ocean Declaration and the Blue Leaders Heads of State Declaration, where Minister Mouynes made clear that “climate change, and in particular oceans, are Panama’s top priority.” In signing these agreements, Panama pledged to further advance ocean conservation and combat climate change through offshore renewable energy sources, climate adaptation, and reducing emissions in international shipping. 

Grounded in an understanding that the worst impacts of climate change can only be avoided if the problem is addressed holistically, Panama is also leading international efforts to incorporate sustainability into two of its largest sectors: tourism and shipping. In tourism, Panama will serve as the first pilot country for the United Nations Fund for Climate Neutrality of Tourism. Together, Panama, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Network of Ocean Ambassadors Headquarters (NOAH) will support the creation of a Capital Fund that will enable the UN Fund for Climate Neutrality in Tourism and the creation of a Smart Carbon Exchange Market, led by NOAH in conjunction with UNWTO, to empower the exchange of carbon credits in the most efficient way.  

In international shipping, Minister Mouynes highlighted Panama’s work to become a sustainable shipping hub during the International Chamber of Shipping’s event “Shaping the Future of Shipping.” “We want to transform Panama into a hub for clean fuels,” said Mouynes. “We’re looking into concrete projects on methanol, ammonia, and green hydrogen so there is storage and distribution of those fuels in the region.” Panama was also proud to support the Panama Canal Authority as it held an event at COP26 highlighting the importance of sustainable maritime routes – the Panama Canal reduced CO2 emissions by more than 13 million tons in 2020 alone when compared to alternative routes. 

Panama’s leadership culminated in its chief negotiator for COP26, Juan Carlos Monterrey Gómez, being elected to serve as vice president of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC). He is the first Panamanian representative to serve in the UNFCCC Cabinet.  

“While venues like COP26 are essential to aligning global actors on ambition, Panama recognizes that such ambitions mean little if they do not result in tangible investments and actions,” said Minister Mouynes. “Panama looks forward to continuing to show the world what bold climate leadership looks like, and to working with like-minded countries to preserve the world’s climate and natural resources.” 

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