Panama Concludes International Climate Summit with Call for Just and Inclusive Energy Transition in the Americas

On Friday, February 11, Panama concluded the Fifth Ministerial Meeting on Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, an international summit hosted by Panama in partnership with the Organization of American States to facilitate regional cooperation on the critical energy and climate challenges facing the Western Hemisphere. Held from February 10-11 under the theme of “Promoting Just and Inclusive Energy Transitions”, the event welcomed government and business leaders from 33 countries – including U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and International Energy Agency Director Fatih Birol – for wide-ranging discussions on ensuring equitable access to clean energy for the region.

“Panama is proud to welcome the international community to determine the path forward on achieving sustainable energy transitions that benefit all”, said Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen. “As one of the world’s only three carbon negative countries, Panama has long been a leader in environmental conservation. Now, we are doubling down on our commitment to ensure equal access to the green technologies which will power the future. I look forward to working closely with our international partners on developing energy transition roadmaps that leave no one behind.”

As a U.N. Global Champion for energy, Panama is committed to facilitating a green energy transition that maximizes progress on poverty reduction, job creation, and responsible consumption in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. For instance, Panama’s government approved in 2020 a $350 million policy roadmap to ensure universal electricity access within the country by the end of the decade, with a particular focus on reaching rural and indigenous communities. The country has also launched a “Women in the Energy Transition” strategy to empower women’s participation within the energy sector. Panama aims to use these and other investments in the energy transition to fuel its post-pandemic economic recovery.

A recent United Nations Environment Programme report found that prioritizing a green recovery could enable Panama to create 15,000 net additional jobs by 2024 and reduce fossil fuel subsidies by $500 million. “Investing in just and inclusive energy transitions isn’t only the right thing to do – it also makes economic sense”, said Panama’s Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes. “Panama has made gender equality a top priority, and we view the renewable energy transition as an opportunity to empower women’s participation and leadership in these sectors that are being built from the ground up.”

In his remarks during the ECPA Ministerial Meeting, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry thanked the Government of Panama for hosting the event, outlined global climate progress coming out of COP26, and emphasized the important role of young people in holding leaders accountable to climate commitments moving forward. “I want to thank President Cortizo for his leadership and for what the Government of Panama is doing”, Special Envoy Kerry said, noting that Panama sent the youngest negotiating team to COP26 in Glasgow last year. “Young people are driving this movement. If we’re successful at this effort, it’s going to be because young people become part of it. They hold people accountable.”

Over the course of the two-day meeting, participants discussed a wide range of topics related to inclusive energy transitions, including panels focused on fast-tracking private investment to achieve decarbonization goals, achieving universal electricity access across the region by 2030, and reconfiguring supply chains for a low-carbon future, among other topics. Attendees validated the 2022-2024 ECPA Action Plan, which calls for the creation of a live intergovernmental platform within the ECPA Secretariat to spur international cooperation on energy transition initiatives. The sessions held during the ECPA will also inform energy-oriented discussions among heads of state at the 9th Summit of the Americas, to be held in Los Angeles in June.

Also present at the ECPA Ministerial Meeting were Dr. Jorge Rivera Staff, Panama’s National Energy Secretary; H.E. Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States; Benigno López, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank; H.E. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Pedro Matos Fernandes, Minister of Environment and Climate Action of Portugal, among other notable speakers. You can view Foreign Minister Mouynes’ address to the ECPA here.