Ibero-America and Bilateral South-South Cooperation in the face of the global climate crisis

The region is making substantial progress on mitigation and adaptation.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal” (IPCC, 2014). Since the 1950s, unprecedented changes are happening: “the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen” (IPCC, 2014). Scientists have demonstrated that this warming is, with high probability, a result of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a consequence of human activities (IPCC, 2014). As a result, current concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere are the highest in the last 800,000 years.

The risks that climate are unevenly distributed and are usually higher for vulnerable people and communities (IPCC, 2014). Controlling climate change requires a simultaneous strategy of mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation involves reducing GHG emissions into the atmosphere to slow warming. This can be achieved in two ways (EEA, 2022): by reducing the sources of these gases (avoiding, for example, burning fossil fuels) or increasing the “sinks” that store them (such as oceans, forests and soil).

On the other hand, adaptation “refers to changes in processes, practices and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change” (UNFCC, 2022), such as the green economy. Adaptation measures include, for example, the construction of defences against rising sea levels, integrated disaster management for extreme weather events, etc.

Countries at the international level have made progress in different agreements to tackle it. Thus, the 2030 Agenda includes a goal dedicated to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. However, the Paris Agreement (UN, 2015) aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (UN, 2022).

Bilateral SSC in Ibero-America has not been a stranger to these international commitments. In fact, 170 initiatives were identified in the 2015-2021 period (141 projects and 29 actions) which objective is to tackle problems related to climate change, accounting for 7% of all bilateral initiatives in that period. Sixty-one percent correspond to adaptation measures and the remaining percentage is associated with mitigation or both, simultaneously.

Adaptation includes water resource management and integrated disaster management, followed by the adaptation of agriculture to climate change. This involves, for example, the study of the effects of this phenomenon on agriculture and livestock, the development of varieties resistant to heat stress and drought, and water use efficiency, among others.
On the other hand, the great majority of mitigation initiatives are related to energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energies, followed by the sustainable management of forests. Other initiatives for carbon footprint measurement and the development of GHG inventories were also identified, and experiences for the promotion of sustainable transport should be highlighted as well.

Since this is a cross-cutting issue, initiatives are aligned with 14 different activity sectors (of the 30 defined in the Ibero-American space). SDG 13 (Climate action) naturally stands out as the main SDG, but SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy) and SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation), which includes integrated water resources management, are also worthy of mention. If a second SDG is also considered in the analysis, SDG 15 (Life on land) and SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) should also be highlighted.

Mexico, Brazil and Chile were the main providers of Bilateral SSC initiatives in the 2015-2021 period. These three countries account for 45% of the initiatives related to climate change. Argentina and Colombia follow, with 8% and 7%, respectively. Particularly, in Brazil’s case, mitigation or adaptation is included in at least 13% of the bilateral initiatives in which it acts as provider in the period.

A greater diversity can be identified among recipients. Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay stand out in this case; however, they only account for one third of the initiatives related to climate change. In Uruguay’s case, these represent 13% of the bilateral initiatives in which it participates as a recipient in the analyzed period.
Finally, 28% of the identified initiatives are bidirectional, i.e., both partners act as both provider and recipient. Among these, the partnership between Mexico and Chile is particularly noteworthy, through 13 joint mitigation and adaptation projects.

As for the evolution of these figures over time, and as shown in the graph below, Bilateral SSC initiatives related to climate change increased from 2015 to 2019 but this trend was interrupted in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the percentage of climate change in the total number of bilateral initiatives continued to be over 10% in the last two years.

Graph. Evolution of Bilateral SSC initiatives for climate change mitigation and adaptation, by type of instrument and percentage over the total number of bilateral initiatives exchanged in Ibero-America. 2015-2021.

In units and percentage
Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation.
June 2023


Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation, EEA (2022); IPCC (2014); UN (2015) (2022) and UNFCC (2022).

Photograph 1: Bilateral SSC project between Uruguay and Chile: “Capacity strengthening to assess the vulnerability of pink shrimp fisheries to climate change in Uruguay’s coastal areas”. Image bank on South‑South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero‑America. SEGIB‑PIFCSS. 2021.

Photograph 2: Bilateral SSC project between Colombia and Costa Rica: “Effective strategies for the management of existing, created or expanded Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Colombia”. Image bank on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero‑America. SEGIB‑PIFCSS. 2022.

Photograph 3: Bilateral SSC project: “Increased water efficiency and care through a joint experience between the communities of Sonora, Mexico, and Linares, Chile”. Image bank on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero‑America. SEGIB‑PIFCSS. 2021.