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Rio+20: Latin American cities on the frontlines

A report released in the lead-up to the Rio+20 global sustainability conference says 95 percent of cities in Latin America are planning how to tackle the negative effects of climate change.

By Staff writer / June 14, 2012

A Brazilian navy ship patrols near Copacabana beach, behind the national flag of Somalia, before the Rio+20 forum in Rio de Janeiro June 13. The Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development summit that will be held from June 20 to 22.

Ana Carolina Fernades/Reuters

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Are Latin American cities more forward thinking than the rest of the world when it comes to the consequences of global warming?

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Europe Bureau Chief

Sara Miller Llana moved to Paris in April 2013 to become the Monitor's Europe Bureau Chief. Previously she was the paper's Latin America Bureau Chief, based in Mexico City, from 2006 to 2013.

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That's what a new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says, showing that 95 percent of cities in the region are well aware of and planning for the negative effects of climate change. (That compares to just 59 percent of US cities.)

This doesn't mean Latin American countries are actually making concrete plans, but they are doing their homework: meeting with local government environmental offices, conducting research on consequences, and forming task forces and partnerships with NGOs and other local entities.

This flurry of action may not be propelled by a commitment to preparation, but instead by the fact that Latin America is under more pressure than other regions.

Another new report, this one from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in partnership with other organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, shows that Latin America is among the most vulnerable regions in the world when it comes to climate change: It could cost the region $100 billion a year by 2050 if current warming trends hold, the report says.

We recently wrote about the challenges of sustainability for megacities ahead of the UN's Conference on Sustainable Development, for the Rio+20 conference underway until June 22, looking specifically at Mexico City, Mumbai, and Lagos, Nigeria.

RELATED: Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz!

In Latin America, which accounts for only 11 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the challenges of sustainable development expand beyond the metropolis. The IADB report details the consequences of retreating glaciers, smaller agricultural yields, and natural disasters such as floods and droughts.

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