Meet the three Latin American women who spur climate action at COP25

Carolina Schmidt, Lorena Aguilar and Patricia Espinosa: three names you need to remember if you’re interested in climate policy.


Anne-Sophie Garrigou

The Beam’s editor-in-chief, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, is reporting from COP25 in Madrid


If you are interested in climate action, sustainable development and environmental protection, you probably know that the 25th UN conference for climate, also known at COP25, is currently happening in Madrid, Spain.

The Conference of the Parties (yes, that’s what COP stands for) normally rotates between the five geographic regions of the United Nations. COP24 was in Poland last year. The COP23 presidency was held by the Republic of Fiji but organised in Bonn as it wasn’t possible for any of the pacific islands to welcome the more or less 20,000 people that come to the event. COP22 was in Marrakesh in 2016, etc. And so this year it’s the turn of Latin America and the Caribbean (keep that in mind for later).

You might remember that COP25 was first set to be held in Brazil. Then Bolsonaro got elected, and the country quickly withdrew its offer to stage the event. That was November 2018. Then Chile won the bid, and everyone was really excited about the news. But just a month ago, the Chilean government also pulled out due to the ongoing civil protests happening all over the country. Let’s acknowledge here that Chilean people started protesting in response to a rise in the Santiago Metro’s subway fare, the increased cost of living, privatisation and inequality prevalent in the country. At least 19 people have died, nearly 2,500 have been injured, and 2,840 have been arrested. Chilean civil society climate organisation rejected the decision of the President not to carry out COP 25 in Chile, highlighting that the climate change summit was a great opportunity to relieve the social and environmental problems that affect Chilean people and ecosystems and to lift some of the leadership lost internationally.

Now, back to what’s happening in Madrid, the country that accepted to organise the event at the very last minute, and to the three women who are at the heart of this year’s event.

Carolina Schmidt is the Chilean Minister of Environment (remember Chile is still chairing COP25) and the president-designate for the UN’s 25th climate talks (by the way, she is the first woman in eight years to lead UN climate summit. Not good enough.). Lorena Aguilar is the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, the country that hosted this year’s pre-COP (yes, there is a pre-event before the big event). Finally, there is no need to present her anymore but here we go: Patricia Espinosa is the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, and a Mexican politician and diplomat.

In a common press conference, the three Latin American women highlighted that climate change represents a common threat — one that can only be addressed by a coordinated multilateral endeavour across the region they represent.

“I want to thank all of the Latin American and Caribbean delegations, and in particular Costa Rica for hosting the Pre-COP and Chile for presiding over COP25. You have shown great flexibility and determination, which has allowed us to hold this Latin American and Caribbean COP in Madrid”, asserted Patricia Espinosa.

Carolina Schmidt reinforced the call for countries to come forward with more ambitious commitments. “This Latin American and Caribbean COP has a clear objective: take action. ‘Time for action’ is not a slogan, it’s a necessity, a moral, social and economic must, and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean know this very well. The region has over 50 million inhabitants that are being struck by the impacts of climate change. We have come here to represent those voices — of women, of children, of the youth, of adults — that in our region have pressing social, environmental and economic needs that are distinct from those in developed countries. Climate change is not fair, and it profoundly affects the most vulnerable”, she commented.

On this matter, Lorena Aguilar emphasised women’s’ leadership in the conference: “This is like a dream come true. It took us 25 years to get here but we feel very proud of that. Costa Rica was the host of the Pre-COP; this is the Latin American and the Caribbean COP. Every time a COP goes to a region is to show how proud we are, what we have done. This is a global crisis. This is a COP that calls for ambition and implementation. We have to remember that Latin America and the Caribbean is the most unequal region in the world”.

The call to climate action is clear: “We have to bring other actors to the table, such as local governments, cities, regions, the private sector so that they commit to carbon neutrality by 2050 as the science dictates. That transformation, which unites the voices of all actors, is necessary to enable increased ambition, and that is why we are here today to call upon the world to promote this climate action and this change of direction that we need”, said the COP25 President.

There is great hope that the conference (considered as the world’s most important climate change event every year) will achieve tougher and more ambitious commitments to the protection of the planet. We’ll try to keep you informed about the progress. Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter if you have any questions or if you want us to write about a particular issue: