Ipala Volcano, Guatemala The Global Environment Outlook produced by the United Nations Environment Programme, singles out Latin America as a key area of environmental concern. It highlights two major environmental issues currently facing the region:
1. To find solutions to the problems of the urban environment, which houses approximately three-quarters of the region’s population.
2. To find ways of promoting the sustainable use of tropical forests and biodiversity.
The urbanisation of the region creates its own problems: shanty towns which lack basic public services and amenities, deterioration in air quality and issues surrounding waste disposal are just a few examples.
The Amazon encompasses more than half of the world's remaining tropical rainforest. But deforestation in the Amazon has become a major international concern with global environmental impacts through its contribution to global warming and loss of biodiversity, as well as regional impacts through soil erosion, river sedimentation and local climate change. In 1978 the Treaty of Amazon Co-operation was signed by eight countries to promote sustainable development in the region.
Latin America contains some of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The World Conservation Monitoring Centre has ranked countries according to their biodiversity and Latin American countries feature highly. The list of the 25 most diverse countries in the world includes; Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
Latin American governments have started to recognise the importance of the environment. They have established environment ministries, and some countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Ecuador have created national environmental action plans.
Torres del Paine, Chile Environmental issues play a central part in the Government's foreign policy. We are actively seeking to strengthen the environmental dimension of the UK's wider co-operation with Latin American countries. We have signed bilateral action plans with Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, setting out our desire to strengthen environmental co-operation. The UK plays an important role in international processes on forestry, climate change, biodiversity and other environmental issues, which have an impact on the environment in Latin America. Our Diplomatic Posts regularly lobby on these issues. Posts are also active in building partnerships with government representatives, local communities and NGOs to help to deal with practical environmental problems.