The need for green: Sustainable takeaways from Concordia Americas Summit

Panelists of the ‘Latin America's Response to Economic Rivalry and Manufacturing Innovations’ at Concordia Americas Summit hosted at the University of Miami on Tuesday, April. 23. Photo credit: Cecelia Runner

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to a third of the Earth’s freshwater and nearly a quarter of its forests, making it one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. This rich biodiversity translates into billions of dollars worth of ecosystem services. It is also quickly emerging as the new favorite sector for investment into the Americas.

At the annual Concordia Americas Summit, the largest nonpartisan assembly alongside the United Nations General Assembly, private and public sector leaders honed in on the need for sustainable investments into Latin America and the Caribbean. The Summit, hosted at the University of Miami, challenged leaders to think about how environmental preservation can support development instead of standing in the way of it.

It is part of a transition to prioritize green economies among some of the biggest names in the Americas including the Libra Group, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, New York Mayor Eric Adams and former President of Bolivia Jorge Quiroga alongside corporate leaders and prominent scholars.

“We wanted to use our platform, and especially our significant private sector engagement, to be this catalyst to advance marketled solutions to the different issues and challenges facing the environment,” Matthew Swift, the CEO and co-founder of Concordia, said.

The Summit kicked off Climate Week Miami on Monday, April 22 with a commitment to the environment through a partnership with CrossBoundary Group’s Fund for Nature – a group focused on investing in sustainable solutions in underserved communities. The collaboration was announced by former President of Colombia Iván Duque who has worked to preserve the Amazon Rainforest that stretches across a third of the country.

“We have to act and we have to act promptly,” Duque said. “We have to combine not only the enforcement against environmental crimes but we have to bring those players who can massively mobilize capital associated with conservation and restoration projects in the whole Amazon biome.”

A moment to connect finance with nature

Latin America has experienced firsthand how damaging the loss of an ecosystem can be with the deforestation of the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of square miles of the rainforest have been lost in only a few decades with record high losses reported in 2022. Studies now estimate that between $1.7 and $2.8 billion must be invested into Amazon every year to maintain it at 80% capacity.

Getting ahead of this curve and trend in climate response was a prominent concern and hope among speakers.

“How do we attach a value to the tree before we cut it down?” Chris Ballard, Ontario’s minister of environment and climate change & minister of housing, said. “We’re looking at ways of making our cities habitable in the face of climate change and it costs a lot more money to fix this after the fact than it does to plan properly.”

The consensus among attendees was that the push for sustainable change will come down to cities and private market investments.

“It’s looking at public private partnerships as the answer versus saying, this is just a government problem or this is just a business problem,” Swift said.

Throughout the sustainability panels, mayors were present, from Miami-Dade and New York, to Kingston, Jamaica Quito and Ecuador, to talk about the initiatives they are leading, or have led, to build climate resilience and finance urban nature in their cities.

“I think regulations and the combined work between the cities and the leadership of the cities is going to be absolutely key to preserving that,” Alejandro Guerrero, the president & CEO of Lockton Argentina and Uruguay, said. “You have to understand where the government is going to come in.”

Major international conferences are coming to South America

The role of government in Latin America at the international level will become increasingly important through 2025. Within the next year and half, South America will be home to the G20 Summit, COP 16 for the Convention on Biological Diversity and COP 30, the UN Climate Change Conference. Hosting these conferences will allow Latin America to start the conversation for private-public sector collaboration in the environment.

“The biggest and most important events about climate, about economics, about nature will be in Latin America,” Carlos Correa, former minister of environment and sustainable development in Colombia, said. “That’s a huge responsibility. We have to take advantage of that and leverage that.”

Biodiversity is likely going to take a main stage at these platforms. Throughout the Summit, leaders, including Duque and Guerrero, discussed the potential for biodiversity credits, a new initiative by the World Economic Forum that would allow companies to earn biodiversity credits as a reward for preserving or restoring a set amount of land, helping meet company sustainability goals.

“At one point in our history we are going to have to understand that countries are not only valuable for what they produce but for what they have, it’s also what they preserve,” Guerrero said.