Climate News

Chilean Presidency Attempts to Deliver at COP25 Amidst Controversies

Protesters decry the Chilean economic model at climate march in Madrid on December 6.

Chile is in the spotlight at this year’s UN Climate Conference (COP25) since it is presiding over the annual gathering, which Chile could not host because of widespread protests at home. The two-week conference, which ends later this week, was moved to Madrid.

As accusations of human rights violations continue to mount, the Chilean Presidency at COP25 is under pressure to help deliver key decisions on issues such as global carbon markets and loss and damage.

Whatever praise Chile’s delegation has received for facilitating the conference, it must be seen in light of social unrest back home, its refusal to sign the Escazú Agreement, delays in its emissions goal boost and continued reliance on an extractive economy.  

What’s more, mass protests outside the conference reflect a desire for bolder action on climate change.

Move to Madrid provides cover

The move from Santiago to Madrid allowed COP25 President Carolina Schmidt and the Chilean delegation to escape the social unrest in Chile as millions have taken to the streets to protest rising inequality and demand real change from President Sebastian Piñera.  This was supposed to be the first time the COP would be held in Latin America since 2014 and was intended to be a major opportunity for civil society organizations in Chile and elsewhere in the region to bring attention to key environmental issues.

The actions taken by Piñera’s government and the last-minute venue change have left a bad taste among many at COP25.

“It is something that has greatly stained the presidency in the moment we need to raise ambition and strike agreements,” said Gabriela Burdiles, Project Director for the Chilean environmental group FIMA.  “It is extremely worrisome.”

Others hoped that this would be an opportunity to highlight Chile’s numerous environmental problems. While Chile has received much international recognition for its rapidly growing solar energy market and recently launched decarbonization plan, the nation’s economy relies on extractive industry, and its continued embrace of coal shows a “double discourse” in its decarbonization talks. 

“In the case of Chile, we of course lament the change in location because we thought it would be an opportunity, above all, for the world to see the problems of Latin America and Chile,” said Chilean environmental activist Juan Pablo Orrego.  “Chile, in particular, has sold the image of a model country, a nation with great social stability that cares for its environment. And it would have been interesting for the world to see that is not the case.”

Chilean Presidency tries to facilitate dialogue

At COP25, the Chilean presidency has shown a willingness to work with state and non-state actors as they attempt to deliver resolutions on key issues by the end of the conference, although it appears unlikely there will be any major decisions surrounding ambition in the coming days.  

I would say the Presidency is making a good effort to engage with civil society and get input on both technical issues on state of play and strategy,” said Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “There are some very difficult countries they have to deal with. I think they have done a good job in engaging with countries on the elements of those draft decisions and getting those views.”

Fundación Terram Executive Director Flavia Liberona also praised the efforts of Chile’s delegation, saying that “the COP25 team led by Julio Cordano, has shown experience, capacity at facilitating dialogue and much willingness to meet with civil society.”

Chile continues to reject the Escazú Agreement

With human rights already a contentious topic at this year’s climate conference, Chile’s refusal to sign the Escazu Agreement ahead of COP25 looms even larger. 

The Escazú Agreement is a regional environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean that seeks to provide access to information and protect the rights of environmental defenders. Colombia became the twenty-second nation to sign the Escazú Agreement during COP25, putting even more pressure on Chile and other nations to sign and ratify the Agreement.

“From our perspective, the fact that the government will not sign this important treaty on human rights and access to information on environmental issues reflects poorly on Chile,” said Liberona. “This is shown with the human rights violations occurring in the country following its social collapse.  We believe that at the very least, in the Latin American context, it has weakened the COP’s Presidency.”

Liberona also said, “The presidency of the COP has shown weakness in understanding national demands on climate.”  

A delay in emissions goal boost

The Chilean government had originally intended to present a strengthened climate plan at COP25. However, delays caused in part by the protests in the country have meant that Schmidt and the Chilean delegation will not be presenting this plan at COP25, though the proposal under discussion is better.

The new NDC is much more ambitious than the NDC that was turned in in 2015 before the convention,” said Liberona. 

But Liberona added, “On the aspects of mitigation, it does not follow the recommendation of science. That is to say it will not pass 1.5°C.”

Categories: Climate News

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