Chile pulls plug on crucial climate summit, Madrid steps in

Demonstrators gather on a street during protests against the government of Sebastian Pinera, in Santiago, Chile, 29 October 2019. [Photo: EPA-EFE/ALBERTO VALDES]

Updated with Spain’s announcement

Chile will not host the UN’s annual climate summit planned in December, President Sebastian Piñera announced on Wednesday (30 October) as civil unrest continues to wrack the South American nation. The event will instead move to Madrid.

Piñera said in a statement delivered outside the presidential palace in Santiago that Chile would not be able to host the COP25 event, set to start on 2 December, or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, scheduled for November.

“We deeply regret the problems and inconveniences that this decision will mean for both summits. But as the president of all Chileans, I always have to put the problems and interests of Chileans, their needs, their desires and their hopes first in line,” the president said.

A state of emergency was declared earlier in October as mass protests against social inequality swept the country. Several deaths have been reported amid street violence, which was initially triggered by a hike in metro fare.

Santiago took over COP hosting duties from Brazil, whose new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, decided to scrap the summit. Bolsonaro is a climate change-sceptic and has championed policies that have increased deforestation in the Amazon.

Brazil scraps plans to host UN climate summit

Brazil’s far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday (28 November) that he pushed the government to withdraw its offer to host the United Nations climate conference next year, maintaining that his country’s sovereignty over the Amazon was at stake.

Spain offered on Thursday to take on the responsibility, a plan that was sanctioned by the UN on Friday. The summit will therefore be held on the same dates in Madrid instead.

UN climate head Patricia Espinosa said that “We are pleased to announce the COP Bureau has agreed that COP25 will take place from 2-13 December in Madrid”, while Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, tweeted that it was “excellent news”.

The socialist leader added that his government “remains firmly committed to lasting progress and a just social transition”.

COP25 is set to be another important milestone in the post-Paris Agreement process, as final details of the landmark climate change pact, like carbon markets, are due to be finalised.

The German city of Bonn was initially touted as an alternative to Santiago, given that it is the home-base of the UN’s climate office and has hosted COPs in the past, when countries have not had the capacity to handle the event.

This last happened in 2017, when hosts Fiji were unable to handle the logistics of the summit, which is normally attended by tens of thousands of delegates and officials.

Germany’s environment secretary, Jochen Flasbarth, tweeted that “we are in contact with the UN Climate Change secretariat and the Polish COP24 presidency to discuss the situation.”

However, it was unclear if the facilities in Bonn would be available in the first two weeks of December, as planned, or even if the German government would be willing to host the summit, given the delicate issue of climate policy in the Bundesrepublik currently.

Later on Thursday (31 October), Flasbarth warned that “It’s not just about professionalism and commitment – it also has to be logistical. This is the problem for many potential locations – even for Bonn. And besides, it is not necessarily desirable to do it more and more frequently in the global north.”

Green MEP Michael Bloss said before the Madrid announcement was made that “COP must take place. If not in Chile, then in Bonn, where the Climate Secretariat of the United Nations is located. Climate neutrality and the launch of the Paris Climate Change Agreement period must not be postponed.”

New German climate package a 'slap in the face', young activists say

The climate march in Berlin last Friday came just at the moment when the German climate cabinet unveiled its new policy package – a proposal youth climate activists denounced as a “slap in the face”. EURACTIV Germany reports.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]


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