Chile withdrew on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 as the host of the 25th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), scheduled to hold in Santiago from December 2 to 13.
The abrupt move, which appears to have thrown the COP25 planning and preparation process into a confusion, came after weeks of riots over inequality in Chile that have left at least 18 people dead.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, fighting for his political survival, said he had taken the “painful” decision to cancel the COP, as well as the Apec summit scheduled to hold in November, to focus on restoring law and order and pushing through a new social plan.
At the Apec summit, the United States and China were expected to sign a deal to ease trade tensions hurting the global economy.
The climate summit would have brought delegates from around 190 nations to talks aimed at thrashing out details of how to reduce global emissions to meet the Paris climate agreement.
“As President to all Chileans I must always put the problems and interests of Chileans, their needs, their desires and their hopes, first,” Pinera said in a brief statement at the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago.
The United Nations is looking for a new venue for the conference after Pinera spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone on Wednesday to inform him of Chile’s withdrawal, a UN spokesman said.
However, in a statement made available to EnviroNews on Wednesday, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said: “Earlier today, I was informed of the decision by the Government of Chile not to host COP25 in view of the difficult situation that the country is undergoing. We are currently exploring alternative hosting options.”
With public concern at climate change having sparked demonstrations around the globe in recent months, Chile’s withdrawal – the first time a host nation had pulled out of hosting a major climate summit at such short notice – threw the process into confusion.
It came just days before Trump is expected to formalise his government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Nov 4.
The cancellations are a further blow to Chile’s much-vaunted image as one of the most stable countries in Latin America.
“This has been a very difficult decision, a decision that causes us a lot of pain, because we fully understand the importance of Apec and COP25 for Chile and for the world,” Pinera added.
Chile’s embattled leader fired almost half his Cabinet this week – including his finance, interior and economy ministers – in a bid to quell the protests but to little effect.
With Pinera’s popularity at an all-time low, Chileans were calling for new protests and the United Nations was sending a team to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by security forces.
Costa Rica’s Environment and Energy Minister, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, said the country was in talks with Chile and would support decisions to quickly find a successful alternative.
Costa Rica hosted a smaller climate change meeting, known as PreCOP25, earlier this month.