After the renunciation of Chile, can COP25 on climate be organized elsewhere?

Due to social unrest in his country, the Chilean president has announced the cancellation of the conference in Santiago, scheduled for December 2 to 13.

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New demonstrations, sometimes enamelled of incidents, took place again Tuesday October 29 to maintain the pressure on the government.
New demonstrations, sometimes enamelled of incidents, took place again Tuesday October 29 to maintain the pressure on the government. ESTEBAN FELIX / AP

Chile gives up organizing the COP25 World Climate Conference in December, as well as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum Summit due to the country's unprecedented protest movement, announced President of the Republic, Sebastian Piñera, Wednesday, October 30.

"It is with a deep sense of pain, because it is painful for Chile, that our government has decided not to hold the APEC summit. (…), nor that of COP25 "said the conservative head of state. The APEC summit was scheduled to take place in Santiago on 16 and 17 November and COP25 from 2 to 13 December. US President Donald Trump had hinted on Monday that signing a trade deal with Beijing could take place before the APEC summit – an economic forum that brings together some 20 Pacific Rim countries.

As for the COP, this last-minute cancellation, unprecedented in the history of climate negotiations, is likely to slow down the momentum of efforts in the fight against climate disruption. Chile had agreed to host and chair COP25 in December 2018, following the withdrawal of Brazil's candidacy by its climate-sensitive president, Jair Bolsonaro. Since then, the country has been actively preparing for the organization of this annual event, which was expected to bring together around 25,000 people, including heads of state and government, ministers, delegates and representatives of civil society.

Can the COP be organized elsewhere?

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Patricia Espinosa, taken in court, said in a statement "Explore alternative solutions". Several options could be on the table: organizing the COP in Bonn (Germany), where the UNFCCC headquarters are located, or in a third country – which seems unlikely – with a few weeks or months late; bring it together with the next Bonn climate negotiations in June; or cancel it altogether.

"The organization of an event of this size and importance can not be improvised: it takes months of preparation, at best a year, to solve logistical problems, build a large conference center and find accommodation capacity »says Paul Watkinson, chairman of the UNFCCC scientific and technological advisory body.

Beyond the host country, there is the question of the presidency of the COP, so far entrusted to the Chilean environment minister Carolina Schmidt. It will be a matter of seeing if this presidency is maintained or transmitted to another country, which could weaken any hint of strong political leadership. COP25 is seen as an intermediate step ahead of COP26 to be held in Glasgow (United Kingdom) in December 2020, during which states must submit new plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more ambitious – while Current state promises put the planet on a trajectory of over 3 ° C warming.

"This makes it harder for the climate negotiations, and the whole movement launched with the New York summit in September, to increase the efforts of the countries. Chile was an opportunity to create a new political moment to put pressure on states and encourage them to revise up their commitments. This opportunity disappears, at least temporarily ", regrets a connoisseur of the file.

Subway ticket

For twelve days, the movement of social protest has not weakened in Chile. First caused by the rising cost of living in the country, and in particular by the increase in the price of the metro ticket in Santiago, the movement has grown despite the suspension of this last measure.

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"We have not been able to recognize the extent of this situation of inequality and abuse. I beg your pardon for this lack of vision »Sebastian Piñera said in a televised speech last week. 20% increase in the lowest pensions, revaluation of the minimum wage, lowering the salaries of parliamentarians, freezing the price of electricity, lowering the price of medicines, raising taxes for the richest … Mr. Piñera, which had gathered several presidents of political parties on Tuesday, carried out a long series of measures which will be put to the vote of the Congress or approved by presidential decree. "This social agenda will not solve all the problems that plague Chileans, but it is a necessary and significant effort to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable"announced the head of state.

The head of state has also separated Monday from eight ministers, out of twenty-four that account his government. The new finance minister, Ignacio Briones, said on Tuesday that the Chilean economy would be affected by the social crisis. "The signals we have given (…) will generate a decrease in investments ", he said, adding that it would be necessary to revise the growth forecast for 2019. New events, sometimes enamelled incidents, still took place Tuesday to keep the pressure on the government.

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