Towards a low emission, climate-resilient world

Carolina Schmidt, Chile's Environmental Minister: “Once we recover from this health crisis, we must be clear that recovery will have to consider tackling the very big problem of dealing with climate change.”

We are living moments of great uncertainty. The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic requires a major effort to regain the path of growth. However, this new global scenario presents a valuable opportunity to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient development model, putting people and their territories at the centre of the priorities.

The presentation of more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and Long Term Climate Strategies are key to designing economic recovery plans that involve significant reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions and a better quality of life. At least this is what the Chilean authorities indicate, who as the COP25 Presidency, and in close collaboration with the incoming UK Presidency, continue to work to make Climate Ambition the focus of the preparation and presentation of the NDC updated to 2020 (see the news for April 9: presentation of Chile’s NDC).

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Carolina Schmidt, Chile's Minister of the Environment and President of COP25.

From your role as President of COP25, how are you coordinating with the future presidency of COP26, especially at such a difficult time in the world with COVID19?

We are living through a pandemic that is of unknown dimensions. This is why the care of each and every person is the priority. However, we must not forget that just as we are in a global health crisis today, we are still living a climate crisis that affects the whole world.

In light of this, it is important to keep in mind that once we recover from this health crisis, we must be clear that recovery has to consider tackling the huge problem that lies ahead: dealing with climate change.

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In this context, as presidency of COP25 we are working hard and in close collaboration with the incoming presidency of COP26. We are carrying out a permanent coordination between the two presidencies in three dimensions: technical, diplomatic and political levels. This coordination is very important to achieving an adequate transfer of experiences and challenges facing the presidency of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC. But, not only do we have to coordinate the transition of this period, we must also maintain climate action in these times of pandemic and postCOVID19.

We are also pushing very hard the alliance for climate ambition that Chile has led to increase a broad commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, as science has asked us to do. To reinforce this task, the Alliance for Climate Ambition is working on four levels: at the level of the States to achieve the commitment of the countries; at the level of the private sector -fundamental to achieving this transformation-; at the level of local governments and, finally, at the level of the financial institutions sector.

This Alliance for Climate Action, to which we have invited the participation of the United Kingdom presidency, is a strong point of the coordination we are promoting. Because for the recovery from this pandemic to have a clear direction, a recovery that takes charge of climate change and that helps us achieve a transition towards a low-emission, climate-resilient world is indispensable.

Chile will maintain its commitment to Climate Action and to the international community. We will be an active and collaborative Presidency until the celebration of COP26 in 2021.

I would like to emphasise that during this time, it will be up to our country to preside over the sessions of the bureau and to provide guidance in the decisions that must be made in that instance. We will also coordinate closely with the incoming presidency of COP26, which has the responsibility of defining the strategy and priorities for the next conference, COP26.

Regarding the first Framework Law on Climate Change currently being discussed in Congress in Chile, how does the institutional and regulatory framework proposed in this law contribute to strengthening the implementation of the commitments to the Paris Agreement?

This Law is key, because it not only establishes Chile's carbon neutrality by 2050, but also because it establishes the climate governance that will allow us as a country to fulfil our international commitments and address the impacts of climate change in the national territory. The Law leads us to strengthen the obligations, powers, and responsibilities of the various State agencies. Specifically, the Law establishes the obligation to develop, maintain, monitor, and verify a long-term strategy and the nationally determined contribution (both instruments are established in the Paris Agreement).

However, in the face of this climate emergency, the obligations that must be assumed as a State must transcend a particular government. For this reason, it is key to set the goals, instruments and tools that each of the ministries and actors at the local and central levels must use to implement Climate Action in the country. As I indicate and emphasise, the Law establishes the obligation to have a Long-Term Climate Strategy, the updating of this Strategy every 10 years, the emissions reduction goal for each of the sectors and also the goals that we must advance in the adaptation to climate change at the local level. This is a fundamental instance for our country to have effective Climate Action.

Why has this been defined as a participatory process?

This is the most important thing. Climate change is something that affects us all. It affects people in their territories, especially the most vulnerable groups of the population. That is why, in order to build a climate institution that will allow transformations towards low-emission, climate-resilient development, we must generate a very participatory process that takes into account local realities and the diversity that exists in the country.

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We built the Framework Law on Climate Change as an unprecedented process of early citizen participation to develop the draft in which we had very important support from EUROCLIMA+.

The participation contemplated all the regions of the country, considering science, NGOs, the private sector, academia, social organisations, the public sector, and others, who made around 4,000 observations to improve the project.

This participation made it possible to significantly improve the preliminary draft of the Law by including, for example, specific adaptation commitments, recognising water as a priority work area and establishing specific instruments such as integrated watershed management plans. Or in the case of mitigation, by establishing, for example, command and control instruments such as emission standards and compensation systems. The draft Law was signed by 15 ministries and we presented it to Congress in January 2020, where its discussion and processing is progressing.

A few weeks ago, in 2020, Chile also presented its updated NDC. What are the foundations of this new NDC, and above all, what distinguishes it from its predecessor?

Chile's new NDC responds to the call to act with a sense of urgency to mobilise climate action at the global level, increasing ambition in each of its components, understanding the important environmental and social benefits this brings both globally and nationally.

There are several main elements that distinguish it from its predecessor:

  1. It is a clearly more ambitious NDC than its predecessor. It was structured on the basis of a cross-cutting component, called the Social Pillar of Just Transition and Sustainable Development, and four specific components, incorporating mitigation; adaptation; a new integration component, with benefits in both mitigation and adaptation; and a means of implementation component, which includes capacity building and strengthening, technology development and transfer, and climate finance.
  2. In terms of mitigation, the emissions intensity indicator was replaced by incorporating a carbon budget of 1,100 MtCO2eq, peak GHG emissions in 2025, and a budget of 95MtCO2eq in 2030. This will make it possible to manage an emissions reduction trajectory in line with the proposal for emissions neutrality by 2050, incorporated into the Draft Framework Law on Climate Change.
  3. An important focus is placed on the adaptation pillar, which is key for Chile because it is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, establishing the obligation and concrete commitments for updating the National and Sectoral Adaptation Plan, and establishing plans at the territorial level, among others. For example, we are currently experiencing a severe drought, partly due to climate change, which is why our new NDC places special emphasis on the issue of water.
  4. The integration pillar is a very distinctive novelty where we reveal the role of the ocean, peatlands, the circular economy, the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry sector (LULUCF), and nature-based solutions based on landscape restoration, with more than one million hectares.
  5. This is the first NDC that includes a social pillar that is transversal to the three previous pillars and that relates each one of Chile's commitments in this NDC with the Sustainable Development Objectives.
  6. Finally, the transparency mechanisms are established. At COP24 in Poland we reached an agreement to establish the transparency requirements that should be incorporated into the NDCs by 2025. Well, Chile has decided to move forward and in our 2020 NDC we have given a solidity to this tool on transparency that is key for the transformation of our country towards sustainable, low emission development.

How does the inclusion of this Social Pillar in Chile's NDC intersect with commitments on mitigation and adaptation?

This social pillar intersects with each and every one of the commitments, and it also links them together. This is its direct contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

It has a very particular focus on the decarbonisation process by taking charge of having a process for just transition, which watches over the reality of the people who work in the coal plants, but it also reveals and shows that climate change is not just a definition of science, it is a reality that is present in our daily lives, and whose impacts are being manifested with increasing strength. Therefore, we must make this relationship between the climate agenda and the social agenda explicit.

For example, we saw the phenomenon of yellow vests in Paris or in Ecuador when the tax on diesel was increased and that produced a major social protest; we also saw it in our country with the social explosion of October 18. These transformation processes require a just transition, especially for the most vulnerable population. If these transitions are not achieved, it will be very difficult for the processes to be successful. This is why we are taking charge in Chile, putting people and the environment at the centre.

7The revised NDC includes a commitment to a national climate capacity and empowerment strategy: What is the importance of education, awareness, training and participation of the different actors in the long-term changes that Chile has to go through in order to achieve low emission and climate-resilient development?

The transformation we must make is intimately linked to the way we behave: how we produce, how we consume and how we transport ourselves to deliver the benefits of a modern society without the costs to the environment that this generates. Here I refer particularly to the tremendous costs in greenhouse gas emissions that are being produced by the tremendous impact of global warming. Therefore, in order to make this transformation, we require processes of education, awareness, capacity building and recognition of the reality of the people in their territories.

For this reason, Chile's updated NDC establishes a specific commitment to develop and implement the "Strategy for Capacity Building and Climate Empowerment", with the objective of strengthening the sectoral, national and sub-national capacities of individuals and organisations, both public and private, in academia and civil society, to achieve the country's mitigation and adaptation goals, which integrates the six elements of action for climate empowerment defined at the international level.

This strategy is also part of the means of implementation of the Long Term Climate Strategy, so its vision will integrate the NDC's goals and the long-term view.

When will Chile have its Long Term Strategy ready?

This is a first, but we are already launching the formal process for formulating Chile’s Long Term Climate Strategy on May 18th in a very relevant event where we will have the participation of global leaders in climate action and many others who have supported us in this process, as well as EUROCLIMA+.

We are working in a very concrete way to build a participation process, to formulate a preliminary project that will be presented to the citizens at the beginning of next year for the Chilean Long Term Climate Strategy.

How do you expect EUROCLIMA+ to accompany you in the implementation of the strategy?

Carolina Schmitd

The accompaniment from EUROCLIMA+ is for the process of carrying out the implementation and development of the strategy, capacity building and climate empowerment.

This European Union Programme first gives us extensive experience. One example is the development of literature in Spanish, citing the recently published book on Action for Empowerment, which analyses several countries, including Chile. This experience is key for the construction of effective strategies that are made in accordance with the local reality. Let us remember that the needs of the citizenry of the territories are very diverse throughout the country and only if we think from the reality of the territories can we make a strategy that is effective.

Second, because at EUROCLIMA+ they have a great deal of technical knowledge that is very valuable to us. There we have technicians from both Europe and Latin America who can support us in the construction of the strategy, but above all, they can help us build internal capacities, by providing us with accompaniment and support in the financial area, which is also key to the development of this Strategy.

I would also like to point out that the European Union and its EUROCLIMA+ programme has been a strategic ally of our country in moving forward with concrete actions. We received their support before the COP25 and to launch our Framework Law on Climate Change that we are discussing today in Congress. And now it will support us in the construction of the Long Term Climate Strategy and in particular in the generation of the strategy that allows us to empower the citizenry in climate action, in building capacities at the sub-national level and in supporting the public consultation process for the Strategy.

This alliance between Europe and Latin America in the construction of these tools can definitely generate a powerful global level change in Climate Action.

 

EUROCLIMA letra blanca peqEUROCLIMA+ is the European Union's flagship programme on environmental sustainability and climate change with Latin America. It aims to reduce the impact of climate change and its effects in Latin America by promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation through resilience and investment. 
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