Climate Action

Strengthening climate action in Chile

Pablo Badenier Martinez, Minister of the Environment, Chile, highlights four areas that are fundamental in the fight against climate change: planning, mainstreaming climate change, implementation tools and experience sharing.

  • 28 November 2016
  • William Brittlebank

Last year, 2015, was very positive for global climate action. The outcome from Paris is the end of a process and at the same time the starting point of a global effort towards a new climate economy. Efforts are now moving towards the successful implementation of the Agreement, a major challenge for all countries supporting this international commitment. It is a powerful and constructive signal confirming the extent of the climate challenge: we must all be part of the solution.

Chile expects to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible. In any case, we are already working on measures to deliver on our commitments. Our climate agenda for the coming years is concrete. This agenda is briefly described in this article, highlighting four elements that we think are necessary for taking forward the climate agenda: planning climate action, mainstreaming climate change, implementation tools and experience sharing. 

Planning ahead

Planning is of course very important for policy-making. We are talking about interventions that may have long-term impacts. It is useful to take a gradual approach, building on previous experiences and taking into account the best information available.

We were one of the first countries to propose a draft INDC, as early as December 2014. Our national contribution is the product of responsible and serious technical work, supported by evidence which includes inputs from the civil society, received through a four-month national public consultation process. During 2016 we will deliver our 2017-2022 National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The NAPCC will be the strategic tool for implementing our INDC. It will act as a road map for climate action, helping to identify priorities and measures to fulfil our INDC in the coming years.

Chile’s INDC contains a specific commitment to develop adaptation policies. This is a response to address our country’s vulnerability to climate change. We are currently developing sectoral adaptation plans, particularly in agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure and health.

In our INDC we have also set the goal of reducing the carbon intensity of our economy. We believe we can secure economic growth at a lower level of emissions. In 2015 the Ministry of Energy introduced its long-term vision for the energy sector. We expect to reach a 70 per cent share for renewable energy by 2050. By 2015 the installed capacity of renewable energy was five times greater than in 2011, reaching 2.6GW and a 10 per cent share of total generation, excluding large-scale hydroelectric power. The momentum was first led by wind technologies, then more recently by solar. We believe in the potential of solar energy and we seek to enhance the deployment of this renewable-based source, which is in abundant supply.

 Mainstreaming climate change

 There is already abundant literature on the opportunities offered by the transition to a low carbon economy. The 2014  New Climate Economy report, that includes inputs from former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, is a good example  of this evidence.

 What is the best way to identify and grasp these opportunities? There is no single answer. We believe in a  comprehensive approach, seeking to address the various dimensions of climate change. Climate change should be  integrated into the design of public policies, especially those related to energy, infrastructure, transport and  agriculture, sectors that in the case of Chile make the largest share in total national greenhouse gas emissions.

 The NAPCC is an example of the application of this approach. This Action Plan has been developed with inputs from  relevant public actors, in order to adequately integrate their visions and sectoral priorities. Another example is the  early set-up of a unit that supports the National Designated Authority to assess potential project bids to the Green  Climate Fund. The Ministries of Environment, Finance and Foreign Affairs lead this work through a Technical  Secretariat. The process involves the participation of experts from the public and private sector, in order to strengthen the project proposals.

To further strengthen the development of the climate agenda at the national level, we are working on the implementation of best practices and technology transfer in the productive sector, with a focus on small and medium enterprises. An example of this work area is ‘Huella Chile’, a private sector focused programme aimed at promoting and supporting the measurement, reporting and management of greenhouse gases emissions. The management of emissions can have significant benefits for companies, including both real economic savings and a better corporate image.

 Using available tools

 By applying the right tools for each country’s context we can accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.  Among these tools are market-based instruments, which can help to provide the right incentives for greener decision-  making. Carbon pricing is one of these tools, as prices are a key variable in public and private economic decisions.

 We have delivered concrete progress in this area. Chile is the first South American country to have approved a tax on  CO2 emissions - US$5 per ton of CO2, applied to thermal generation., mostly sources from the electricity generation  sector. In addition, we have set up a green tax linked to the level of efficiency of new vehicles. Thus, buyers of low  fuel efficiency vehicles will pay a higher tax. This type of instrument has benefits that go beyond reducing pollutants  and black carbon. At the same time we are reducing the levels of air pollution in our cities, one of our ministerial  priorities.

Listening, talking, discussing

Partnerships and international initiatives are other relevant and useful tools for climate action. Chile participates in the Cartagena Dialogue, the OECD Climate Change Expert Group, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, among others. These initiatives are great for sharing experiences, either to lead by example or to learn from the experience of others.

Chile is engaged in strengthening Environmental Democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean, which involves stakeholders providing relevant information. We hope soon to put at the disposal of our societies a robust regional cooperation instrument on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.

Next steps

In short, there are concrete and positive developments in the international climate agenda and in our local work agenda. However, we know that there are important gaps. Mitigation commitments included in those INDCs presented to date are not enough to keep us on the 2°C path. The effectiveness of financing mechanisms and other means of implementation is not yet clear. Domestically, countries (including Chile) must further strengthen their institutions to promote the inclusion of climate change in policy decisions and public investment.

While the challenges are significant, it is clear that we are moving in the right direction. The opportunities that accompany the new climate economy and the increasingly widespread evidence of good practices and benefits from climate action will facilitate the changes we need. 

Read the full Climate Action 2016/17 Publication here