Chile hands over COP Presidency to United Kingdom and Minister Schmidt highlights drive for climate action in the country

“The presidency of the COP enabled Chile – in very complex times of strong political and social polarization – to forge a broad consensus to build progress, enhancing climate ambition and action as a State policy that transcends the government of the day governments”, asserted Minister of Environment of Chile and COP25 President, Carolina Schmidt, in her opening speech today in Glasgow.

At the opening of COP26, which is held in Glasgow, Scotland, Chile officially handed over the Presidency of the multilateral UNFCCC process – a role that was held for two years and will now be led by the United Kingdom. The opening ceremony began with a minute of silence for the victims of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The role of COP President now rests with Minister Alok Sharma of the United Kingdom, whose country will be President until late 2022.

In her Presidency hand-over speech, Minister of Environment Carolina Schmidt highlighted that Chile had taken on its Presidency “at complex times on behalf of Latin America and the Caribbean. Chile “with conviction, took a step forward when others move back” she noted.

The Minister highlighted that Chile put all its effort into directing the process “with transparency, inclusivity and ambition, respecting that this is a Party-led process and understanding that the final result is the responsibility of the consensus of all. We promote ambition, environmental integrity and action for the implementation of the Paris Agreement”.

In this context, the minister recalled the Climate Ambition Alliance for carbon neutrality promoted by Chile, which unites organizations of all kinds in their commitments to become carbon neutral. She highlighted the efforts of the High Level COP Champions of Chile and the United Kingdom to drive the Race to Zero and Race To Resilience campaigns, which have brought together more than 7,000 institutions committed to establishing concrete climate plans, with specific goals and actions based on science.

Likewise, she emphasized the Chilean Presidency had elevated adaptation to the same level as mitigation. The Minister also recalled that in the first official COP25 decision had recognized science as non-negotiable and the basis for the decision-making on this transformation to carbon neutrality, and that for the first time oceans had been incorporated into the COP process.

 

The impact of COP in Chile

During her speech, Minister Schmidt stated that assuming the of the COP25 Presidency had been worth the challenges.  “It enabled Chile – in very complex times of strong political and social polarization – to forge a broad consensus to build progress, enhancing climate ambition and action as a State policy that transcends the government of the day governments,” she emphasized.

Minister Schmidt highlighted that in this period, for example, a Climate Change Framework Law had been approved in Chile’s Senate, which will enshrine the goal of achieving carbon neutrality and climate resilience by no later than 2050 – as called for by the science. In April 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, Chile updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), aligned with this carbon neutrality target, which was recognized for its ambition.

A Climate Risk Atlas was also developed for Chile’s entire national territory, a key instrument for informing adaptation efforts. The process of decarbonization the energy system was accellerated, establishing the immediate closure of a number of coal-fired plants as soon as the COP25 Presidency was assumed, with the closure of 65% of all coal-fired plants in Chile agreed by the year 2025.

In addition, the country launched its Long-Term Climate Strategy (LTCS), which sets fixed emission limits for all emitting sectors of the national economy, and “more than 400 concrete multisectoral measures on a clear path to achieve carbon neutrality and resilience for our country”.

 

Expectations COP26

Turning to expectations for COP26, the Minister of Environment indicated the need for urgent action. “In Chile and throughout the world, we strongly feel the effects of climate change. Citizens expect a lot from their leaders at the COP. Our generation is not going to stop climate change today, but it must urgently make a course-change to stop it,” she explained.

She recalled that the Paris Agreement had established two mandatory instruments to address climate change: presenting more ambitious NDCs and LTCS. “These are two concrete instruments that all countries must use to reduce that gap; there are no others. We cannot rewrite the Paris Agreement, we have to comply with it,” she stressed.

Finally, Minister Schmidt declared herself optimistic about the critical agreements that must be made. “Success does not lie in dividing ourselves, it is not in looking to blame or defeat others, but in combining our joint will to keep our word, and ensure that our actions truly reflect our discourse,” she closed.

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