While the COP25 is known as the “Time for Action” COP due to the need for all countries to expand their commitments to limit global warming, Chile wants to highlight the following topics.
Oceans play a fundamental role in mitigating climate change since they capture and store more than 90% of the heat and approximately 25% of the carbon produced by emissions from human activities. Unfortunately, the increase in heat and carbon in the ocean is having visible, global impacts, and to a large extent, irreversible, such as the increase in temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification and changes in marine biodiversity, among others.
Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers (cryosphere), besides being major water reserves, are important climate regulators since they reflect the solar energy back into space and thus affecting the planet’s energy balance. The cryosphere is also very sensitive to global warming, which leads to melting and loss of mass, processes that are (in part) responsible for rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity and deterioration of ecosystems. Alterations occurring in Antarctica (due to climate change) will have global consequences and will last for several centuries.
The direct and indirect effects of climate change are closely related to changes in biodiversity resulting from human activity, so it is essential to ensure the preservation of biodiversity and its functions and allow for our development as a society. Biodiversity is fundamental for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, which is why it is necessary to carry out actions that enable its preservation.
In this context, Chile has not fallen behind; it has a wide network of land and marine protected areas and is carrying out a National Plan for Wetlands Protection and working on a Draft Bill for the creation of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service (SBAP).
Forests deserve special mention, as they play an important role in mitigating climate change by capturing and sequestering CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. In addition, they provide a number of benefits, such as water provision, protection of soil and biodiversity in general. Chile boasts an extensive network of well-preserved native forest ecosystems, especially in the Patagonian zone. Nonetheless, in other parts of the country these ecosystems have been significantly altered and therefore their restoration must be a priority to mitigate climate change.
Estimations from climate change scenarios for Chile include increasing temperature, decreasing rainfall in the center-south and possible increases in farthest areas, and changes in glaciers surface area. These scenarios imply increasing extreme weather events and decreasing water availability, having significant impact on ecosystems, population and productive activities. In order to cope with this impact, adaptation measures are required across sectors. The implementation of these measures must be focused on institutional improvements, design of resilient infrastructure, protection of ecosystems and less vulnerable communities.
The world is facing an unprecedented process of urbanization, which in Chile is particularly evident, with 90% of Chileans living in cities. The large size of cities makes them extremely complex, but trends of weak sustainability are seen in medium-sized and small settlements as well.
Cities contribute to climate change through the use of energy for transport, construction, housing operations and production processes, and are therefore vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
On the other hand, local mitigation actions by the cities have the potential for an immediate impact which, when added together, can create global effects and local co-benefits such as reduced air pollution.
With regard to adaptation, it is key for local and regional governments to integrate climate risks into their urban planning and management processes, in conjunction with the general public and service companies.
Renewable energies are of the utmost importance for achieving sustainable development and for Chile’s ambition to be carbon neutral by mid-century, as they do not generate direct greenhouse gases emissions (unlike fossil fuels).
Chile has accomplished a rapid conversion to renewable energies without the need for direct subsidies. In fact, Chile leads Bloomberg’s Climatescope 2018 ranking as the most attractive country for the development of clean energies (out of a total of 103 emerging markets). Despite this, we are currently tapping only about 12 GW of our renewable energy potential, which exceeds 1,800 GW.
The fundamental principle of the circular economy is using waste as raw material for other products, drastically reducing both waste generation and the extraction of new and raw materials.
In February 2019, Chile passed a law banning the commercial use of plastic bags throughout the country. In addition, in 2016 the waste management framework law was passed, as well as extended producer responsibility and the promotion of recycling.
The country has a seal of circularity and initiatives aimed at reducing the use of plastic are being developed, such as the “Goodbye plastic straws” campaign.
Mobility in cities is a major source of greenhouse gases emissions, as well as many other externalities. To reduce them, we must think about urban planning aiming at shorter distances, prioritizing non-motorized modes and promoting public transport.
With regard to the latter point, electromobility represents a great opportunity if it goes along with renewable power generation. And it is especially attractive if the effort is focused on buses and urban trains. Santiago is moving forward decisively in this direction, extending its Metro network and implementing the world’s largest fleet of electric buses outside China.