COP25 host Chile must sign the Escazú Agreement

16 LAC countries have signed an accord to improve transparency and protect environmental defenders

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Smog over the city of Santiago, Chile image: alobos

The recent Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP24) held in Katowice, Poland, agreed to host the 2019 summit in Chile. COP25 is a core negotiation process for advancing the Paris Agreement and the pre-2020 climate action agenda. Talks will take place over the course of the year with Costa Rica, host of the preparatory meeting (Pre-COP), providing support.

Chile has a unique opportunity to advance its climate policy and show coherent leadership on environment and human rights at the national and international level.

For a country to host to an event like this means not only having the logistics and infrastructure to receive more than 30,000 people but also the technical and political capacity to advance the more than 50 issues on the table simultaneously.

Hosting and leading the COP presidency also means becoming the focus of worldwide observation by different actors, be they political, state, cooperation agencies, companies, civil society, academia, or others.

Chile has a unique opportunity to advance its climate policy and show coherent leadership on environment and human rights at the national and international level.

It should also be noted that Chile has seven out of the nine climate vulnerability characteristics identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), meaning its people find themselves in vulnerable situations.

Today, environmental issues are evidently becoming more important. Climate challenges cannot be tackled in isolation but are an integral pillar of sustainable development with consequences for politics, economy, society and human rights.

acuerdo de escazu cop25
Representatives of 12 countries that signed the Acuerdo de Escazú at the UN General Assembly in New York (image: CEPAL/ Twitter)

In recognition of this complexity, and of people’s right to influence decisions that affect their environment and quality of life, is why Chile, in 2012,  proposed to start a regional process to strengthen access to information, participation and justice in environmental issues.

Throughout negotiations on a deal, Chile, together with Costa Rica, led an initiative that has been recognised worldwide as key to controlling corruption, transparency, conflict resolution and citizens’ rights. The negotiation itself was an unprecedented example of ‘deliberative democracy’, which allowed all concerned to contribute to the process using their knowledge and experiences in open sessions.

The culmination of this was the Escazú Agreement, the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean and the first worldwide that explicitly protects environmental defenders.

To date, 16 countries have signed the Escazú Agreement and some have already begun the process of ratifying it. In doing so, they have reaffirmed their commitment to sustainability and acknowledged that, in spite of some advances, there is no country that does not need to adopt measures to improve environmental governance.

Regrettably and surprisingly, however, Chile has not yet signed the treaty it has promoted for over six years. It is imperative that Chile signs and ratifies the Escazú Agreement as soon as possible and adopts its mandate.

Chile’s coherence, consistency and capacity will be highly scrutinised in the run up to COP25, where it will also be necessary to establish formal spaces for citizen participation in environmental issues along with national and international organisations.

The Chilean Government has a unique opportunity to begin this process in the right way.

This article was originally published by El Mostrador and is republished here with permission