Spain offers to save UN climate conference

Spain offers to save UN climate conference

Spain is set to host the United Nations’ annual climate conference after Chile pulled out of hosting duties following riots. 

Spain offered to host the COP25 (Conference of the Parties) in Madrid next month.

Environmental activists expressed relief that the COP may still go ahead, but also concern about the costs for NGOs who lost non-refundable tickets to Chile, one of the world’s most expensive countries to reach. 

Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s interim prime minister, said he was ready to receive COP25 delegates from 190 countries. The UN will discuss the offer next week.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera also cancelled November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) meeting, due to be held in Santiago. 

“It’s great that there is an offer on the table from Spain. But there is still uncertainty,” said Jennifer Tollman, an activist at E3G. “A lot of people sank a lot of money into this. For participants in developing countries, this is a huge issue. Without support, this could impact participation by the global south.”

Tollman said the Chilean protests should remind delegates that social equality had to be considered. “Climate policy has to be social policy. That’s what will be discussed inside and outside the negotiation rooms.”

The United Nations welcomed the Spanish offer. 

“It is encouraging to see countries working together in the spirit of multilateralism to address climate change, the biggest challenge facing this and future generations,” UN Climate Change head Patricia Espinosa said. 

Sweden teenager Greta Thunberg was due to attend the COP25 event in Santiago.

The summit is due to negotiate rules for the Paris emissions reduction targets with countries encouraged to improve pollution reduction goals.

Former climate negotiator for Colombia, Isabel Cavelier, said the Chilean protests should remind participants of the need to halve emissions.

“Otherwise the situation we are seeing in Chile – which led President Piñera to this extreme decision – will become the new norm, as social unrest will only be exacerbated by the climate crisis.”

The Chilean protests began in mid-October as a student movement against a 3.7-per-cent rise in metro fares. The movement grew into much broader protests against inequality, living costs and police repression.

Chile’s Human Rights Institute said 3,535 people have been arrested since October 17 and 1,132 had received hospital treatment, 38 of whom with bullet wounds. 

On October 18, Piñera declared a state of emergency and has since said the country was at war with “evil” delinquents.


Protests in Chile. Picture credit: Wikimedia 




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