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Canceled Climate Summit Could Inflame Chile’s Protests

Oct 31 2019

By Audrey Wilson – Foreign Policy

Chile Move Jeopardizes U.N. Climate Summit

President Sebastián Piñera’s decision to back out of hosting the U.N. COP25 summit may aggravate tensions with protesters in Santiago

Grappling with mass protests, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced on Wednesday that Santiago would not host two global summits later this year: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November and a significant U.N. climate meeting in December. The move underscores a shift by Piñera to focus on domestic concerns—as well as his worries that the unrest could continue through the end of the year.

Calling off of the APEC summit surprised the United States, which was hoping to ink a trade deal with China in Santiago—now likely to be delayed. Chile is the second host after Brazil to back out of the U.N. COP25 climate summit, a move that could have significant consequences. The 11-day conference would have brought together delegates from 190 countries to discuss how to reduce global carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement.

How will the protesters respond? So far, Chile’s protesters are unsatisfied with Piñera’s response to the unrest, and the cancellation of the U.N. climate summit could inflame tensions, according to Jennifer Pribble, an associate professor of political science at the University of Richmond. “By cancelling that event, Piñera may signal a weak commitment to climate policy,” she wrote in an email.

The cancellations could also bring more attention to the unrest. “I think outside actors will read this as a sign of how deep this crisis really is,” Pribble added. “The persistence of the protests, even after Piñera’s announcement of select policy changes and a cabinet shake-up, suggests that those mobilizing in the streets are looking for deeper, more structural change.”

Could the climate summit go on? The United Nations is now scrambling to find an alternative host for the climate summit, but it’s possible it will be delayed. A climate agency official in Poland, which holds the COP presidency, told Reuters that it’s too soon to make a call.

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Annex:

Widespread protests force Chile to scrap summit where Trump was expected to end China trade war

Vincent Wood – The independent

APEC summit was set to be stage for end of trade war between China and US

A major summit where ?Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping were set to sign an interim agreement to end the 15-month trade war, has been cancelled by Chile’s president 

Sebastian Pinera blamed ongoing protests for the decision to call off the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting (APEC) slated for 16-17 November. 

He also cancelled the United Nation’s COP25 climate summit scheduled for the first two weeks of December. 

Mr Pinera said he had taken the “painful” decision to better focus on restoring law and order to the country following 12 days of protests in the South American country which has left 18 people dead.

Demonstrators demanding greater economic equality and better public services have forced the shutdown of numerous subway stations. Some have resorted to vandalism and arson. 

 “This has been a very difficult decision, a decision that causes us a lot of pain, because we fully understand the importance of APEC and COP25 for Chile and for the world,” Mr Pinera said. 

Mr Trump and Mr Xi had been expected to sign an interim agreement to end the 15-month trade war between their nations at the APEC summit. 

Meanwhile the UN’s COP25 summit on climate was to be the latest iteration of the influential meeting of world leaders to tackle green issues.

The conferences have previously marked global turning points in the campaign to resolve climate issues – including in 2015 when it was used as the backdrop of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The UN is urgently seeking a new venue for the conference, but said it may need to delay the event after Chile became the first country to pull out of the event at such short notice.

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“We have lost a unique opportunity in the country’s history,” said Matias Asun, Chile director for Greenpeace. He added it was a “huge failure for the government in the face of environmental demands and injustices facing the country”.

It comes as Mr Pinera attempts to hold onto power in his homeland after the violent protests. 

The unrest began when students opposed to a 4 per cent rise in train fares began demonstrations. But they quickly escalated into anger over the cost of living across the country.

Mr Pinera has  blamed the resulting protests and riots on “criminals”  and declared a state of emergency in the country’s capital Santiago where soldiers were deployed for the first time since the country was ruled by a military dictatorship.

Chile’s embattled leader also fired almost half his cabinet this week – including his finance, interior and economy ministers – in a bid to quell protests which had little impact in the country where low wages, underfunded health systems and low pensions have caused financial difficulties for millions.

The country suffers one of the worst rates of income inequality among OECD countries – with only Costa Rica and South Africa experiencing a greater divide between the rich and the poor.

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