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Chile Pulls Out of Hosting COP25 Following Weeks of Protests

Climate
Demonstrators display flags and banners during a protest against President Sebastian Piñera on Oct. 21, in Santiago, Chile. Marcelo Hernandez / Getty Images

Chile will no longer host the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference, where countries were scheduled to gather in December to discuss the implementation of the Paris agreement, BBC News reported.


President Sebastián Piñera announced his decision Wednesday following weeks of protests in Chile. He also backed out of hosting the APEC trade summit in November, The Guardian reported.

"This has been a very difficult decision – which has caused us great pain – because we understand perfectly the importance [of the events] for Chile and for the world," Piñera said, according to The Guardian. "When a father has problems, he must always put his family before everything else. Similarly, a president must always put his own countrymen ahead of any other consideration."

The protests in Chile broke out over a 3.7 percent metro fare increase, but have extended beyond that into a general outcry against economic inequality and repression. Piñera first declared a state of emergency and then announced economic reforms, but neither has succeeded in quelling the unrest. On Saturday, around one million people turned out in Santiago for the country's largest peaceful protest since the late 1980s. So far, at least 20 people have died in the demonstrations, 1,132 have been hospitalized and 3,535 have been arrested.

"The citizens have expressed in a strong way their legitimate social demands that require the full attention and all efforts from the Government," COP25 President-designate Carolina Schmidt said in a statement.

The COP25 summit was scheduled to take place from Dec. 2 to 13, and this is the first time a host country has backed out so close to the start date, BBC News reported.

"Earlier today, I was informed of the decision by the government of Chile not to host COP25 in view of the difficult situation that the country is undergoing," UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said in a statement. "We are currently exploring alternative hosting options."

Espinosa's office was weighing whether to hold the conference elsewhere in December or postpone it until January, The New York Times reported.

Chile was already an alternate location for the COP25 summit. It was originally slated to be hosted by Brazil, but then President-elect Jair Bolsonaro stepped away from hosting in November 2018. The right-wing president said his decision was based on budget constraints, but his chosen foreign minister had called "climate alarmism" a plot by "cultural Marxists," according to BBC News.

Previously, when countries have had to withdraw from hosting talks on the climate crisis, the talks have been held in Bonn, Germany, Climate Home News pointed out. This is where UN Climate Change is based.

"We are in contact with the UN Climate Change secretariat and the Polish Cop24 presidency to discuss the situation," German state environment secretary Jochen Flasbarth said in a Tweet reported by Climate Home News.

Some climate activists suggested the UN take the opportunity to organize a more climate-friendly conference.

"Maybe this should be the first no fly UN Climate meeting," 15-year-old Ugandan Fridays for Future activist Leah Namugerwa tweeted.

Meteorologist and climate communicator Eric Holthaus endorsed her idea.

"Let's decide to make #COP25 a truly low-carbon, global meeting by encouraging participation without air travel," he wrote.

The news has disrupted the plans of those who were planning to travel to the summit, by plane or otherwise.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had been making her way around the Americas, without flying, with the goal of reaching Chile in time for the meeting. She said she would pause her travels until she had more information.

Another group of European school strikers were already crossing the Atlantic by boat to attend the conference when they heard the news, according to The Guardian. They have not yet decided how to proceed.

"Chile is a problematic example of why our current system is not sustainable either ecologically or socially," the group tweeted. "All the crises that are now happening are also a call to pay attention to the ecological crises that the capitalist system is creating."

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