After long deliberations at the Conference of the Parties (COP24) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland, member countries came to an important agreement on how to continue the global fight against climate change. Now, the mantle of leadership will shift from central Europe to Latin America, where Chile—with assistance from Costa Rica—will host the next international climate conference, COP25, likely in November 2019. This is a critical opportunity for Chile and other Latin American climate leaders to demonstrate the region’s ability to take ambitious climate action.
“Ambition” is going to be the key word in 2019. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Director of the UNFCCC, stated in her closing remarks at COP24, “From now on, my 5 priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition.”
Several high-profile reports recently concluded that the world is not on track to keep global warming at 2°C and strive for 1.5°C, making ambitious climate action all the more urgent. The next COP needs to create the conditions for countries to strengthen their Paris Agreement targets by 2020, and the host country—Chile—must lead that effort. Indeed, the country already has several boast-worthy benchmarks, just a few of which are:
- A working group to plan the phase out of coal in its electric grid;
- A thriving non-conventional renewable energy sector, with around 19 percent of national generation;
- Plans to have a 100 percent electric transportation sector by 2040;
- Working on a climate change law; and
- Long-time membership in the UNFCCC negotiating bloc, AILAC (Asociación Independiente de Latinoamerica y el Caribe) that has helped push small- and medium-sized countries towards stronger commitments in global negotiations.
Chile can do even more to solidify these national efforts and show others a path forward on climate. For example:
- Commit to phasing out coal completely by 2030;
- Commit to a 100 percent renewable energy grid by 2040 (an idea President Piñera floated while on the campaign trail);
- Get a double win on energy efficiency and climate simultaneously by setting performance standards for air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances that use coolants so that they also eliminate HFCs, the short-lived climate pollutants that have hundreds or thousands of time the heat-trapping power of CO2;
- Push Latin American countries to become even more ambitious together and build regional implementation of climate action; and
- Think big when creating the new climate change law and updating the country’s international climate commitment, so that Chile is on track to adopt a 1.5°C -consistent target.
The coming year will be a critical one for our planet. As the host of COP25, Chile specifically and Latin America more broadly have a wide-open opportunity to demonstrate vision and leadership on ambitious action that helps the entire world avoid the direst consequences of climate change.