Open Letter By Climate Action Network to the Government of Chile

30 October 2019

H.E. Mr. Sebastián Piñera      

President of the Government of Chile,
La Moneda Palace,
Calle Moneda,
8320000 Santiago


Dear Mr. President,

Climate Action Network (CAN), a network of more than 1400 civil society organisations present in over 130 countries, expresses its deepest concern at the recent heavy-handed response of the Chilean government against the widespread displays of discontent by citizens in the country. We take note that the President has announced that Chile will not be hosting the UNFCCC COP, as well as that the State of Emergency is being revoked. Notwithstanding these developments, we remain concerned with reports of continued intimidation and threats against civilians and we will remain vigilant about the actions of government even in the absence of the COP. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families, friends, and colleagues of those who have been denied their right to demonstrate peacefully, been threatened, jailed, abused and lost their lives during this time of crisis.

The demand for climate justice and solidarity is fundamentally about the protection of human rights and a demand for a better quality of life for all.

The repressive actions by the government, not only goes against all obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Rights Treaties such as the right to freedom of assembly, but is also alarming since Chile has signed the Geneva Pledge on Human Rights and Climate Action and, in addition, also the Presidency for COP25. The preamble of the Paris Agreement states that “Parties, should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights.”  The government’s reaction towards the recent social protests put into question the credibility of the Chilean government to act in accordance with global agreements it has signed and does not inspire confidence in the Chilean government’s ability to provide leadership on this as the COP Presidency.

CAN urges the government of Chile to take immediate, meaningful and sustained measures to ensure that human rights are respected, people are protected and are able to execute their right to assembly and express their grievances without threat. 

In addition, we call on the government of Chile to release all people who have been unjustly arrested during the protests and to establish an independent investigation into the loss of lives during this period with the view to hold all those responsible to account and take legal measures accordingly. Furthermore, we suggest that the government should find a meaningful and peaceful resolution in the interest of all citizens in Chile through a genuine, participatory and inclusive process.  

Over the last 30 years, CAN has actively participated in and contributed to the work of the UNFCCC, promoting climate action and ambition. We recognise that Chile is vulnerable to climate impacts and is particularly affected by droughts, while at the same time the economy of the country is driven by extractive industries to the detriment of social and environmental justice. As an international network of environmental NGO’s, we would want to be reassured that in its implementation of climate action, the Chilean government will respect the call in the preamble of the Paris Agreement as outlined above. We believe that respect for human rights and justice is an important foundation for climate ambition. 

While the COP will no longer be held in Chile, we understand that the government will continue to hold the COP Presidency, and so we expect exemplary climate and social leadership from you. In this regard we call on you to do the following:

  • Immediately sign the Escazú Agreement and submit the Agreement to the National Congress as a matter of urgency, as a clear signal of wanting to protect the rights of environmental defenders and social activists.
  • Respond positively to the new social pact by engaging all citizens, civil society, workers and other stakeholders in key policy making and planning processes, to achieve a socially, environmentally and economically just transition.
  • As a first step this can include announcing the closure of the coal power plants currently operating in highly polluted areas and the termination of the “sacrifice zones” as also recognised by the national congress and the Supreme Court.
  • Advance social justice by ensuring access to clean drinking water, especially in response to the drought.
  • Commit to implementing the recommendations of the 1.5 IPCC report in the links between sustainable development and climate change that can ensure social justice and environmental sustainability.

We trust that the crisis in Chile will end imminently and that the necessary steps are taken to transition towards a more socially and environmentally just society and economy. 

CAN wants to place on record its deep commitment to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Rights Treaties and will throw its full weight behind ensuring these principles are manifested fully within the UNFCCC process and by all Parties who are signatories to this Convention. 

Climate Action Network