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In conversation with Carolina Urmeneta: Chile’s Framework Law on Climate Change


Ms. Maria Carolina Urmeneta Labarca heads the Office of Climate Change in Chile’s Ministry of Environment. During her busy agenda leading technical consultations across the regions in Chile, she took the time to answer some questions from Professor Francisco Maciel, regional co-chair of the LEDSGP working group on multi-level governance and subnational integration.

(This interview has been translated into English. You can read the Spanish original here)

Ms. Carolina Urmeneta. “From the regional political agenda, how should the participatory discussion on the Climate Change Law be accomplished in each region?”

FM: From the southern ice fields, the Patagonian Steppe, the extensive coastline and its immense blue sea, to the Andean Mountain Range, Rapa Nui Island, and the Atacama Desert… is there a climate on earth that Chile doesn’t have?  Do some regions feel the impact of climate change more than others?  Surely there’s a wide range of expectations on what a climate change law can and cannot do, no?

CU: Chile is exposed to 7 of the 9 vulnerability criteria defined by the UNFCCC. In 2015, we were recognized as one of the 10 countries most vulnerable to the risks of climate change by German Watch; and Rapa Nui was identified as the sixth most vulnerable tourist destination.

But the effects of climate change are not the same throughout the country – our diverse geography means there are different impacts in different regions. The Central Valley and the Center-South of the country have been experiencing an unprecedented drought for the past 8 years, meanwhile rainfall in the Southern Zone and Great North regions is increasing. Drought and extreme heat have also given rise to the incidence of significant forest fires, which have hit a large part of the Central Valley and have been especially damaging in Valparaíso, Maule, O’Higgins and Biobio. The northern regions of Coquimbo and Atacama – some of the driest places in the world – have experienced incredible rainfall and floods. There was also a major landslide caused by a breaking glacier in the Maule region that devastated an entire town. These are just some examples of impact – if we were to mention all the events, the list would be too long.

President Piñera’s government has committed to the development of a framework law on climate change, in addition to other actions that demonstrate the importance of the theme to the government. Indeed, in his first public discourse this year, he mentioned climate change as one of the biggest challenges facing the country.

In this sense, this framework law on climate change (Ley Marco de Cambio Climatico), currently in the process of preliminary drafting, will seek to: strengthen the legal and institutional framework associated with climate change; ensure that climate change is considered in the country’s decision-making around development; develop and promote an integrated management system that allows for the design, development, and strengthening of GHG mitigation actions and increasing resilience to climate change, taking into account people’s health and security through a preventive approach.

Furthermore, the Law will define management instruments (plans, strategies), such as those that establish specific goals and actions, and ensure compliance to international commitments as well as promote education, research and technology transfer. It will also define and promote climate financing mechanisms.

FM: What specifically are ETICC and CORREC? What role will they have in NDC implementation and in the Framework Law on Climate Change?

CU: In Chile, our system of governance works in favor of our national climate change action plan, which means that there is a working institutional framework associated with climate change, but not in a binding or legally established way. Rather it works through people’s efforts, goodwill, interest and motivation. In this context, at the central level, we have the Inter-Ministerial Technical Team on Climate Change (ETICC) which, as the name suggests, is made up of the climate change focal points (technical counterparts) in 14 Ministries (Agriculture, Health, Economy, External Relations, Finance, Energy, Transportation, Women, Social Development, Public Works, Housing, Education, Defense, Mining and the Sustainability and Climate Change Agency). This team is led by the Office of Climate Change and its main function is to support the Ministry of Environment in the preparation, implementation and monitoring of Chile’s national policies and international agreements and commitments on climate change. 

On the other hand, at the regional (subnational) level, we have the Regional Committees on Climate Change (CORECC). This year, all the regions of Chile have been able to form a CORECC. They will have the objective of promoting and facilitating regional development that is low in carbon emissions and resilient to climate change. The CORECCs are the official entity at the regional level where a broad and intersectoral vision should be achieved, and manages to integrate the different topics associated with climate change in the territory.

For the preparation of the draft of the Framework Law on Climate Change, President Piñera was clear in indicating that the regions should be involved. Indeed, the first activities we carried out were the regional workshops with each of the CORECCs.

We want the draft Framework Law on Climate Change to clearly define the responsibilities, competencies, and interactions that each of these institutions should perform. In the case of the CORECCs, special importance will be given to the development of regional action plans and intersectoral work in these regions.

Participants in the technical consultations discuss, “What should be the functions of CORECC? What are the principal challenges and operational limits of the CORECCs?”

FM: In July, you organized workshops on climate governance in the Framework Law on Climate Change with members of ETICC and the SEREMIs (Regional Ministerial Secretariats) from various regions. What are some of the needs that were identified as priorities for achieving NDC implementation in Chile?

CU: The workshops were useful for starting a dialogue with our SEREMIs and technical counterparts on climate change at the regional and sectoral levels. The focus of the workshops was to discuss the main challenges for strengthening multi-level governance for climate action in Chile.

Among the needs we identified were: the definition of roles, competencies and responsibilities of the institutions; the review and definition of information flows to and from the regions; the integration of climate change in all current planning and development instruments at the regional and local levels; the generation of action plans at the regional level that contemplate both mitigation and adaptation; an MRV system to account for the contribution of sub-national actions; establish clear financing mechanisms for climate action, especially within the existing financial instruments in the regions, and also to improve the integration of different sectors, such as academia, civil society, and the private sector in the planning processes, the implementation of actions, and the monitoring and evaluation of progress. 

FM: Is there a particular example of climate action at the local/sub-national level that demonstrates the power of the possible advances towards the NDC?

CU: There are several examples of actions associated with local level mitigation in Chile. These include the implementation of renewable energy systems for self-consumption, the use of electric vehicles for transportation, the implementation of energy efficiency measures in institutions such as schools, municipalities, etc. There are also actions on solid waste management, forestation and more.

We need to work in Chile and the regions to develop MRV systems so that such actions can be included in our future NDC accounting. This is also why it is so important that the regions have a Climate Change Action Plan and that they are led by the CORECCs as it will support linking local actions with the regional vision.

FM: When the National Government announced the process of creating the Framework Law on Climate Change in Chile, they spoke of the commitment to build it “from the regions via a highly participatory process.” Why is the participation of the regions so important? How will that process work?

CU: Chile is a country where its territory and society are affected by climate change in different ways. To face these challenges and opportunities, it is necessary to complement the national perspective with the development of a regional perspective that properly influences the guidelines, strengthens and prioritizes mitigation and adaptation actions according to the reality of each one of Chile’s regions and municipalities.

In this sense, it’s essential that we are able, as a government, to bring the issue of climate change to the regions and involve them from the beginning in the process of drafting the law. It’s important to incorporate the visions, concerns, and realities from the regions of Chile.

It is also worth mentioning that in August and October we held participatory, regional workshops in all regions with the CORECCs and Advisory Councils and more than 360 people participated. The discussions were focused on where the regions are in terms of progress, where they want to go, and how to get there. The format was based on the questions from the Talanoa Dialogue that will be implemented at COP24, happening now in Katowice, Poland.

What’s more, during this month and January, we will be developing additional regional dialogues in each of the regions with civil society, non-governmental organizations, trade associations, academia and the public sector, among other actors.

Considering the information gathered in the regional dialogues and workshops, the preliminary draft of the Framework Law on Climate Change will be created and analyzed – which we hope to present next year for public consultation in April and May. After this we hope to have the Framework Law on Climate Change go through congress in August 2019.

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