Chile fighting climate change — role model for the (developing) world
"No doubts remain. Climate change is real and the build-up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is increasingly at an alarming rate." With these words, Rafael Quiroga, General Manager of Accion RSE, initiated the seminar "Corporate Strategic Management of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions." This is not another "green business" seminar from a European or North American city, it took place here — in Santiago, Chile.
The event brought together speakers from the Chilean private sector that gave concrete examples of their companies’ climate change and GHG management initiatives. First, it showed how Essbio, a water purification company, has been dealing with the ever-prescient and escalating challenges of decreasing water reserves due to climate change. Second, it illustrated the emissions and energy reductions Xstrata Copper, a mining company, has committed to and the steps it has taken to minimize the release of contaminants in its industrial processes. Third, it explained what Natura cosmetics has done since 2007 to become a "carbon neutral" business by calculating all GHG emissions in the company’s supply chain, transportation, and production of its various cosmetics products, and purchasing the equivalent amount of CO2 tonnage in carbon credits on the international carbon markets.
Although Chile is officially considered an Annex B, "developing" country under the dual classification of the Kyoto Protocol, the smaller country of 16 million inhabitants has been no stranger to addressing the climate change issue in recent years. In addition to private companies’ activities noted above, Chile has also completed some 40 projects via the Kyoto Protocol’s CDM market since 2004. These 40 projects have ranged from landfill methane gas capture, to a nationwide energy efficiency CFL light bulbs installation project, to agricultural methane capture, and to a wind energy project — yielding a total of US$300 million in traded carbon credits for Chilean enterprises.
Moreover, in early December 2008, President Bachelet, alongside her Environment Minister, unveiled Chile’s official "National Climate Change Action Plan" for 2008-2012. The plan includes activities for
1) studying impacts and vulnerabilities,
2) funding adaptation measures, and
3) strong support for mitigation endeavors, including the creation of a Center for Renewable Energy, establishing an increase of funds for a national energy efficiency program, further studies into harvesting biofuels, and increasing bicycle lanes for transport.
Although, historically, Chile has not contributed much to the total build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — actually 0.2% of total global GHG emissions for the last year tallied, 2004 — the country would like to see itself as a Latin American forerunner on confronting the issue. President Bachelet’s new Action Plan not only concretely addresses the country’s increasing climate change concerns, but also demonstrates to the international community that Chile, too, is progressive and environmentally conscientious.