The director of Espacio Público, Andrea Sanhueza, referred to what will be Chile’s return to the Escazú Agreement, which was rejected by President Sebastián Piñera despite having been in favor in the first instance. The fact, which left Chile out of a pact with 12 other actors in the region to address environmental problems, will be taken up by the future President, Gabriel Boric, who showed his commitment to be part of the agreement.
In conversation with El Mostrador in La Clave, Sanhueza said that this treaty will allow people to participate in a so-called “environmental democracy”, where three fundamental rights for citizens are addressed.
“The Escazú agreement is an agreement that addresses the issue of environmental democracy. That is, how decisions are made in environmental matters. And when we say democracy we mean three fundamental human rights: access to information, citizen participation and access to justice. That is, anyone under that agreement once it begins to be implemented in Chile, who wants to have information, about a project, about a decontamination plan, can have those rights better guaranteed,” he said.
As for the bets proposed by this agreement, Sanhueza anticipated that Chile’s participation in this agreement will allow various problems that are part of environmental decisions to be solved, such as the way in which the population can send their queries and that not so technical information is delivered, as is customary today.
“On the one hand, it will reduce environmental conflicts, which as we well know Chile has several, because if people have the information they want about the project, they understand it and then they have an institutional way, by that I mean a procedure installed by the Government where they can send their observations and these are taken into account in a timely manner that is what does not happen today, that should reduce the conflict, because many of the conflicts today are associated with not understanding what it is, not receiving the information that in general is very technical and above all not being able to influence the decision on that project, “he said.
“Secondly, the big bet also included in this agreement for the first time, is articles on the protection of environmental defenders. Fortunately, Chile is not a country that has a serious reality in this regard, but we have been getting worse,” he said.
“That’s what the agreement is about, how people through information, can understand it and channel our proposals, concerns, criticisms, in a way for the State to take care of that,” he added.
After the lawyer Constance Nalegach has been appointed as the head of the Office of International Affairs by the Minister of the Environment, Maisa Rojas, she makes clear the intention of the future Government to resume the national entry into the agreement.
In this regard, Sanhueza anticipated what will be the main environmental challenges that the incoming government will have, where there is special attention in the recent approval of the thermoelectric plant “Los Rulos”, added to the implementation of the water code, among others.
“It’s certainly going to have two or three big themes. The issue of the energy transition and the whole decarbonization project and that is why the decision to approve this thermoelectric plant “Los Rulos” has been so unhappy because it is precisely to continue producing energy with coal. That is a big issue and a commitment of this government,” he said.
“The whole climate change agenda, to be able to implement the plans that Chile has already committed to at the international level, then to start the whole process of implementing the Water Code and that from the environmental groups and also technical and scientific is considered to be an important advance in the region,” he added.
In a personal way, Sanhueza points out that one of the main challenges of the incoming government will be related to how the population can be a more active part in the discussion of environmental issues.
“How environmental decisions are made and to be able to at least channel in a better way and hopefully reduce the socio-environmental conflict that exists in the country, which is important. Today citizens do not have many channels beyond protesting, to know the projects and to be able to be part of their decisions and that there is transparency about the impacts that these projects are going to have,” he said.
“It is closely associated with the threats and intimidation that environmental defenders have suffered in the country,” he concluded.