Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has offered to step in to host this year’s UN climate talks in Madrid after Chile pulled out.
Chile’s president Sebastian Piñera announced the offer from Sánchez on Thursday, one day after he suddenly withdrew from hosting the meeting in Santiago.
The meeting was scheduled to be held in just over a month. But massive protests against Piñera’s government and social inequality have caused disruption across the country.
Piñera told reporters on Thursday: “I have spoken with the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez yesterday who has offered to host Cop25 in Madrid at the same time as it was due to happen in Chile from 2 to the 13 of December.”
Piñera said Chile would still preside over the conference. “I hope that this generous offer from Pedro Sánchez can be a solution.”
UN Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said she was hopeful the Cop bureau – which is comprised of top climate diplomats from various countries and will make the final decision – could meet and consider the solution “as soon as possible”.
Michal Kurtyka, a Polish minister and the current UN climate talks president, said he had called for an “urgent meeting” of the bureau.
A senior diplomat told Climate Home News “nothing has yet been decided”.
“The bureau will have a discussion and there are clearly many practical issues that will have to be addressed,” they said.
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Espinosa said: “It is encouraging to see countries working together in the spirit of multilateralism to address climate change, the biggest challenge facing this and future generations.”
Chile’s unrest has seen thousands take to the streets and the army deployed in the capital. The calls for a fairer system have been met with widespread state violence and at least 18 killed.
UN high commissioner for human rights and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has said she would investigate allegations of human rights violations.
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Spain’s environment minister Teresa Ribera said the socialists’ offer to host the Cop was made “in solidarity with Chilean society” and said Spain recognised “the priority of their domestic agenda”.
Spain has its own political travails. Catalonia’s independence campaign has convulsed the north eastern region for over a fortnight.
Sánchez’ socialist party, which won the most seats in an election in April, has been unable to form a government. The country will return to the polls on November 10.
Despite electoral difficulties, the socialists have made progress on domestic Spanish policy, striking a deal with unions to shut down the country’s coal mines and introducing a national climate plan.