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Chile rejects Escazú Agreement, environmental pact supported by Costa Rica

Chile on Tuesday confirmed its decision not to sign the Escazú Agreement, which guarantees the protection of environmental rights in Latin America, despite being one of its promoters together with Costa Rica.

The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the “Escazú Treaty,” was adopted on March 4, 2018 in Costa Rica and has as the closing period for signature of September 26, 2020. 

So far it has been adopted by 22 countries in the region, including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico.

But the Chilean government of conservative President Sebastián Piñera refused to do so, considering it “ambiguous” and “imprecise” in the obligations to which it commits its signatories, Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand explained on Tuesday before the Foreign Relations Commission of the Lower House.

“The agreement exposes the country to the contingency of international demands for environmental reasons, which from our point of view, particularly considering the terms of this treaty, implies a serious impact on sovereignty in matters that are fundamental for development,” he said. 

Chile’s announcement comes four days after the deadline for Latin American countries to ratify this agreement, considered the first major environmental treaty in the region.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the agreement “empowers people and communities to be informed and heard in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and territories.”

“We support and fully agree with each and every one of the basic environmental foundations of the Escazú treaty; the problem is the way it was finally drafted, which introduces uncertainties that are not possible to solve, since this treaty does not admit any type of reservation,” explained Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt.

Piñera’s decision drew criticism from the political opposition, the government and environmental organizations.

“Chile will not sign the Escazú agreement. It is confirmed that the government of President Piñera has misled the country into believing that environmental issues are at the center of its agenda,” said Matías Asun, director of Greenpeace in Chile.

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