In mid-October, residents in Santiago, Chile woke up to a city in chaos as protests erupted in the heart of the city. According to Santiago resident Mimi Shaftoe, fires were set on street corners, and many of the metro stops and stations were burnt or seriously vandalized. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency and sending the military onto the streets.
Political dissatisfaction in Santiago has been brewing for years with residents becoming increasingly frustrated with the high cost of living, privatization and inequality prevalent in the country.
Frustration reached boiling point with widespread protests happening only weeks before COP25 was scheduled to take place in the city. As a result, Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, withdrew the offer to host just a month before the talks were scheduled to begin.
The new location for the UN’s 25th annual climate change conference was announced for Madrid, Spain and is set to take place from Dec. 2 to Dec. 13. This announcement has presented some challenges for youth-led non-profit organizations and civil society groups who had already planned their trip to Santiago.
“Having to incur losses around travel, cancellation fees and other things that were non-refundable has been quite difficult. Also, simply the time spent on dealing with logistics and having to plan a whole entirely new trip,” said Ana González, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Youth Climate Lab. “It has turned into a logistical nightmare.”
This last-minute move to Madrid, Spain isn’t the first time COP25 has had to switch locations. The conference was originally supposed to be held in Brazil. Following President Jair Bolsanaro’s election in November 2018, the government cited economic issues and withdrew their offer to host.
With less than a week to go, is seems as though the plan to host in Madrid is final. Non-profits like Youth Climate Lab will still send representatives from their organization, but difficulties around accreditation have reduced their original numbers. It remains to be seen how the conference plays out, but COP 25 will likely have fewer attendees with less representation from civil society groups.
According to Climate Tracker, the relocation will also reduce the amount of representation from African, Asian and Latin American countries. Flights from these countries to Europe are expensive and visas are rarely processed within a month without special intervention.
“It’s challenging, because in previous years COP has been in Paris, Marrakesh and Bonn, and Poland so I think this year a lot of Latin American groups were excited to participate as it became more accessible,” said González.
“The Chilean presidency was prioritizing civil society groups from Chile which was very exciting,” she said. “Even if accreditations remain the same in Madrid, civil society groups from Latin America will be limited because of cost restrictions. So, it puts a dent on the level of participation we were expecting.”