Environmental campaigners stressed the need to combat both the climate crisis and social injustice after Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced Wednesday his country would no longer host the upcoming COP25 United Nations climate summit, blaming ongoing social unrest.
The billionaire, right-wing president added in his address that the planned Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, which would have taken place next month, is also canceled.
The cancellations, Piñera said on Twitter, are to "guarantee order and social peace."
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer tweeted in response, "Now someone cancel the climate crisis too please."
The COP, scheduled to take place December 2-13, may not be completely scrapped. "We are currently exploring alternative hosting options," U.N. Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said Wednesday.
With a potential new location for the conference in mind, advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FOE) said that "wherever the #COP25 U.N. Climate Summit is held, it's essential that the voices of those most impacted by climate chaos are present and heard, especially voices from South and Central America."
In the ongoing and massive Chilean protests, as Agence France-Presse reported,
Demonstrators have demanded that the 69-year-old right-wing leader—whose personal fortune is estimated by Forbes at $2.8 billion—step down.
They have been angered by low salaries and pensions, poor public health care and education, and a yawning gap between rich and poor.
According to climate movement 350.org, those issues should not be seen as disconnected from the climate crisis.
"The climate talks in Chile were canceled because of the very issues that are at the heart of the climate emergency: social inequality, disrespect for human rights, and an economy that prioritizes big business and polluters over the needs of everyday people," said the group's executive director May Boeve. "We cannot solve the social crisis without tackling the climate crisis, and any efforts to prevent climate catastrophe without tackling inequality and improving human rights will simply not work."
Backing the calls of the protesters, Boeve added, "Demanding social equity is a fundamental right of people anywhere in the world, as is addressing the climate emergency. We stand in solidarity with the Chilean people who are calling for an end to military presence in the streets and a restoration of human rights."
"The climate talks must now move forward with a new focus on public participation and human rights," Boeve continued. "We need a People's Climate Talks. For far too long, this process has prioritized the voices of big business and corporate polluters."
What the United nations needs to do, Boeve said, is to boot "the fossil fuel industry out of the climate talks and make more space for the voices of the people. Only then can we begin to develop real solutions to this joint crisis of inequality, injustice, and climate emergency."
I think that’s why he canceled https://t.co/IT7IfElDFw
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 30, 2019
Sébastien Duyck, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), issued a similar message following Piñera's announcement.
"The climate crisis and profound social inequities have common root causes: prioritizing private and corporate interests over those of people and of the planet. Governments have an obligation to serve the public, protect the commons, and respect their human rights obligations—not retaliate against demonstrators, withhold civil liberties, and violate human rights," said Duyck.
"If Chile hopes the world will turn a blind eye to the repression in its streets by canceling COP25, it is sorely mistaken," Duyck added. "We commit to remaining vigilant as this dangerous, unjust situation develops in Chile, and we call upon the government to uphold its human rights obligations and to investigate and hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account."