Chile is rebuilding its economy through climate-centered goals

As countries begin to imagine ways to re-stimulate economies struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, they face tough decisions on how to best allocate limited resources. Francisca Tondreau, the country director for Chile, Paraguay, and Bolivia at The Nature Conservancy,  explains in a recent Project Syndicate article how states can reconstruct their economies in a sustainable manner. 

Tondreau explores Chile, which announced an updated climate pledge this past April, as a case study in economy design.  Chile is integrating its pandemic recovery plan with future designs for sustainable development. The country’s updated climate target is part of it’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), individual reports prepared by each signatory state to the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement requires countries to communicate their climate policies for post 2020 through the form NDC targets as a part of an aggregate, international effort to meet the goal of limiting warming of the planet to no more than 2 degrees celsius of industrial levels. 

These 2020 target levels serve to build on the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and demonstrate increasing international commitment to a sustainable future. The relationship between climate policy and economic growth is clear: Trondreau demonstrates that investments in the climate sector can stimulate the economy through job growth, specifically in the agricultural sector. 

Additionally, the World Resources Institute has published five comprehensive reports introducing mechanisms to build back economies after COVID -19 which center on NDCs and climate initiatives. These reports detail how investing in sustainable practices can create jobs and economic growth, such as expanding electrical vehicle manufacturing, investing in tree restoration, and modernizing electrical grid infrastructure. The tangible implementation of these concepts in countries such as Chile demonstrate that climate-conscious recovery is possible, and can be extremely fruitful.

Chile’s 2020 NDC, which was approved by President Sebatian Piñera in April 2020, outlines an economic recovery plan for the country which revolves around climate initiatives – predominately the circular economy model. The circular economy model helps transition countries to zero waste by allowing resources of the economy to be reused and continuously integrated in the future, which contrasts with the “take-make-waste” linear model that many developed countries of the world have used since the industrial revolution. This is best demonstrated in the illustration below from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a UK based charity which demonstrates policy proposals for the implementation of a circular economy.

While the Chilean government must still continue to demonstrate a dedicated response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, the current groundwork being set in Chile is an important framework for other countries to interrogate Nationally Determined Climate (NDC) targets within their reconstruction policies in response to the COVID – 19 pandemic. Countries are currently presented with the opportunity to build back their economies in a way that safeguards the environment. 

Additional Reading

For the full report of Chile’s April 2020 NDC Target proposal, please click here

For further reading on climate centered economic recovery plans, please visit the OECD policy report “Building back better: A sustainable, resilient recovery after COVID-19” by clicking here

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