Chile has again made very substantial progress on climate action over the past year. Only two years ago emissions were projected to rise; one year ago they appeared to be stabilising, and today, Chile’s updated emissions projections under current policies and action are beginning to decline. This leads to an upgraded CAT rating of Chile’s current policies and actions to “Almost sufficient” when compared to modelled domestic pathways. If Chile goes ahead with the implementation of planned policies such as an early coal phase-out by 2030, it could even be on track to being 1.5° compatible.
Under this pathway, Chile’s emissions appear to have already peaked and are declining to such a level that Chile could meet its NDC target of 95 MtCO2e by 2030 and put it on track to undercut its NDC budget by 2% to 11%. This continues to position the country as a global frontrunner in climate action.
Newly-appointed President Gabriel Boric has set climate change on top of his agenda, viewing it as an overarching topic to be considered in all decisions of all ministries. To strengthen his climate leadership, he has appointed an IPCC author as Minister of the Environment. Among the most relevant actions since taking office was the oversight of a newly-drafted constitution, which had climate action as a central theme. Although this failed to get a popular majority in September 2022, these examples and recently implemented policies show that government takes the lead in climate change mitigation in Chile and the region.
In June 2022, Chile published its long-awaited Climate Change Law that, in addition to making the 2050 carbon neutrality target and the NDC targets binding in law, also creates regulatory instruments that display a new form of crosscutting governance, aimed at ministries of all sectors and regions and allow for larger public participation.
As such, the law strengthens the legal and institutional bases for implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation targets, and moving the country towards a low emissions economy. Chile is now discussing an additional strengthening of its already-accelerated coal phase-out plan to advance the closure of all coal-fired plants by 2030 and has recently announced a plan to ban the sales of combustion engine vehicles by 2035.
Chile was the first Latin American country to present its long-term climate strategy (LTS, or ECLP in Spanish) to the UNFCCC at COP26 in Glasgow.. The strategy consists of over 400 concrete measures to reduce emissions, most prominently the supply of 80% of the energy mix from renewables in 2030 and 65% in 2025. It also includes goals and targets in other sectors such as reducing emissions from industry and mining by 70%, and emissions from transport by 40% by 2050. It also – for the first time – includes specific CO2 emission targets and budgets for each individual sector. All of these targets have now become legally binding in Chile’s Framework Law.
Despite the new climate change framework law and updated laws and policies targeting reductions in CO2 emissions, the CAT continues to rate Chile’s climate targets and policies as “Insufficient”. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Chile’s climate commitments need substantial improvements and announced policies need to be approved to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit.
Chile has submitted two climate targets for 2030: an unconditional target, which it plans to achieve with its own resources, and a more ambitious one, conditional to international support. We rate Chile’s 2030 conditional NDC target as “Almost sufficient” when compared to modelled domestic pathways. While this climate target represents a significant improvement over Chile’s previous one (from 2017), it is still not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C and needs further improvements.
Compared to its fair-share contribution to climate action, we rate Chile’s unconditional 2030 target even lower, as “Insufficient”. To achieve its 2030 climate targets, Chile needs to fully implement its planned policies, which go significantly beyond its current policies and action. With planned policies, Chile would meet both of its targets and would also create the opportunity for Chile to significantly improve its unconditional target, which could lead to a substantial improvement in its overall rating.
Due to further improvements in policies, we now for the first time rate Chile’s current climate policies and actions as “Almost sufficient” in 2030 when compared to modelled domestic pathways. Chile’s current policies and actions projected for 2030 are a major improvement as they now seem to have already peaked emissions and are set to decrease from 107 MtCO2e (2021) to 87 MtCO2e – 104 MtCO2e. To be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit, emissions need to peak and decline even sooner, which we project they would do if the Chilean Government is successful in implementing the lower range of its planned policies. An “Almost sufficient” rating translates to a global temperature rise of over 1.5°C and up to 2°C by the end of the century.
In June 2022, Chile published its highly anticipated Climate Change Framework Law (21455) (Congreso Nacional de Chile, 2022) which makes the 2050 carbon neutrality goal legally binding and recognises the NDC target. The law centres around sectoral mitigation and adaptation plans but also emphasises water security and presents a climate change financial strategy.
Since our last update in November 2021, Chile has continued to shut its coal-fired power plants according to its phase-out plan. There are even discussions around bringing a full coal phase-out forward to 2030 instead of 2040. Chile has already shut down more than 1 GW of coal capacity, with an additional 0.2 GW to follow later this year.
The two relatively new Mejillones units that only became fully operational in 2019 will be retired in 2024 and retrofitted to operate with fossil gas. While considered a “transition fuel” by the Chilean government, gas is still a fossil fuel that needs to be phased out— so Chile need to be careful when repurposing the plants as it can create a carbon lock-in and risks being left with stranded assets.
Chile has also announced that it will ban all sales of light duty combustion engine vehicles as of 2035. This makes the already ambitious electromobility strategy even more ambitious.
Chile’s published an updated energy strategy (PEN) in March 2022 that contains a set of targets that have again increased in ambition from the draft document published only a year earlier (Ministerio de Energía, 2021a). The share of renewables target is now 80% (from 75%) in 2030 and 100% (from 95%) in 2050.
Full policies and action analysis can be found here.
We rate Chile’s 2030 conditional NDC target – a reduction of up to 45% in net emissions from 2016 values by 2030, subject to international support– as “Almost sufficient” when compared with modelled domestic emissions pathways.
The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that Chile’s conditional NDC target in 2030 is not yet consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit but could be, with moderate improvements, when compared to its modelled domestic pathways.
If all countries were to follow Chile’s approach, warming could be held below—but not well below—2°C.
To improve its rating and be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit, Chile could lower the 2030 target by 21 MtCO2e to reach an absolute emissions limit of 69 MtCO2e excl. LULUCF in 2030 and, if necessary, outline the international support that it would need to achieve it.
While Chile does not explicitly ask for international finance, the NDC states that the 45% reduction target is conditional on specific financial, markets, technological and political conditions. On balance, however, the CAT methodology shows that provision of a small amount of international support is consistent with the wide range of literature on fair share contributions to meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals. Our methods do not provide a clear answer regarding the need for climate finance for Chile.
We rate Chile’s 2030 unconditional reduction target – the absolute emissions target of 95 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF in 2030 – as “Insufficient” when compared to its fair-share contribution to climate action. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Chile’s NDC target in 2030 needs substantial improvements to be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit when compared to its fair share. Chile’s target is at the least stringent end of what would be a fair share of global effort and is not consistent with the 1.5°C limit unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. If all countries were to follow Chile’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C. Chile could attract a better rating by moving its unconditional reduction target to match its planned policies.
Chile has large forested areas, and although fluctuating strongly, e.g. because major wildfires swept across the country in 2018, Chile’s LULUCF sinks over the last 20 years absorbed, on average, roughly two thirds of total emissions. Chile should work toward maintaining this LULUCF sink. For more information about forestry activities in Chile, please see the LULUCF tab under Policies and Actions.
We evaluate Chile’s net zero target as “Acceptable”. Chile’s currently proposed net zero target for 2050 covers most key elements and is now also legally binding through the framework law. Chile’s target covers all sectors and gases, communicates strategic goals and emissions targets per sector, and provides a detailed methodological framework. Notably, Chile underpins these sector-specific ambitions with detailed emissions pathway analyses.
Chile plans to heavily rely on negative emissions by forests to reach its net zero target, expecting carbon sinks to contribute as much as 50% of the emissions reduction required to reach the 2050 neutrality goal (Gobierno de Chile, 2021). It is therefore extremely important to assure that forests keep acting as sinks and do not turn into emission sources, a risk that can only partly be mitigated by policies as not only human activity but natural factors, and increasingly the effects of climate change via more extreme and frequent heat waves, droughts, and wildfires, can turn removals from LULUCF to emissions. While Chile does not actively outline any plans to rely on reductions and removals outside its borders, future iterations of its NDC could explicitly rule out international credits to make this clearer.