5 June 2020

Chile and its path to sustainability

More than 6000 kilometers of coastline. Desert, glaciers, beaches and mountains. Chile would not be Chile without its distinctive landscape, but now is the time to take care of this internationally-admired land. Chileans from all walks of society are taking action and making a commitment to caring for the environment. Below are five examples of how this country at the bottom of the world is contributing solutions with global impact.

1. Betting on the sun

The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest in the world. It receives practically no rainfall, yet there is one abundant resource that the country is taking advantage of: the SUN. This part of the planet has one of the highest levels of solar irradiance in the world, making it the perfect place for developing solar energy. In fact, this will be the site of Cerro Dominador, the first solar thermal plant in Latin America. Currently under construction, it is expected to supply electricity to almost one million people and should go into operation in 2020. In addition, several photovoltaic power stations are presently transforming Chile’s energy matrix.

 

2. The first in the region to make a commitment

The Paris Agreement demands it: every country is to present an action plan to the United Nations with concrete measures for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, a document known as “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDC). In April 2020, Chile was the first country in Latin America to present its NDC. But that is not all. Our country has also made a formal commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050.

 

3. A small endeavor with great impact

It began as a venture to help the most vulnerable people in society, but it wound up also helping the environment. The Chilean start-up “Algramo,” known today as Fast Company, is one of the most innovative companies in Latin America. It sells products in bulk, such as dog food and detergents, using machines that promote the reuse of plastic containers. As a result, the customer saves on packaging costs, paying a price that is more in line with the product they are actually buying. It also promotes the reuse of plastic that otherwise would have wound up in the ocean. Previously, the bulk goods were sold in small neighborhood stores, but since the arrival of COVID-19, the goods are being delivered using non-polluting electric tricycles.

 

4. Moving towards non-polluting transportation

They began to arrive little by little. By the end of 2018, the first 100 had arrived, then another 100 and so on until Chile’s capital, Santiago, in less than one year, became the urban center with the largest number of electric buses in the world outside of China. They offer WiFi, air conditioning and other comforts, but the feature that makes the Chileans most proud is the noticeable decrease in pollution, both in the air and in terms of noise.

 

5. Good-bye plastic bags

We used to go through massive amounts, causing significant damage to the environment when we indiscriminately threw them away. However, in 2018, Chile passed a law that banned businesses from providing plastic bags, making it the first country in Latin America to restrict their use. This measure forced the country to adapt and just a year on from when the law was passed, the figures published by the Chilean Environment Ministry speak for themselves: 2.2 billion plastic bags have stopped been used; that is 16,000 tons, equal to the weight of 13,000 automobiles.

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