Special Conversation with Sebastián Piñera Echenique, President of Chile


>Mr President, excellence
s, ladies and gentlemen, good
afternoon. Thank you for joining us. I’m delighted to have the President of
Chile, Sebastian Pinera, as one of
the cochairs of the World Economic Forum’s
sustainable development impact
summit here this year. President Pinera,
as you know, is the 36th President
of Chile, serving his second
non-consecutive term. He was also the
President of Chile from tent 10 to
2013, having also achieved a very
successful business path. As such, he is one of the leaders who are
most capable of embodying the
forum’s ethos of public-private
cooperation. Chile has been
one of the most successful countries
in advancing towards the achievement
of the sustainable development
goals. The Chilean public-private
strategy offers an interesting and
novelty model that we would like to
learn more about. As you all know, President
Pinera will be hosting COP25 on
the climate next December. In this context,
I can say with confidence
we have a clear compatibility in our
vision and in the commitments we have
undertaken to improve the state
of the world. I have no doubt that your
leadership, Mr President, will be
instrumental as we advance this year
and it is our honor to have you, Mr
President, with us today. The floor is yours. Welcome. (Applause)>>Thank you very
much, Borge. Well, it’s true, we are
going to be hosting the next COP25 meeting
in Santiago and probably it is the
last chance that we have to change the
course of the world in this respect. Each generation has its own challenge
but I’m convinced that no generation
has faced such an urgent and formative
challenge as we are facing now with
respect of climate change and global
warming. I think this is really
the battle of our lifetime. The human being is the smartest creature
that lives on this planet and at the
same time it is the only creature which
is capable – and sometimes I think
willing – to destroy our planet and that’s
something that of course we
cannot accept. That’s why I think that the
time for action has come. Political leadership
is about doing what is good, what
is right for your people, for your
country, for the world. Even when you
are facing – or when your mission
is unpopular or when you’re facing great
difficulties. Today, we are
facing great difficulties. We have a problem with the weakened
international economy, trade, war between
the two superpowers and many other
problems but I am absolutely convinced
that this is something that will
have to unite us, to face and to confront
together how to deal with this
climate change, with this coming closer
to a climate crisis. These difficulties cannot prevent us from
acting together to force and to face
this huge challenges that I was mentioning
before. Leader-is also about
balancing the competing interests
of different groups. In this case, all those interests come together
because it is a question of survival. I’ve read sometimes
ago, many magazines publishing
a picture of the planet earth with
the legend saying “let’s save planet
earth.” It is not planet earth which
is at risk, planet earth has lived
more than 4,300 million years and
has faced and survived all kinds
of catastrophes. Really at risk is
the survival of had human race in our
planet, that’s why I am absolutely convinced
that we have to take action and
I’m concerned about the results of the
last scientific report that is telling
us that the situation is much
worse than we thought and it is
worsening faster than we thought. For instance, United for
science will come out with a report this week
saying the last five years is the hottest
five years in the known history of
mankind, that the level of ocean is
still riding, that the level of our
emission of carbon is still rising and
we are going in the wrong direction. I think in front of
that challenge you have two options,
one to wait and see and face the
consequences. That’s not the right option. The right option is we need to act now,
face the challenge and try to change
history. While we still
can do it. I think I’m very
happy because what I’ve seen and heard
during these days in New York is that
the community and also the government
have realised the huge responsibility
that we have to do what has to be done
and should have been done long before
so this is a change of attitude,
a change of compromise. For instance, the secretary-general
of the United Nations asked us
to organise what he called a Coalition
for ambition. We have been able
in a few weeks to commit 66 countries,
one out of every three, to become carbon
neutral before 2050. One of them is Chile. Chile is already moving
in that direction. Basically with four
tools, first of all we are decarbonising
100% of our energy matrix. Second, we are changing the fuel of our public
transportation system from fossil
fuels to electricity. Third, we are standing – we are establishing
very high standards of energy
efficiency in all sectors and undertaking
a huge effort to increase
deforestation and in — increase the forestation
and level and quantity of
our forests. With those four main instruments,
we will be able to achieve, hopefully
before 2050. A few weeks ago in
Osaka in the G20 meeting, six countries
started with this commitment. Spain, Italy, France and Germany, the
UK and Chile. Now we have 66 countries
and not only that, more than 100 cities. More than 100 big enterprises
have also achieved this commitment
of becoming carbon neutral. For doing that, it is something that is
absolutely needed. Chile was one of
the first countries in the world to
ban plastic bags. The plastic bag takes
less than one second to be produced. It is used on average not more than 50 minutes
and it takes 400 years to
biodegrade. 400 years contaminating our
oceans and our land. Actually, if we
project the course that we are following
now, very soon there will be more
plastic bags than fish in our oceans
and that’s another tendency we need
to change. To protect the environment and
the bio diversity of our planet earth,
it is not only an environmental
commitment, it is a moral commitment,
something we owe to our sons, to
our children, grandchildren and
the generations that will come because
they also have the right to live on
this planet earth. We are the first generation
to suffer the consequences of
climate change and global warming and
the last one that can do something
to avoid a tragedy and tat a huge
responsibility and I’m optimistic because
we have just participated or
organized a summit to protect the
rainforests, another one to protect the ocean
and the last one which was called by the secretary-general of the
United Nations was in terms of climate change and I see a huge
change in attitude. We know too much
to remain skeptical about what is happening
with our climate and what it
happening with the global warming. We have no right to just remain skeptical,
wait and see what will happen. We have a duty, a moral duty to act. I think the whole world
is understanding that. I would like to thank the
young people who are pushing us to
go faster, to go further, because
that’s something absolutely necessary. The message has been received and
we are taking action and I hope that
in the COP that we will celebrate in
Chile by December of this year, we
will make big, significant progress
in order to change the course
of history and avoid the tragedy and control
our climate and stop our global
warming. The time is now, the time
for action is now. Let’s move. Thank you very much. (Applause)>>Thank you, Mr President
for that inspiring speech
andulse for Chile’s commitment, both to
the rainforest, to the ocean and also
when it comes to climate change. We know that there is a lot of responsibility
also related to hosting this
COP25 on climate. We know we also have
some countries that are moving faster
than others, as you mentioned yourself,
Mr President, there are countries
that have committed to be
carbon neutral and there are countries
that are not committed in the
foreseeable future to be carbon neutral. But looking at the prospects now in the
run-up to COP25, what do you think
is achievable and who are you going
to push and nudge, those that are not
in the forefront and hope to make
consensus around maybe the most important
question that we are faced with
as humankind? I think also as a former
very successful businessman, you
are used to looking at costs. I think one of the challenges is that
we look at the cost of implementation
of action but what we really should
now look at is the cost of inaction
when it comes to climate and I think
that’s a higher cost than the
cost of action.>>Well, the cost of inaction
is infinite because all the
science and the scientists are telling
us that if we don’t change – and
we have only one decade to do major
changes – the system will collapse. For instance, we will know the results
of this science for action that will
tell us – as I was telling you before
– the last five years have been the hottest
five years in the history
of mankind. We have the highest concentration
of gases and carbon and greenhouse
gases in the history of mankind
and the same thing is happening with
acidity and deoxygenation
of our oceans. Our poles are melting, the sea
level is rising. All those things
are not only happening, they
are speeding up. One thing we have to
realise that the problem is much more
serious than what the scientists
expected and it’s worsening much rapidly
than what they projected. Therefore, what are we expecting to achieve
in the COP25 in Chile some basically,
that countries will come with much
more ambitious and enforceable commitment
in terms of reducing greenhouse
gas emissions. Secondly, we need
to involve the private sector and
put into action article 6 of the Paris
agreement which is about carbon
bonds and carbon markets, it is
absolutely necessary because that’s a way
to not only speed up the process but
also to improve the efficiency of the
process of reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. Third, we want to introduce
into the COP25 the concern and the
obligation to protect and conserve our
rainforest, our oceans and our
poles and that’s something new. It has never been considered in the
previous COP. Today we were meeting with
the key countries that will make
the difference. The biggest country
and the most vulnerable country
in the United Nations. I have seen it change dramatic and very
positive change of attitude so we’re
confident that what was considered
impossible – remember that the COP in Poland
didn’t reach major resource, it
was not a success. At the same time,
we have many other problems that we face. Chile will host the APEC meeting in
November and there we have other issues
that we will have to address. This handful, tariff
war between the two superpowers, has to end. I would like to
say to Mr Trump to end this harmful
and absurd war. We have to fortify
the international institution of
the World Trade Organisation which
is not working. In order to avoid that,
each country’s taking their own
measure in a unilateral way which
is not the way to really act in a smart
way so there are so many challenges
we have to face that one thing I have
realized because now we have all the
science, technology and knowledge like never
before, what we need is leadership and it is
really amazing and incredible that the two
most powerful countries in the world, instead
of being leading all these big challenge
we have to face, are involved
in a stupid tariff war. (Applause)>>Talking about trade
and trade wars, I wrote an article
some months ago saying that trade
is not a weapon. Trade is really
about bringing a prosperity and
eradicating poverty and I think Chile is
a good example of a country that has a
very open economy, has eradicated a
lot of poverty and probably there’s
no other country in the world with so
many bilatual trade agreements but at
the same time you’re supportive of the
multilateral system with WTO. I think your APEC
meeting in that respect will
be important. Do you expect some trade
breakthroughs there too that you can
share with us in confidence?>>I participated in the Papua New Guinea last
APEC meeting, it was a complete failure
and, again, of course we have
to change that. Chile was the poorest
Spanish colony in America. And it has become
the most developed and with
the highest per capita income country
in Latin America based on good
institutions and a very open, competitive
and transparent economy. We have the trade
agreement with almost every
country in the world. The US, Europe,
China, India, you name it. More than 80% of the countries have trade
agreement with Chile and that’s worked
to our benefit and also works to
the benefit of other country. International
trade is good for everybody. When we engage in this protectionist practices,
we all suffer because remember
the world was very open until the
First World War. It was the big crisis
and we reacted by protecting our markets,
as if we could protect our markets. We cannot protect all of our markets. If that was possible, I would
be a fan of that. At the most, you can
protect one sector at the cost of
disprotecting many other sectors. When the other country
retaliates doing the same, the situation would
get much worse. I think that free trade,
fair trade is necessary. Now we need to introduce e-commerce and
electronic trade and so many things and for
that we need to fortify and modernize
the World Trade Organisation which
is not playing any role. It is not playing
any role. First of all, the
panel of arbitration is not working because
the people that have to be appointed
have not been appointed because
some countries are blocking that so
that’s one thing which is very
important. In terms of poverty, we made a
strong commitment – let me tell you
something, Latin America is a very
lucky continent. Be have had it all –
we have had it all. Vast territories,
we don’t have the kind of war that
almost destroyed Europe last century
and still it is an underdeveloped continent
with over one-third of its
population living in poverty. That’s not God’s will or something related
to destiny, it is simply because we
have not been able to take advantage
of the opportunity announcement we have
the opportunity because knowledge
and information has proved extremely
generous with the countries that
want to face and embrace it and extremely
cruel with the countries that
just look somewhere else and let it pass. So I think that Latin
America has now a new opportunity to take
advantage of all the good things that we
have in Latin America and for that we
need to do and undertake huge reform. We have to improve the quality
of education in a way where we invest
more in science and research, be
more inclusive in terms of incorporating
everyone to the efforts and benefits
to develop and we have to also be
much more friendly with entrepreneurship
and innovation. The state many
times, instead of helping them, is really
– does exactly the opposite. There are many challenges in
Latin America. Chile has decided to be the
first Latin American country to defeat
poverty and to reach development before
the end of this next decade. That’s our mission, that’s our target,
that’s what we’re working for. (Applause)>>Mr President, this
also fits very well with our
target of the sustainable development
goals 2017, the overarching one
is eradicating all extreme pover ty. I just wanted to pick up on one thing
you mentioned in your speech. You also addressed the situation with
the rainforest. I think there
has been concerns related to this. I think there was a meeting this morning
also among some Latin American
Presidents. Any insight on this
that you would like to share with us? It was a diplomatic question.>>Yes, well, very diplomatic.>>We hope for a candid answer, sorry.>>You’ll get it. Rainforests are key
for the health of our planet and for
the quality of life of our people. They attract almost
one-third of all the greenhouse gas
emissions that we make and also they
are very powerful producers of oxygen
and they regulate temperature and
they regulate the flows of water. There are many a things they can
do for us and, besides, they
have a huge and magnificent bio
diversity and unfortunately, because
of forest fires and deforestation,
we’re destroying too much of our
rainforests which are in the Amazonian
zone, in the Congo Basin, also in the
– in southeast Asia, also in Chile
we have very significant
rainforests. They are not tropical rainforests
but they are rainforests. What we’re doing with our rainforests is
something really incredible, that’s
why when we were meeting in the G7
where we were the G7 meeting and many, many
rainforests were on fire, literally
on fire, there was a movement to
come out with help and what we are
doing now – and we have this conference
which was headed by President Macron
and myself, basically to improve
our quality to protect and conserve
our rainforests and its magnificent
bio diversity and the four principles,
first of all we need to protect
and conserve our rainforest in a much
better way than we’re doing. Second, for that, we need also to allow for
sustainable use of those natural resources
because many people live on that. Third, we need
international help and collaboration and, fourth, that
sovereignty must be respected. Those are the four principles that
will allow a big alliance from countries
where those rainforests are and
those countries that want to protect
those rainforests because they realise
they don’t only impact the countries
where they are but they impact
the whole world. We’re making huge
progress today in that respect and therefore
we are happy. What I feel is after
so many times of discussion and
negotiation, people have realised the
time is over. The time for action has
come and I hope that that new
attitude will be expressed, fully
expressed, in commitments and actions
in our COP25 that will be hosted
by Chile in December of this year.>>Thank you, Mr President. Let’s thank the President for joining us today. (Applause)

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