Santiago de Chile

New initiatives on climate change adaptation in Santiago de Chile

New local climate change adaptation initiatives have been started in the last three years in and around the metropolitan area of Santiago de Chile. These initiatives contributed to a wide scientific knowledge; however, the steps from science to policy and from policy to implementation have to be undertaken.

Ninety percent of Chileans live in urban areas, with over 40% of the national population living in the Santiago Metropolitan Area.  Given this high concentration, the ability of the Metropolitan Region to adapt to climate change is critical for the healthy development of the capital city, its region and the country as a whole. As with other large metropolitan areas in Latin America and beyond, there is increasing pressure for national climate change planning to be grounded in local and regional policies and investments.

Photo by Dario Alperny

Photo by Dario Alperny

Interest in urban areas began to gain momentum in 2008 with the National Climate Change Plan, presented at the Poznan COP.  In this plan, two particular issues were highlighted as priorities for cities:  protection from extreme events due to riverine and coastal locations; and the incorporation of climate change considerations into land use planning.

Following this plan, over the past three years there have been important initiatives, which have emerged alongside increasing preoccupation with regard to hydrological stresses, extreme daily temperatures and intense precipitation events. These initiatives include national programmes, such as the new National Adaptation Plan, which currently finalizes the public consultation phase, but also projects that are locally-based or reach out to the local scale.

For example, the ClimateAdaptationSantiago (CAS) project led to the draft Metropolitan Region Adaptation Plan presented to the authorities in December 2012. Since this time, the regional authorities were involved in defining commitments for different sectors, such as housing, environment, agriculture. The elections in late 2013 and the change of government early 2014 have delayed progress. Furthermore, the AdaptChile training program with municipal officers from 12 municipalities in the metropolitan region has led to the formation of a metropolitan municipalities´ network to sustain the impetus. AdaptChile sought to capacity-build in the municipalities and for each of these local government officers to integrate climate change considerations into their planning instruments. The next step is to create a metropolitan region network of local governments and climate change.

Finally, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) financed the project Adaptation Plan for the Maipo Basin (MAPA), which focuses on climate change and water resource management in the catchment of the Maipo Basin, where Santiago de Chile is located.

A lot of scientific insights have been generated through the CAS and MAPA projects and there is high clarity about the future scenarios in the Maipo Basin, particularly with regards to hydrological stress, but also including extreme events and heat island issues.  The priorities now lie in the conversion processes, of science to policy and policy to implementation for all the three projects.

The science-policy interface is often difficult to manage due to diverse factors, and the policy-implementation step is also highly challenging. At Resilient Cities 2014 congress, 29-31 May 2014 in Bonn, Germany, a Reality Check Workshop will discuss these two steps. Diverse actors from the regions, who are involved in these processes, will explore potential challenges and opportunities. The congress program can be found here.


Author of this article and organizer of the workshop at Resilient Cities 2014:

 Jonathan R. Barton, MAPA and Centre for Sustainable Urban Development (CEDEUS), Chile