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Press Release

Thursday, October 4, 2018

With regard to the decision to carry out a more in-depth analysis of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazú Agreement), the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Environment report as follows:

There are two main reasons for this decision:

1. The existing institutional framework for environmental protection in Chile
- Chile has made important advances in rights of access to information and citizen participation in recent years, including the enactment of Law No. 20.285 on Access to Public Information and the reform of Environmental Institutions, demonstrating the Government's commitment to the protection of the environment.

- Our national legislation complies with all the essential aspects of the Escazú Agreement, regarding citizen participation, transparency and access to environmental information. Proof of this is the existence of a Pollutant Emissions and Transfers Registry (RETC), a National Environmental Monitoring Information System (SNIFA), a National Environmental Information System (SINIA), a digital Environmental Evaluation System freely accessible to the public, the application of the Transparency Law, the existence of Environmental Courts - unique in South America -, the realization of periodic reports on the State of the Environment; and the broad mechanisms of public participation, which are not restricted to environmental matters.

- In addition, Chile is moving forward to improve its environmental legislation and further strengthen the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. In particular, the Government presented a Bill to modernize the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA), taking a further step on the path that the country has traced to strengthen the protection of nature and environmental democracy, with the aim of perfecting these instances.

2. The scope and effect of the mechanisms contemplated in the Escazú Agreement when it comes to resolving international disputes:

- Any granting of jurisdiction to International Tribunals must be studied with responsibility and rigour, since this means an assignment of our sovereignty. Chile is in the process of strengthening its national institutions specialized in this matter, based in the Environmental Courts, which even allow the possibility of taking the case to the Supreme Court. In view of this commitment, the Government believes that any environmental disputes should preferably be resolved by internal mechanisms rather than by international tribunals.

- The Escazú Agreement, when interacting with other treaties in force, gives the possibility of transferring the jurisdiction of these matters from Chilean Courts to International Courts. This would allow individuals and States to submit Chile to the jurisdiction of International Tribunals.

- In addition, under the Escazú Agreement, States must establish mechanisms such as Committees, Councils or Platforms for landlocked developing countries, without specifying how to comply with that provision. This generates a wide space for interpretation that could be misused by other States and generate tension in the fulfillment of this obligation.

- This is all the more relevant since the Escazú Agreement prohibits States from entering reservations on this matter, unlike similar instruments in this area. Therefore, the Government, together with an in-depth analysis of the Agreement, is studying the possibility of submitting Interpretative Declarations that specify the scope and meaning of certain provisions that will allow us to safeguard our sovereign interests.