Chile scraps Asia-Pacific and climate summits amid protests

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said Wednesday that protests roiling the country have pushed him to call off two major international summits that his country had been scheduled to host.

Piñera said Chile would not host the Asia-Pacific summit set for Nov. 16-17 and the global climate gathering planned for Dec. 2-13. It wasn’t immediately clear if they would be shifted to another country.

“This has been a very difficult decision that causes us great pain,” Piñera said in a televised address.

But he added, “A president always has to put the needs of his compatriots first.”

The South American nation has seen 12 days of massive protests to demand greater economic equality and better public services. The demonstrations have been accompanied by some vandalism and arson, which forced the shutdown of numerous subway stations.

U.N. Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa issued a statement saying that “alternative hosting options” were being explored.

One of the main topics for this year’s meeting was to be setting up rules governing how countries can work jointly to cut emissions, as opposed to nation-by-nation efforts.

Even if cancelling the Santiago climate conference means those rules don’t get written this year, “the absence of rules does not stop countries from acting either alone or together” to cut emissions, said Nigel Purvis, a climate and environment negotiator in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. “It really shouldn’t slow down climate action.”