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Bachelet and the Environment: The Ray of Hope in a Lackluster Government

Sun, April 30, 4:00 to 5:45pm, TBA


There are few policy areas where the Bachelet government can claim success. Flagship commitments such as the tax, educational and labor reforms have received criticism from within and without the government coalition. Citizen outrage with other neglected areas such as health and pensions made the government reconsider its intention not to risk another painful policy negotiation. There is probably one exception to this: environmental policy. After setting high targets at the COP21 summit in Paris, Bachelet accelerated changes in environmental governance institutions, and especially, in the energy sector. After a large auction in august 2016, clean energies not only took the lead in a hitherto highly concentrated and controversial market; Chile was brought to the spotlight thanks to the ability of solar energy producers to provide the "Cheapest Electricity ‘Ever, Anywhere, By Any Technology". The government estimates this will significantly decrease onerous energy bills and boost business competitiveness.

Focusing on two processes, the implementation of the climate change plan and the related Energy 2050 agenda, the paper attempts to identify the factors affecting the success of environmental policy over other initiatives. Three factors are highlighted: the opening of a window of opportunity brought about by environmental movements and an acute energy crisis; the existence of institutional entrepreneurs with the capacity to exploit this window of opportunity; and a process of paradigm change reducing the legitimacy of environmentally unfriendly solutions. The paper concludes with reflections over whether the government will be able to capitalize this success in order to reverse historically low approval rates.