Jonathan Barton, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

Presentation Title: No picks, no shovels, no helmets: Local governments at the coalface of adaptation to water stress in Chile



Faced with lack of inertia and fragmentation, the task of climate change adaptation has increasingly been left to local governments, arguably the weakest level of government due to the centralized nature of the Chilean state. This presentation shared two experiences of climate change adaptation at the Chilean municipal level and revealed major obstacles faced by local governments. The first – legal responsibilities - relates to the role of municipalities in the provision of emergency fresh water to local populations, particularly in municipalities on the fringes of the largest cities, which are subject to urbanization pressures and changing land uses.   The second – information scarcity - involves water use for green spaces. While higher-level public institutions discuss strategic and future concerns relating to climate change, it is at the local level that adaptation is taking place. However, this adaptation is not matched with adequate information and financing, and the de facto responsibilities assumed by these authorities are neither recognized nor formalized. Effective urban adaptation in Chile requires decentralization, in order to address this imbalance.