Making the environmental state in Chile: knowledge, markets, and legal frameworks for biodiversity conservation (2022)
In response to pressures from intergovernmental institutions, NGOs, and environmental movements, Chile is crafting new legal and policy frameworks to increase state management and financing of biodiversity conservation. In 2014, the executive branch sent to congress a bill to create a Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service (BPAS). The BPAS, which remains in the legislature, would be a game-changer in a country that has for decades prioritized a neoliberal economic model based on the export of raw nature. Moreover, since the state ratified ILO Convention 169 in 2008 and UNDRIP in 2009, the new environmental institutions must respect the rights and views of Indigenous people – a considerable challenge given Chile’s long legacy of Indigenous land dispossession, forced displacement, and genocide. This dissertation analyzes “the making of the environmental state”: a state with sufficient institutional capacity to protect biodiversity. The questions guiding this research are: What is the character of the environmental state in Chile? How does the environmental state come into being? What is its approach to generating financial resources? And how does it relate to Indigenous people? Based on interviews with state and intergovernmental officers, Indigenous representatives, and private environmental experts, along with a review of governmental documents, I scrutinize the creation of the BPAS bill and its main economic instruments. I trace the legislative history of the BPAS bill, reviewing parliamentary debates around articles which render biodiversity economic. I then focus on one of the bill’s centerpieces, a biodiversity offsets market, analyzing the actors who participated in its crafting, the discourses justifying its implementation, and the market devices in its design. Finally, I shift gears to examine the state's relationship with Indigenous people during a consultation on the BPAS. This research suggests that the state's intimate relationship with global circuits of capital accumulation and policymaking severely restricts its capacity to implement environmental reforms. Furthermore, the environmental state in Chile is invested in internal and settler colonial logics that marginalize Indigenous practices and knowledges.