Q&A: Chile’s Head of Climate Change on the Country’s Seminal Climate Action Law

Andres Pica Téllez is the Head of the Climate Change Division in Chile’s Ministry of Environment, where he plays a central role in implementing a law that requires every municipality to develop a climate action plan. The 2022 law marks a paradigm shift, shifting responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the Ministry of Environment to all government entities. Chile’s goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, with emissions peaking in 2025. 

“It’s a huge opportunity,” said Andres, who took on the role in May, after almost three years of championing climate planning across Latin America with SSG. “It’s pretty comprehensive and it’s pushing a lot of systems.” 

Our team couldn’t be more thrilled to see Andres bring his leadership and passion for limiting the climate crisis to this one-of-a-kind opportunity. (Though we do miss him dearly!) Indeed, he’s uniquely qualified for the job, having co-authored the first book about climate change in Chile and developed dozens of climate action initiatives as Executive Director of the UC Global Change Center at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Andres was instrumental in bringing SSG’s data-informed approach to climate planning across Latin America and building our Chilean team! 

We sat down with Andres to discuss what drives him, the transformative potential of Chile’s climate action unique law, and his time at SSG. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

SSG: Congratulations on being appointed the Head of the Climate Change division within Chile’s Ministry of Environment. What excites you most about this role? What do you hope to accomplish? 

Andres: There is a huge opportunity in Chile right now, based on the Climate Change Framework Law that makes it mandatory for all federal ministries, and all regional and municipal governments, to have a climate action plan that is aligned with Chile’s National Determined Contribution [a climate action plan submitted to the United Nations]. My job is to support the development of these plans. 

This year, we are going to do about 14 climate action plans for different ministries. Everything has to incorporate science. We have a scientific committee that has to review these plans by law. It’s cool because the approach is super comprehensive. That also makes it challenging to do. It is changing the way the government works. The law means applying a climate lens to everything we do.

The law means applying a climate lens to everything we do.

We’re also starting implementation of those plans and highlighting how climate actions benefit communities in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, electric buses are also quieter buses, and are easier for people with low mobility to access.  It’s about more than avoiding the doom world of climate disaster. It’s about the positive impact that these climate actions can have on society today, not in 20 years. And that’s super meaningful. 

SSG: What do you think other countries can learn from Chile’s approach to the climate crisis?

Andres: Addressing climate change is not just about solving an environmental issue. It really needs to shape the way you think. What Chile is doing is changing the way the country works. The Climate Change Framework Law is like a country development law. We are integrating climate considerations across all ministries, all regional governments. Six hundred public servants were offered free professional development training to develop expertise in climate action. And these plans have to be comprehensive—with quantifiable, science-backed outcomes that can be monitored, and also demonstrate equity  considerations. And this is important, because we want the outcomes of this law to show positive impacts today, not just that we created a lot of climate action plans. It’s not about one solar roof here and another one there—it’s changing the way the system works. The result is an approach to transform society, and that can be harsh. But it has to happen.

The result is an approach to transform society, and that can be harsh. But it has to happen.

SSG: Did your time at SSG shape your approach to climate action work? 

Andres: Before I joined SSG, I didn’t know about the co-op model, but I was curious about if running a business differently could work. SSG showed me that co-ownership worked better than I expected! So that was transformative. It was interesting to disagree, and also to be open to being wrong, and work towards consensus and move forward. 

What is different about SSG is that they really work together. They have a modeller and an engagement specialist talking to each other. In other places I’ve worked, people work in their own field, with their own language. They are nerdy in their own ways. It’s hard to have fluid communication between people working on different parts of a project.  

SSG workers at an all-staff retreat in 2022 (Photo courtesy of Carol Fraser).

SSG:You have worked to advance climate action in a variety of roles throughout your career, what motivates you? 

Andres: If you asked me when I was a little what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you, a [government] minister. For me, it was important to have a potential positive impact in society. I was interested in social development. In university, I started an NGO that supported people as they transitioned from favelas to living in permanent homes. Then, I did an internship in water and air decontamination plans. The experience showed me how environmental work could relate to social development. I continue to be motivated about how my work can impact the world in a positive way.


If you’d like to learn more about our work in Latin America, reach out to our Latin America team check out our Latin America page.