Amid growing civil unrest, Chile announced Wednesday that the country would no longer host the biggest climate conference of the year. On Friday, the United Nations confirmed Spain would host the conference instead.
The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, called COP25, was originally slated to run Dec. 2–13 in Santiago. It will now take place during those same dates in Madrid. Thousands of government officials, business leaders, and activists from around the world were planning to attend and now have to change their travel plans.
“Earlier today, I was informed of the decision by the Government of Chile not to host COP25 in view of the difficult situation that the country is undergoing,” Patricia Espinosa, the UN climate chief, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are currently exploring alternative hosting options."
Earlier in October, Chile declared a state of emergency across parts of the country due to a surge of anti-government protests. At least 11 people have died in violence tied to the unrest.
“We understand perfectly the importance of [the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit] and COP for Chile and the world, but we have based our decision on common sense,” Chilean President Sebastián Piñera reportedly said. “A president needs to put its people above everything else.”
Chile also canceled a second international conference, the APEC summit, scheduled for December, according to Bloomberg.
“It’s an unprecedented situation,” Rachel Cleetus, a policy director with the scientific integrity group Union of Concerned Scientists, told BuzzFeed News. She is one of several members of the group planning to attend the climate conference.
“We’re all of course now just waiting to hear if and how to change our travel plans to be wherever and whenever COP is rescheduled," Cleetus said. "We very much hope it will be.”
This is the second country to withdraw from hosting the 2019 climate conference. Brazil, the original host, abandoned its plans after the far-right Jair Bolsonaro was elected president.
This story was updated to reflect that Spain is now hosting the climate conference in Madrid.