Taking lessons from the Atacama desert to Dubai
Luciano Travella Barrios is a geologist from Chile, who will be part of his country’s negotiating delegation to COP28 with support from the GEF and the Climate Reality Project. In an interview, he shared lessons from his work monitoring conditions in the Atacama desert and advocating for climate justice.
What is your area of focus?
I’m a geologist and tour guide from Chile’s Atacama region, and I have extensive knowledge of public policy, environmental issues, and climate change, thanks to various work and volunteer experiences. Currently, I’m working for the UNDP to help craft and implement “just transition” strategies in vulnerable areas of Atacama. This is something that motivates me a lot because I can apply everything I've learned about the environment and climate change and contribute to my community at the same time.
When did you become interested in environmental issues?
When I was studying to become a geologist, I realized how much it relates to a lot of the environmental problems in my region and country. Atacama is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, because of water scarcity, the extractives industry, pollution, and other natural conditions related to desert climates. About six years ago, I become involved in these topics because I considered it important to contribute to my local environment and advocate for climate justice for local institutions and organizations.
What message do you have for today’s political and business leaders?
After reading documents and decisions from previous COPs, I can see that the information, principles, goals and mandates are in line with the solutions to address climate change, at least in the near-term. So, the problem I see is that political influences, inside and outside the UNFCCC and other international bodies, still manipulate many proposals and agreements -- especially those related to fossil fuels and decarbonization. I’m very committed to the truth, so if I could send a message to political and business leaders it will be: don’t lie to the world and give true value to your words and agreements.
Why is it important to you to be in the negotiating room at COP28?
It’s a huge challenge being part of any international negotiation. It will be my first experience as negotiator, and I see it as an opportunity to learn and perhaps use my experience living in Chile and the Atacama desert to have at least a small influence. Also, the thing that excites me most is the chance of learn about these complex human relations driven by an issue like climate change, which has such a global impact.
What issue are you most focused on related to the climate negotiations?
I’ve chosen to focus on “just transition” and finance. In my region, just transition is imperative to face the socioeconomic impacts caused by extractives and the coal industry. Fortunately, it is also one of the six priority topics of the current COP presidency. Finance is always a critical topic because of its role in ensuring the compliance of other agreements. In this sense, from my point of view, one of the most challenging issues is the relation between finance flows of party and non-party stakeholders, especially those related to fossil fuels and energy.
How do you spend your free time?
I used to travel a lot, but, in the last three to four years it’s been difficult because of my work and studies. But biking, playing musical instruments, and reading books are things I like to do to relax and recharge.