CMPC CEO on rural fires, “We can make a lot of progress with preventive measures, but we require joint assessment to do so, and that is where we’re coming up short.”
Under the framework of the National Business Conference (Enade in Spanish) 2023 that happens in Chile, Francisco Ruiz-Tagle underscored relationships of trust and a shared appraisal of situations as two central elements for public-private collaboration for handling emergencies like the summer fires.
In front of an audience made up of the main union and business leaders and government authorities in the country, the CMPC CEO Francisco Ruiz-Tagle gave a complete analysis of the fires that hit the south-central zone of the country during the summer and its impact beyond the forestry industry. Ruiz-Tagle was emphatic in pointing out that the key to effective public-private collaboration is building relationships of trust as well as making joint assessments of the problem’s causes and the best ways to address this type of event. “Regarding the latter aspect (referring to the joint assessment), reviewing what has happened during the last few seasons, we have significant opportunities for improvement,” he said.
“We can make a lot of progress with preventive measures, but for that we need joint assessment. I think that’s where we’re coming up short. At the most critical moment of the fire crisis, we got embroiled in a debate about the percentage of intentionality. This is a pointless discussion, because the important thing is to identify the real damage caused by the intentional harm,” said Ruiz-Tagle in the panel “Public-Private Collaboration: Working Together for Chile” at the National Business Conference (Enade) 2023.
After the emergency had ended, the records reflect more than 430,000 affected hectares, 7,784 victims and 26 deaths in the Regions of Maule, Ñuble, Biobío and La Araucanía. These figures are the worst on record since the 2017 fire season.
Thus, Ruiz-Tagle reported that these events are of national – and global – relevance for several reasons. First, because more than half of the fires do not occur on forest terrain. Second, because they are framed in a context of climate emergency that brings favorable conditions for the propagation of these events. Third, because fires, in addition to putting homes, crops and native forests at risk, are implicated in more than 20% of annual CO2 emissions globally.
In turn, Ruiz-Tagle recognized the work done together with public entities. “On the ground and at the local level, both before and also during the crisis, there was a lot of public-private collaboration on fire-fighting. I can tell you that this works and is very effective. There is dialogue, there was joint work, strategies were shared, and resources were coordinated,” he explained.
“Without collaboration between the public and private sectors, Chile would not have any capacity to even approach the levels of technology and spending on fire prevention and fighting of the most developed nations,” he said.
On the same panel, the presidential delegate for reconstruction and former Minister of Housing and Urbanism Paulina Saball also spoke about the rural fires and the public efforts to deal with the havoc they have caused. Saball pointed out that the country needs to be sustainable and not just show solidarity after negative events. She added that, along with collaborative efforts, it is necessary to develop complementary measures to sit at the table and ensure the legitimate interests of each of the parties involved.
President of the ACHS Paul Schiodtz, Megeve Investments Director Sandro Solari and Fundación Chile’s Sustainability Manager Marina Hermosilla also participated in the panel. It was moderated by the past president and director of Icare, Lorenzo Gazmuri.