International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Chile

    Chile’s Constitution guarantees “The right to live in an environment free from contamination.”

    Article 19(8) of the Chilean Constitution provides that:
  • Citizens have the right to live in a pollution-free environment

  • The state, through legislation, must protect this right and ensure the conservation of nature

  • The main regulatory framework is set out in Law 19,300 (Environmental Law). This law aims to:

  • Bring together fragmented and sector-specific regulations into a single legislative framework

  • Create a single environmental liability system

  • Introduce a number of procedures for assessing environmental impact. The most important of these is the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA)

Featured Legislation

1994: Executive Decree 54 & 55 were brought into force, regulating emissions produced by heavy-duty vehicles and medium-duty vehicles.

2018: Decree No. 74 was tabled. The purpose of this Decree is the National Oceanic Policy of Chile, which lays the foundations for the conservation and sustainable use of the sea and its resources, the fight against illegal fishing, marine pollution and the effects of climate change in the ocean, as well as protected areas. The policy defines objectives and specific actions for the following sectoral areas: 1) Conservation of the ocean and its resources (marine and coastal ecosystems and oceanic islands); 2) Economic development (fisheries and aquaculture; port infrastructure and maritime transport; naval industry). The document is based on the principles of non-appropriation and exclusion of sovereignty; peaceful use; freedom of access, exploration and scientific research; rational management of resources and their equitable distribution for the benefit of all humanity. One of the primary objectives of the policy is, in accordance with compliance with the International Law of the Sea and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, to position Chile as a relevant actor in international ocean affairs. Other specific objectives pursued by the instrument include: Protecting freshwater reserves, both continental and those that float adrift in the oceans in the form of icebergs; promote public awareness and understanding of the ocean, strengthening the links that citizens have with it; protect and safeguard Chile’s interests in the Antarctic continent, in accordance with the provisions of the country’s Antarctic Policy.

1998: Executive Decree 609 was passed, governing sewage systems.

1999: Resolution No. 2,738 was presented. This Resolution establishes that camelids imported into Chile must be covered by an official health certificate, issued by the competent health authority, which certifies compliance with the health requirements indicated and stipulates the establishment of origin, number and identification of the animals (sex, age, marks and signs), the consignee and identification of the means of transport. The country of origin must be declared free of foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, contagious nodular dermatosis, Rift Valley fever, contagious agalactia and theileriasis before the International Office of Epizootics and recognized by Chile for this health condition. In the area of ​​origin there must not have been cases of Rabies, Bluetongue, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, Vesicular Stomatitis, Malignant Catarrhal Fever, Anaplasmosis, Akabane, Trypanosomiasis (vivax, cruzi and evansi) and Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis in the last 12 months. The farm of origin must be officially free of Tuberculosis and Brucellosis (abortus, ovis and melitensis) and be under an official control program.

2000: Executive Decree 90 was drafted to determine the maximum concentration of pollutants allowed in ocean water and continental surface water.

2001: Executive Decree 95/2001 was introduced, containing the rules that applied to the The Environmental Evaluation Service (SEIA).

2002:  Executive Decree 46/2002 was signed, regulating underground water systems and determining the maximum concentrations of pollutants allowed in discharges or emissions.

2007: Executive Decree 45 was enacted to regulate emissions produced by incineration and co-incineration.

2007: Executive Decree 144 was created to establish rules to avoid air pollutant emissions or of any nature.

2010: The Environmental Law was amended by Law 20,417. Law 20,417 introduced:

  • An Environmental Superintendence
  • Enhanced roles of the local community, involving it more in environmental screenings
  • New strategic environmental assessment
  • Alternative and faster proceedings
  • Bigger fines and innovative sanctions to encourage compliance
  • The creation of an integrated system of conservation and protected areas

2012: Law 20, 600 was passed, leading to the creation of Chile’s Environmental Courts, which have jurisdiction in all matters relating to environmental damages as defined in Law 19,300. These courts hear cases regarding decisions made by the Superintendence.

2013: Executive Decree 40 was approved to govern the use of treatment or disposal facilities for hazardous waste.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • President Sebastian Pinera announced that Chile will draft stiffer fines and jail time for serious violations of the country’s environmental laws. Chile is the world’s top copper producer and the new bill will empower environmental inspectors to exercise more governance over big business. Specifically, the new law makes it a crime to mislead environmental inspectors or to obstruct the enforcement of environmental laws, with serious environmental infractions being punished with two months in jail or fines of up to $70,000. The law will also apply to other goods in Chile such as a wide array of fruits and vegetables, farmed salmon, lithium and renewable energy. The aim is to Increase scrutiny of large-scale projects by citizen groups and non-governmental organizations, empowering local and regional authorities to mitigate environmental threats.
  • Recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, Alberto Curamil is an indigenous Mapuche leader who was shot with 18 riot shotgun pellets in 2019. He was attacked by police during a protest against an arson attack on a Mapuche home on contested land in southern Chile. There have been no further investigations into the shooting and environmental activists contend this is merely a ploy at silencing his activism. Curamil has been very vocal about environmental justice through petitions aimed at halting the construction of two hydroelectric projects on a sacred river in 2016. This has earned him the label of an eco-terrorist by the state, especially in the wake of decades of land disputes between indigenous rights advocates, the Chilean state and corporate landowners.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Carolina Schmidt: