22 April 2010 Edition

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Bolivia hosts World People's Conference

Bolivia's President Evo Morales champions sustainable tableware during his speech at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Tiquipayaa

Bolivia's President Evo Morales champions sustainable tableware during his speech at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Tiquipayaa


More than 18,000 environmental activists, indigenous representatives and climate scientists have joined Latin American presidents for a major climate conference hosted by Bolivian President Evo Morales in Cochabamba from April 19-22.
Morales called for the alternative summit – the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the rights of Mother Earth – in the aftermath of the failed Cop15 summit in Copenhagen in December. Delegations from 90 governments will also participate in the summit, which aims to give voice to the world’s poor on the issue of climate change, and to influence the next United Nations climate summit, Cop16, which will be held in Mexico at the end of this year.
Outlining the country’s motivation in organising the summit, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, said: “The only way to get climate negotiations back on track, not just for Bolivia or other countries, but for all of life, biodiversity, our Mother Earth, is to put civil society back into the process.
“The only thing that can save humanity from a climate tragedy is the exercise of global democracy.”
Latin American presidents, including Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, Rafael Correa from Ecuador and Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua joined leading climatologist James Hansen from NASA, author Naomi Klein and climate activist Vandana Shiva for the conference.
Delegates from more than 130 countries will discuss ideas proposed by Morales in Copenhagen, including establishing a world tribunal for climate justice and building a mechanism for an international referendum on achieving climate justice.
The city of Cochabamba made headlines in 2000 during the ‘water wars’, when a mass movement successfully reversed the privatisation of water which had been ordered by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The move had landed the city’s impoverished people with water bills that amounted to a third of their monthly income.
The World People’s Conference marks the 10-year anniversary of the massive protests and general strike that brought the city to a halt, helped to lay the basis for the movement that elected Evo Morales in 2005, and inspired the growth of social movements across Latin America.

Unlike the Copenhagen summit, the People’s Conference will analyse the structural causes of climate change and discuss alternatives models of development.
At Copenhagen in December, a massive protest of 100,000 people from all around the world was held to demand immediate action on reducing carbon emissions and climate justice for the developing world. A counter-conference – Klimaforum 09 – was held at the same time as the official Cop15 summit in Copenhagen and involved about 20,000 representatives of indigenous movements, and climate and social justice groups.
The World People’s Conference on Climate Change, which was proposed by Morales in Copenhagen, represents the further progress and increasing organisation of the international movement for climate justice.
This movement has been spurred on by the dismal failure of the official negotiations that took place at Copenhagen.
The summit failed to come close to achieving an ambitious, legally binding global treaty on reducing carbon emissions and actually represented a step backward from progress that had been made in previous climate discussions.
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún, who was a part of the European Parliament’s official delegation to the Cop15 summit, said in the aftermath of the conference that the failure to agree a strong plan of action for reducing carbon emissions “puts the onus on the growing climate justice movement”.

Climate activists were campaigning for a strong, legally binding global treaty that set emission reduction targets required by science and contained mechanisms and funding to assist developing countries in coping with the impact of climate change and putting the development of their economies on a sustainable path.
Scientists urged a plan of action what would see the industrialised states reduce their carbon emissions by 40 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80-95 per cent by 2050 in order to limit warming to no more than 2ºC in the next century.
But a handful of countries, led by the U.S., organised a woefully inadequate agreement, the Copenhagen Accord, that was not legally binding, did not contain any reduction targets and did not contain sufficient pledges of climate aid from the industrialised world to the developing countries.
The EU pledged to reduce its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, while the U.S. pledged to make a cut of just four per cent by 2020 – one-tenth of what is required by science.
Last month, Bolivia’s UN ambassador Pablo Solon said: “Copenhagen marked a backwards step, undoing the work built on since the climate talks in Kyoto.
“Once you take into account what are called ‘banking of surplus emission budgets’ and ‘accounting rules for land use, land use change and forestry’ then the Copenhagen accord would actually allow for an increase in developed country emissions of 2.6 per cent above 1990 levels.”
The Accord makes reference to U.S.$30 billion from 2010 to 2012 in immediate aid to developing countries but there is no clarity as to who will contribute what from the industrialised countries.
The $10 billion per year pledge provoked outrage among delegates from the developing world, where last year 300,000 people died from the effects of climate change.
Speaking at Copenhagen, Morales said: “The budget of the United States is US$687 billion for defence. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful.”
The Accord was unacceptable to several countries, including Bolivia, so it was “taken note of” by the conference and not adopted.

The Bolivian conference is happening at a crucial moment, as negotiations take place to decide the way the Cop16 summit in Mexico in December will be run. The aim to achieve a global carbon treaty has basically been deferred until then.
Earlier this month the U.S. State Department suspended its climate change aid to Bolivia and Ecuador on the basis of their refusal to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord  –  despite the fact there is no legal requirement for any country to sign up to the inadequate accord. The move will cost Bolivia U.S.$3 million and Ecuador U.S.$2.5 million.
Solon described this as “a very bad practice” and said Bolivia’s climate policy would remain unchanged.
European Union countries threatened to make similar aid cuts to other developing countries during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks held in Bonn over April 9-11.
During the Bonn talks, the G77 plus China successfully resisted attempts by the U.S. to make the Copenhagen Accord the basis for future negotiations.
The Cochabamba conference can put forward proposals to UNFCCC negotiators before April 26 to be taken into consideration in the lead-up to Mexico.
Welcoming the growth of the climate justice movement as can be seen in Cochabamba, de Brún said: “The lesson from Copenhagen is that the climate challenge cannot be left to a handful of people who are clearly lacking the vision and will to bring about the vital changes necessary to protect the future of our planet.
“There is a huge willingness among large swathes of the populations in many different countries around the world who are determined to take action for change, and governments need to listen to these demands and respond.”

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