Global Policy Forum

From Copenhagen to Cochabamba




Franz Chávez

March 31, 2010

A different way of fighting global warming will be tried out in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba when government representatives and thousands of activists gather for the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

The social organisations sponsoring the Apr. 19-22 conference have announced an alternative platform to the efforts of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15), which ended in failure in icy Copenhagen in December 2009.

The defence of Mother Earth, championed by Bolivian President Evo Morales, has the support of more than 240 grassroots and indigenous movements, non-governmental organisations, activists and intellectuals who are calling for a charter of rights for the planet.

The main aims of the conference are to organise a world people's referendum on global warming, draw up an action plan to create an international climate justice tribunal, and agree new commitments to be negotiated within United Nations scenarios.

The agenda priorities are: climate debt, climate change migrants and refugees, greenhouse gas emission cuts, adaptation, technology transfer, financing, forests and climate change, shared visions and indigenous peoples.

"We, as activists from different social movements, define the present time by the arrogance of the United States, European Union and transnational corporations, which was expressed at Copenhagen where a very few countries attempted to impose an outcome - that was not agreed at COP 15 - to do nothing to stop rising global temperatures and climate damage," said the event announcement by leading social organisations.

These organisations include the Hemispheric Social Alliance (ASC-HSA), Friends of the Earth Latin America, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA-CSA), the World March of Women, Campaign and Via Campesina.

Morales will formally open the conference on Apr. 20.

The organisations identify a "crisis of civilisation" that they attribute to capitalism and the "logic of exploitation, racism and patriarchy," which they see in "increased military presence and military bases in various parts of the world, and 'humanitarian' invasions and occupations" which are actually war, they say.

War, the occupation of markets and territories, and militarisation to control energy resources, water and biodiversity, are pointed out as capitalism's methods for solving its own crisis.

The World People's Conference on Climate Change will advocate the right to "live well," as opposed to the economic principle of uninterrupted growth.

In contrast to Copenhagen, where industrialised countries sought a formula for greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would not imply binding commitments, at Cochabamba it will be the popular sectors that take the lead.

"For a long time, the voices of indigenous peoples and social organisations have not been heard. Their movement has been growing underground, in rural areas and the outlying suburbs of cities," environmentalist Carmen Capriles, of the Bolivian chapter of Campaign, told IPS.

Their knowledge, as farmers or livestock raisers, means they can promptly identify the climate phenomena that their way of life and economic wellbeing depend on, she said.

Campaign is named for the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists regard as the "maximum safe limit" for the concentration of this gas, without triggering climate catastrophe.

The conference is distinguished by being "for and with indigenous peoples, unlike any other world conference held to date," Bolivian economist and environment expert Stanislaw Czaplicki told IPS.

Czaplicki was at Copenhagen as a civil society representative, and coordinated networks of young Latin American environmental activists.

"Indigenous peoples and social organisations have already formed a worldwide movement in defence of the planet, and civil society has a major role in the development of public policies," he said. However, "women and young people are under-represented," he added.

In Capriles' view, new movements capable of generating alternative proposals are needed, and she called for political will on the part of developed countries to make structural changes in their economies.

Czaplicki said there are political movements in Europe that are against models of development that harm the environment, but they do not express anti-capitalist thinking, and neither do they distance themselves from the international financial institutions.

These movements arise in countries that achieved development by environmentally harmful means, not in countries that can still choose their model of economic growth, he said.

In the case of Bolivia, policies opposed to capitalism and polluting industrialisation have not yet changed the model of extracting commodities like minerals and gas, Czaplicki said. As a result, 300,000 hectares are deforested every year, he said.

Theory and practice must come together, he said.


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