A report from Porto Alegre on the Bolivian climate change initiative
On the night of 18-19 December in Copenhagen, a handful of governments opposed the text presented by the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa. Among those few Bolivia — represented by President Evo Morales who has been re-elected just days before with an overwhelming majority Mother Earth strongly condemned the agreement both on the process (the text was discussed in small groups outside of the UN) and on the content, which fell far short of anything close to what the IPCC recommended, did not include any constraints on emissions, or financing commitments for the South.
Just a few days later President Morales issued an invitation to the “Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights” in Cochabamba, Bolivia, 19-22 April 2010. Although the initiative from Morales raised a lot of interest and enthusiasm from activist networks across the world, there were still many questions about the nature and the objectives of the conference. Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations and a veteran of the World Social Forum, came to the Porto Alegre WSF 10th year events, to share information and gather support for the conference. He spent three hours meeting with climate justice activists and movements and there was a very useful sharing of information and views.
Following the failure of Copenhagen and the mounting pressure for governments to sign on to the Copenhagen Accord, Bolivia believes that it is vital to take some immediate initiatives to change the correlation of forces to shift the international agenda. The proposal is original: to invite all governments, UN agencies, scientists, social movements and NGOs — without conditions – to participate in a working groups and to prepare conclusions and a final declaration.
So far, several governments have indicated that they will attend, including some from Latin American and European countries. The goal of the Bolivians is to have several chiefs of state and a large number of ministers. The Bolivians are also sure of the participation of some UN agencies but the outstanding question is the level of representation from governments and the UN. Many activists and scientists have shown interest and some have already confirmed their participation.
The Mother Earth conference has six objectives:
The conference has six objectives:
- Analyse the structural and systemic causes of climate change and propose substantive measures that facilitate the well-being of all mankind in harmony with nature.
- Discuss and agree the draft Universal Declaration of rights of Mother Earth.
- To agree on proposals for new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and projects for a COP Decision under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change that will guide future actions in those countries that are engaged with life during climate change negotiation
- Work on the organisation of a people’s world referendum on climate change.
- Analyse and draw up a plan of action to advance the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal;
- Define strategies for action and mobilisation in defence of life against climate change and for mother earth rights.
So far, sixteen working groups have been identified but others can be added with the limit of 20 due to room and translation constraints. (Translation will be in English and Spanish only.)
They are: Structural causes; Harmony with Nature; Mother Earth Rights; Climate Change Referendum; Climate Justice Tribunal; Climate Migrants and Refugees; Indigenous Peoples; Climate Debt; Shared Vision; Kyoto Protocol; Adaptation; Financing; Technology; Forest; Dangers of Carbon Market; Action Strategies. (more information).
The working groups will prepare proposals that will be aggregated in a final text. The groups will start their work at the beginning of February through email. Besides the thematic issues, groups are invited to self organise activities and a scientific conference is also planned. Finally, the Bolivians are encouraging the formation of national committees to prepare for the conference to lay the ground for an ongoing movement after the conference.
A lot of objections could be raised about this grand scheme. The timing is very short, and travelling to Cochabamba is both expensive and quite difficult. Mixing government representatives, UN agencies, social movements and NGOs can create problems for many of the potential participants who prefer to maintain their autonomy. There is no committee organising the conference – the invitation comes directly from Evo Morales – which has the advantage of avoiding debates about who is or is not part of the committee, but which can also create problems about how the conference will be conducted. The preparations rely on internet, which is always difficult, not least for social movements, and in two languages. And so on and so on…
At the same time, it was clear in Porto Alegre that all the social movements from Latin America will support and join Cochabamba, as well as many delegations from other continents, motivated by the necessity to build a large global alliance for climate justice. And we all know that in periods of uncertainty and transition, such as the times we are in, initiatives that could be seen as crazy or unrealistic are, from time to time, those that change the course of history.
Christophe Aguiton (Attac) and Nicola Bullard (Focus on the Global South)