•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

At Cancún climate talks

Poor countries to demand climate justice

Published Oct 24, 2010 10:06 PM

With the close of the most recent round of climate talks in Tianjin, China, which took place during the first week of October, the world is gearing up for the next major talks in Cancún, Mexico, to begin in late November. The Tianjin talks, with delegates from more than 150 countries, produced very little progress, as the fundamental divide between the desires of rich countries and the needs of poor ones was not resolved.

At this point, few are optimistic that the talks in Cancún will result in a binding global deal. Many fear they will resemble those that took place in Copenhagen last year, which resulted in a nonbinding accord that fails to hold rich countries accountable for their contribution to climate change.

Adjacent to these arguably fruitless U.N.-organized talks, there is a growing global people’s movement for climate justice that is calling for real solutions through system change. This movement can be seen protesting outside the official climate talks, from Copenhagen to Cancún. It has also taken steps to come up with real solutions for the climate crisis, under the leadership of Indigenous Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Morales organized the first World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, this past April. Unlike the Copenhagen conference, which excluded most climate justice activists, nonprofits and even some heads of state from certain discussions, the conference in Cochabamba welcomed all people. With about 30,000 participants from more than 142 countries, the conference addressed the climate crisis as a symptom of the larger disease of unbridled consumption, greed and disrespect for Mother Earth — all characteristics of imperialist capitalism.

People’s Agreement in Cochabamba

The Cochabamba conference called for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut in half by 2020, the creation of an international climate tribunal to judge countries on their contribution to the climate crisis, and the organization of an international referendum on the climate crisis.

The conference culminated in the creation of a People’s Agreement, an extensive document discussing the great dilemma humanity now faces: “to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”

A central theme of the text is the concept of climate debt: The attendees of the conference united around the idea that rich countries must assume their responsibility for creating this colossal environmental crisis that is and will continue to be hitting poorer countries first and hardest. “The focus [for the repayment of the debts] must not be only on financial compensation, but also on restorative justice, understood as the restitution of integrity to our Mother Earth and all its beings.”

The People’s Agreement also highlights the fact that the Copenhagen conference featured the leaders of rich countries (under the leadership of President Barack Obama) attempting to undermine the steps taken in the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding agreement that addresses greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries. The administration of Bill Clinton had succeeded in weakening the language of that accord but then refused to sign it.

The People’s Agreement calls for the conference in Cancún to approve an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol for a second commitment period from 2013 to 2017 “under which developed countries must agree to significant domestic emissions reductions of at least 50 percent based on 1990 levels, excluding carbon markets or other offset mechanisms that mask the failure of actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” The entire text of the document can be found at http://pwccc.wordpress.com/.

The state of Bolivia released a communiqué on Oct. 10 with an update about the negotiating text to be taken up in Cancún, which was agreed upon by the countries present in Tianjin. The text includes many proposals from Cochabamba, such as limiting the global temperature increase to 1◦C; reducing emissions by more than 50 percent by 2017; recognition of the rights of Mother Earth; no new carbon markets; 6 percent of GDP in developed countries to finance climate change actions in developing countries; the formation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal; and full respect for human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples and climate migrants.

Capitalism vs. Mother Earth

However, the road ahead to Cancún is full of many possible dangers. A document could be imposed by the rich countries that was not agreed upon by all countries, as was done at the last minute in Copenhagen. Therefore, those who hold to the beliefs of the global people’s climate justice movement must show serious support for the demands of the People’s Agreement and the negotiators representing developing countries in Cancún.

As President Morales stated in Cochabamba in April, “We have two paths: either Pachamama or death. We have two paths: Either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies.”