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Led by Indigenous peoples

Climate change conference slams capitalist crimes

Published Apr 28, 2010 6:16 PM

Thirty thousand people convened at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The conference, which took place from April 19-22, hosted people from more than 135 countries and 90 official state representatives. Climate activists, community organizers, artists, musicians, scholars and workers from around the world joined forces over the common goal of finding an effective and practical solution to the climate crisis — a task that the rich, ruling countries of the world proved, at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, that they are incapable of accomplishing.

Inauguration rally on April 20.
Photo: Alexandra Corazza

Organized by Evo Morales, the first Indigenous president of Bolivia, the conference was overwhelmingly representative of the people of Latin America, as well as residents of other developing countries in Asia and Africa. The common message was that the task of fighting the effects of climate change cannot be left to the countries that historically and presently are the biggest polluters and the most disrespectful of the rights of Pachamama (Mother Earth) and her people. The people who have historically lived in harmony with the earth and who are now feeling the most dramatic effects of climate change must determine the steps that need to be taken to fight environmental destruction. This message was echoed over and over again by Indigenous people and oppressed people from all over the world.

Seventeen working groups worked tirelessly throughout the conference to discuss topics such as climate debt and climate migrants, as well as to establish a plan for a climate justice tribunal and a world referendum on climate change. Ultimately a summary of the groups’ conclusions was put into an Agreement of the People, which can be found on the conference website at pwccc.wordpress.com.

The Agreement demands a commitment period from 2010 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.” This proposal is vastly more demanding than the weak proposals that have been suggested by the rich countries that have thus far dominated the climate change debate.

Overall, the rhetoric of the conference was scathingly critical of capitalism and of the current state of mainstream climate change policy. At the inauguration of the conference on April 20, Morales and others spoke of climate change as a symptom of the disease of capitalist greed, which shamelessly oppresses the majority of the people of the world in the name of unbridled profits.

At the closing event on April 22, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spoke against the capitalist system as well, linking it unmistakably with the current peril the earth is in. He said: “After all the setbacks, socialism has burst forth in Latin America. And that’s the epicenter of the battle.”

Latin America was, in fact, a very relevant place for the conference to be held, as it is already experiencing many of the effects of climate change. Bolivia’s glaciers are melting at breakneck speed — its iconic Chacaltaya glacier completely disappeared in 2009, a decade before it was projected to.

In Bolivia, the Indigenous peoples of Latin America, as well as of Asia, Africa, North America and other places in the world, made it known that they are ready to lead the movement to fight global climate change. It is people such as them who are feeling the worst effects of climate change after committing little or no crimes against nature to cause this crisis.

The global climate change movement was built up stronger at the conference in Cochabamba. It is growing still, as more and more people open their eyes to the terror that has been wreaked on our earth and its people by the globalized capitalist system of oppression.