Evo Morales: We must unite on climate

Photo: GlobaliseResistance/Flickr

The following is an abridged speech by Bolivian President Evo Morales to a meeting of the G77 and China, which brings together 130 developing countries, at the United Nations on May 7. The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia over April 19-22. For more information on the conference, and for the full resolutions adopted, visit PWCCC.org.

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I have come here to share the conclusions of the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. I convened this conference because at the Copenhagen UN climate summit in December, the voice of the world’s peoples was not listened to, nor were established procedures respected by all states.

The conference attracted 35,352 participants, including representatives of social movements from 140 countries.

The “People’s Accord” adopted by the conference is a summary of the conclusions of the conference’s 17 working groups.

Bolivia formally presented these conclusions on April 26 to the negotiations taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Bolivia convened this conference because the so-called developed countries did not comply with obligations to establish substantial commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions at Copenhagen.

If these countries had respected the Kyoto Protocol and had agreed to substantially cut emissions within their borders, the Cochabamba conference would not have been necessary.


I am convinced that the only way to guarantee a positive result at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico in November is through the broad participation of the world and the ironclad unity of the countries of the G77 and China.

We are a group of 130 developing countries that are the least responsible for climate change, but the most affected by its dire impacts. We represent two-thirds of the countries comprising the United Nations, and close to 80% of the world’s population.

In our hands is the task of saving the future of humanity and planet Earth, and making the voices of our peoples heard and respected.

We all know that, within the G77 and China, there is a great diversity of political, economic and cultural positions. I know that different criteria exist within our group, but I also know that, when we agree, there is no force that can stop us.

This strength is like the unity of so many sardines before sharks.

I would like to begin by highlighting the points of convergence between the G77 and China and the Cochabamba conference.

The first is the need for developed countries to make substantial commitments to domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Cochabamba conference demanded developed countries reduce their domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 50% based on 1990 levels for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2012-2016).

Current offers for cutting greenhouse gases in developed countries would at best only amount to a cut of 2% based on 1990 levels.

The Cochabamba conference did not support replacing Kyoto with voluntary reduction commitments not directed toward global goals, and in which no distinction is made between what the different countries must do.

The second point of convergence is the need for the reduction commitments made by developed countries to be as deep possible to seek to stabilise the increase in temperature to within a 1-1.5°C range.

A temperature increase will have grave consequences for the provision of food, for coastal zones, for glaciers, and all of Africa. All of us here are resolved to avoid letting a single island state fall into the ocean.

Climate debt

A third point is the concept of the climate debt developed countries owe to developing countries.

Climate debt includes the need to give back the atmospheric space occupied by the developed countries and their greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries should allow for an equitable distribution of the atmospheric space among all countries in accordance with the size of their population.

The number of forced migrations has reached 50 million worldwide, and could increase to 200 million or 1 billion people by the year 2050.

To honor their climate debt, developed countries, as the generators of climate change, must open their borders to receive affected migrants.

The existence of migration laws like that of Arizona or the “return policy” in the European Union is absolutely unacceptable.

The third component is the debt to our Mother Earth. This is because not only have human beings and developing countries been affected, but so has nature.

To honor this debt, the conference considered it fundamental to discuss in the UN a proposal for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth that establishes obligations for all human beings with regard to nature and that recognises, in the form of rights, the limits that human activity must have if we are going to preserve planet Earth.

Some of the rights of nature that it proposes are: the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions; the right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste; and the right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens its integrity or healthy functioning.

Finally, we have the fourth component, the economic component of climate debt, which is comprised of the adaptation debt and the development debt the industrialised countries have to developing countries.

On the topic of financing, the conference considers that, to confront climate change, a budget should be designated of similar size to the budget countries allotted for military and security spending.

This financing should be direct and without conditions.

The amount of US$10 billion that developing countries are now offered is less than 1% of the total amount of developed nations’ defence budgets. It is simply not possible to dedicate 120 times more resources to war and death than to preserving life and our Mother Earth.

The conference proposed creating a multilateral mechanism for technology transfer. These technologies should be clean and socially appropriate.

The conference called for a fund for the financing of appropriate technologies free from intellectual property rights, particularly by moving patents from private monopolies into the public domain for free access.

Market mechanisms

The conference noted developed countries increased their emissions by 11.2% in the period from 1990-2007, despite having claimed that cuts would be assisted by market mechanisms.

The “carbon market” has become a lucrative business that commodifys nature, favors a few intermediaries, and does not contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

The recent financial crisis has shown the market is incapable of regulating the financial system. It would be totally irresponsible to leave care for and protection of the very existence of humanity and Mother Earth in the hands of the market.

The conference proposed the substitution of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) by a new mechanism not based on the promotion of the carbon market, and that respects the national sovereignty and the right of the peoples to informed consent.

This new mechanism should directly transfer technologies and economic resources from developed countries for the restoration and maintenance of forests and woodlands.

The conference adopted the concept of food sovereignty.

This implies the right of the peoples to control their own seeds, lands, water, and technology for food production in harmony with Mother Earth and at the service of the whole community.

It was put forth that, to confront the climate change crisis, it is necessary to bring about a profound shift away from agriculture solely based on business and profit.

In confronting climate change, it is also necessary to fully guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples.

The conference also proposed a discussion on establishing a Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal to try developed countries that fail to meet their commitments, and sanction states and corporations that help destroy the environment.

There is a need to create binding mechanisms that guarantee compliance with agreements.

Another proposal was for a world referendum on climate change so that the world’s population can decide what should be done.

Global democracy

The Cochabamba conference challenged us to promote a global democracy in which the major issues facing humanity can be decided by all peoples.

To bring about all of these proposals, the conference resolves to initiate the construction of a “world people’s movement”.

The conference looked at the question of development and agreed there cannot be unlimited development on a finite planet.

The model of development we want is not that of the so-called developed countries, which is unsustainable, but one that allows developing countries to satisfy the needs of their people without affecting planet Earth.

The conference said developed countries should lower their consumption levels and waste to allow other countries to develop.

The conference said negotiations on climate change must note the root cause of the climate crisis is capitalism.

There is not just a climate crisis, but an energy crisis, a food crisis, a financial crisis — the crisis of capitalism itself, which is destroying humanity and nature.

If the cause is systemic, then the solution must be too. For this, the conference discussed the theme of alternatives for “living well” in harmony with nature.

The conference said we must learn from the example of indigenous peoples living in harmony with nature.

It is crucial that the example of Copenhagen not be repeated. We should ensure that climate change negotiations continue through the two established channels of “Long-Term Cooperative Action” and the Kyoto Protocol.

Our unity gives us the strength to guarantee that negotiations will be broadly participatory, transparent, and respectful of the equal rights of all UN member states, whether large or small, and to ensure that the voice of our peoples is heard and respected.

In the unity of the developing countries lies our potential to forge a new world in which harmony exists among human beings and Mother Earth.

We have two paths: to save capitalism, or to save life and Mother Earth.