Hugo Chavez calls for system change at Copenhagen: 'If the climate was a bank, they would have bailed it out already'
"The Copenhagen climate summit was pretty much summed up in the high-level segment yesterday when [Australian climate minister] Penny Wong's speech was interrupted by whistles and chanting and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez got a standing ovation", Lenore Taylor wrote in the December 17 Australian.
Taylor said that before Wong "rose to speak the conference proceedings were interrupted by people with whistles and sirens chanting 'stop green capitalism' — a sign of the anger in the developing world ..."
"Then President Chavez brought the house down."
Taylor reported that when Chavez said "there was a 'silent and terrible ghost in the room' and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening".
Taylor said when Chavez insisted that "capitalism is the road to hell ... let's fight against capitalism", he "won a standing ovation".
In the article below, Kiraz Janicke, who is a member of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau, reports on Chavez's speech to the United Nations climate summit at Copenhagen. The article was first published at Venezuelanalysis.com. The full text of Chavez's speech can be read here.
* * *
During his speech to the 15th United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed the "lack of political will" of the most powerful nations to take serious action to avert climate change, and called for systemic change to save the planet.
Chavez, who received a standing ovation for his speech, said the process in Copenhagen is "not democratic; it is not inclusive."
In particular, he criticised an attempt by rich countries to overturn the Kyoto Protocol. Doing so would eliminate differentiation between the obligations of rich and poor countries, treating countries from the Global North and South as equally responsible for climate change.
"There is a group of countries that believe they are superior to those of us from the South, to those of us from the Third Word", Chavez said.
"This does not surprise us ... we are again faced with powerful evidence of global imperial dictatorship."
The Venezuelan president also applauded the initiative of the protesters outside the summit calling for serious measures to stop catastrophic climate change.
"There are many people outside ... I've read in the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests there in the streets of Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there, the majority of them youth ... They are young people concerned for the world's future.
"I have been reading some of the slogans painted in the streets ... One said, 'Don't Change the Climate, Change the System!' And I bring that on board for us.
"Let's not change the climate. Let's change the system!
"And as a consequence, we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to life, that threatens to put a definitive end to the human species."
Chavez said another notable slogan was: "If the climate were a bank, they would have bailed it out already". He said: "It's true; the rich governments have saved the capitalist banks". But, he noted they lack "the political will" to make the necessary reductions to greenhouse emissions.
"One could say there is a spectre at Copenhagen, to paraphrase Karl Marx ... almost no-one wants to mention it: the spectre of capitalism."
History requires all people to struggle against capitalism or else life on the planet "will disappear", the Venezuelan president argued.
"Do the rich think they can go to another planet when they've destroyed this one?" Chavez asked, as he recommended a copy of a book by Herve Kampf, How the Rich are Destroying the Planet.
"Climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century. Floods, droughts, severe storms, hurricanes, melting ice caps, rise in average sea levels, ocean acidification, and heat waves, all of that sharpens the impact of global crisis besetting us."
Human activity is exceeding the limits of sustainability and endangering life on the planet, but the impacts of climate change are also being felt disproportionately by the world's poor, Chavez said.
He pointed to the relationship between economic inequality and levels of greenhouse gas emissions. He said the richest 500 million people, or 7% of the world's population, are responsible for 50% of global greenhouse emissions, while the poorest 50% of the worlds population are responsible for only 7% of total emissions.
Using this analysis, he argued that it was not feasible to call countries such as the US and China to sit at the summit on an equal footing, insisting that the same obligations can not be imposed on both nations.
He said the US, with a population of 300 million, consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day, while China, whose population is almost five times greater than that of the US, consumes around 5-6 million barrels a day.
The behind-the-scenes negotiations at the summit have been marked by sharp disputes between the US and China, and between rich and poor nations. Poor countries have criticised rich countries for attempting to set inadequate emissions targets for industrialised countries and for pledging insufficient funding for poor countries to alleviate the impacts of climate change.
Various reports have said poor nations argue that rich countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. The European Union has pledged a 20% reduction. The US, however, has only offered only a 3-4% cut.
Outside in the streets of Copenhagen, mass demonstrations calling for "climate justice" have been repressed by police using pepper spray and batons. More than 1000 people have been arrested.
"We ask from Venezuela", said Chavez: "How much longer are we going to allow such injustices and inequalities? How much longer are we going to tolerate the current international economic order and prevailing market mechanisms?"
Chavez called for the summit to change direction. "We cannot continue like this. Let's change course, but without cynicism, without lies, without double agendas, no documents out of the blue, with the truth out in the open."