Climate activists to attend Bolivia conference

Issue 

Australian climate activists will join thousands of other people at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia over April 19-22.

Billed as a people's alternative to the corporate-dominated Copenhagen climate summit in December, the Bolivian conference has the support of more than 240 radical climate action groups and organisations worldwide.

Up to 10,000 people are expected to take part in the 17 different issue-based working groups held during the conference. The working groups include: outlining the structural causes of climate change; the dangers of carbon markets; sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty; and developing climate action strategies.

Conference attendees will also be asked to discuss and endorse proposals for a world referendum on climate change, a "universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth" and the formation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.

Gemma Weedall, an Adelaide-based climate activist with the Climate Emergency Action Network (SA), told Green Left Weekly she was going to Cochabamba "because I recognise that we are facing a climate emergency. I think the current economic model that we are working under is incompatible with addressing the climate problem.

"So I think this is a really important alternative conference. I'm really interested to learn about the problem from the perspective of the global South."

Weedall intends to take part in two conference working groups — the climate migrants stream, introduced by The Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein, and the climate debt stream, introduced by renowned Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

She also said she supported the Bolivian government's call for developed countries to aim for a maximum average warming of 1° Celsius. "I'd vote for that [in a referendum]. I think 1°C is much more appropriate than the 2°C target set at Copenhagen. Having a target of 2°C threatens the existence of low-lying islands."

Another conference attendee, Ben Courtice, told GLW he also thought 1°C of warming was a good target. But he stressed "targets of how much warming we can accept are only one part of it. We also need a strategy to draw carbon down out of the atmosphere, otherwise the carbon already released will drive warming well above 1°C."

Courtice, an activist with Melbourne's Climate Emergency Network and the Socialist Alliance, said the conference "is our first opportunity to resurrect something useful out of the ashes of Copenhagen. [Out of it] something better can be put forward to the world to stop climate change."

He also endorsed Bolivian President Evo Morales' condemnation of capitalism at the Copenhagen climate summit. "I think it's essential that the international climate movement develops a critique of capitalism. This is important not only to deal with climate change but [also to achieve] social justice."

Rising Tide Newcastle activist Steve Denshire told GLW: "The position of the Bolivian government gives a new hope for people that have been so disappointed in the outcome in Copenhagen."

He will take a slideshow presentation the conference "of some of the direct action protests we've been part of [in Australia] in the past few years. The aim is to show people in the global South that they have support — that the attitude of the Australian government [on climate change] isn't necessarily the attitude of the Australian people."
Denshire said he intends to meet climate activists from countries that import Australian coal to discuss joint campaigns.

"We want to bring back some inspiration for movement building", he said. "Campaigners in the global South have had strong successes in the past. We want to learn more about this and inject it into the movement here."

Naomi Hogan, an activist with Climate Action Newtown, said she hoped to gain a "fresh perspective and greater insights about what is happening with activists and indigenous people around the world who are campaigning against climate change.

"The conference will give people a good opportunity to make links with other people — we are all affected by climate change so we all need to work together and build connections."
Hogan also said the conference's call for an International Climate Justice Tribunal was important.
"Climate justice is something that is left off the radar in many climate change discussions. The idea of having a climate justice tribunal is to put a spotlight on the issue that people's rights are being taken away from them all over the world."

[More details about the conference.]

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