Venezuela: 'People's solutions' to climate crisis set out

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Participants in the July social movement gathering on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, to discuss their demands ahead of UN climate talks in December. Photo via

Friends of the Earth International wrote an account of the climate meeting organised by the Venezuelan government in July, which is abridged, from the FOEI website, below. read the Margarita Declaration the meeting adopted here.

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Social movements gathered on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, over July 15-18 to discuss their demands ahead of United Nations climate talks due to take place in Lima, Peru, in December.

The meeting, organised by the Venezuelan government, was the first of its kind. It brought together social movements from all over the world and facilitated discussions to arrive at the Margarita declaration, which will eventually form part of the civil society input for Lima.

The innovative declaration goes right to the heart of a wealth of important issues that have been long-neglected due to a lack of political will at the UN climate talks. It emphasises the need for justice in the response to climate change, and the need to transform our societies to prevent further environmental decay and social injustice.

The declaration includes a focus on inter-generational responsibilities and the role of youth, particularly youth in the global North.

The need for solidarity is clear, but the role of youth in Northern countries in pressuring their governments to fulfill and extend their commitments to countries of the global South and to the climate change response generally is explicitly stated.

So is the need to ensure a just transition to a climate-safe future that does not adversely affect peoples of the global South.

The concept of good and sustainable living (known as “buen vivir” in Latin America) is also clearly laid out.

The declaration says the main sources of the climate crisis are political and economic systems that “commercialise and commodify nature and life”, which exacerbate unsustainable practices of exploitation and consumption.

The declaration urges all leaders to develop an alternative path to achieve fair, egalitarian and sustainable societies and economies.

A linchpin in the efforts to create such sustainability ― and to avoid temperature rises exceeding 1.5 degrees ― is the declaration's demand that 80% of known fossil fuel reserves should remain in the ground and not be exploited.

This is vital. Without setting such limits and taking accompanying steps to reduce energy consumption in the global North, runaway climate change will become inevitable. Meanwhile, Northern countries should unconditionally provide assistance (such as finance and technology transfer) to countries of the South to enable a just transition.

This ties in with the responsibility and need for Northern countries to face up to the impact of the emissions they have caused over many years of historically unequal over-consumption of the global emissions budget.

The declaration outlines key indicators and benchmarks of how to measure this historically unequal consumption and determine future targets and limits based on these.

It insists that loss and damage incurred by climate-related problems should be resolved by those countries bearing historic responsibility for the climate crisis.

Beyond these approaches, there is also an emphasis on debunking and rejecting so-called “false solutions”: unethical or dangerous “solutions” to the climate crisis ― including carbon market mechanisms, which convert the climate crisis into a source of profit.

Solutions such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) or the production of agrofuels serve the interests of corporations and elites, not the peoples most affected by climate change.

The declaration recognises that the infiltration and hijacking of many international forums by powerful corporate entities has undermined the rights of peoples and the sovereignty of states.

This corporate influence ― often referred to as corporate capture ― is clear at forums such as the UN climate talks and within the operations of other UN groups. It serves to push the interests of business and corrals all other concerns into the sphere of the supposedly infallible market.

The declaration calls for an end to interference by corporations in UN processes and changes to participation systems at a global level.

The declaration is clear that corporate influence stops the transformation needed to meaningfully tackle climate change and its associated problems.

The transformation needed must include principles of respect for life and human rights, peoples' sovereignty, solidarity, a just transition, and the recognition of the ecological limits and the rights of Mother Earth.

The various ways in which territories and countries are vulnerable, and the particular vulnerabilities of historically victimised and excluded groups, must also inform the response and transformation.

The declaration outlines that transformation must include a change in power relations and decision-making systems for building an anti-patriarchal people’s power, and re-orientating food production into agro-ecological systems to ensure food sovereignty and security.

It also calls for energy production systems to be transformed to eradicate dirty energy without adopting other harmful energy like mega-dams or nuclear power.

The declaration calls for participatory local governments to ensure fair and sustainable access to land and urban services.

The declaration also highlights the issue of “loss and damage”. This refers to the harmful impacts of climate change to which no adaptation is possible, noting the differentiated impacts on the most vulnerable and marginalised peoples and communities.

It calls for the peoples of the South to receive the necessary funds to compensate for loss and damage from the North. South-South solidarity systems were also endorsed.

It calls for financing of mitigation and adaptation actions to be considered moral and legal obligations, requiring rich industrialised countries to provide reliable and sufficient financing.

The declaration makes special mention of the military sector, one of the main consumers of fossil fuels and main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, calling for greater accountability.

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From GLW issue 1020