Bolivia People's Conference on Climate Change: Another world is possible

Bert Maerten, Oxfam's Global Climate Change Campaign Lead, reports from last week's World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. The Conference sent a clear message: radical change is needed.

The contrast with the UN climate meetings is remarkable. Deliberately so. There are no documents coded UNFCCC/CP/2009/11. (In case you are interested: this is the official UN report of the Conference of the Parties on its fifteenth session, held in Copenhagen from 7 to 19 December 2009.) Instead, 17 thematic working groups drew up proposals on how to achieve climate justice. Analysis and proposals are debated with vigour and conviction. Discussions are not guided by diplomatic protocol. Instead, people speak of the detrimental impacts of the current capitalist production model and reject so-called false solutions for climate change, like carbon markets, REDD and geo-engineering. These are the people at the frontlines of climate change.

In Cochabamba, Bolivia, at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, around 20,000 representatives of indigenous peoples, farmers’ organizations, social movements and people’s organizations debate the causes and solutions of climate change.

Individual participants include activists like writer Naomi Klein, anti-globalist Jose Bove of France and James Hansen, a US researcher who was among the first to warn about climate change. Oxfam joined partners and allies from the continent at the 3-day event in Cochabamba to explore together a common strategy towards the next climate summit in December in Cancun, Mexico.

At the inauguration of the conference, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales started his speech with a slogan: “Planet or death, we shall overcome”. Under discussion are proposals for a global referendum on climate change and a climate tribunal to enforce developed country states’ commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Opinions are diverse. So are proposed strategies. However, there is a strong consensus that the existence of humanity, living beings and Mother Earth are at risk. We need to shift to a new development model, a model that places the concept of “Living Well” central, speakers argue. There is real disappointment and anger about the outcomes of the Copenhagen summit last December. Strong voices argue that the world's poorest are ignored in the UN negotiations.

Organizers want to send a strong signal to the international community that radical change is needed. “Change the system, not the climate,” many demand. Bolivia's UN ambassador Pablo Solon said the conference was "the only way to get the climate change talks back on track."

The conference concluded with the celebration of International Day for the Mother Earth at the station of Cochabamba. The final Declaration of the People’s Conference called for developed countries to half greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 at the next UN climate meeting in Mexico in December in order to limit global warming of the planet to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The meeting also recommended the creation of an international climate tribunal to judge countries on global warming and promised to take steps to create a Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth.

Another world is possible. Indeed, it is necessary.

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