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Bolivia: Climate change conference in April
NewsNotes, March-April 2010
Vol. 35 No. 2

Concerned with the lack of results from the UN’s global summit on climate change held in Copenhagen last December (see this article on climate debt), Bolivian president Evo Morales has called for a “People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights” to take place in April. The conference aims to unite social movements with scientists, academics, lawyers and governments to “analyze the structural and systemic causes that drive climate change and to propose radical measures to ensure the well-being of all humanity in harmony with nature.

Organizers hope that the conference can serve as a catalyst for a stronger global climate change movement capable not only of pushing governments to implement more ambitious actions to diminish, and adapt to climate change, but also able to build the structures and institutions at the grassroots level that are needed for a sustainable future. The conference will be organized around 16 working groups on themes related to climate change such as structural causes, adaptation, Mother Earth rights, climate debt, financing and technology transfer.

Participants will strategize on how to advance the concept of Mother Earth rights in international forums. In a proposal to the UN requesting the inclusion of these rights in future UN documents, Pablo Solón-Romero, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, wrote, “Because we, human beings, didn’t recognize that we form part of a major system with which we have to live in harmony and balance, we now suffer severe consequences. Mankind [sic] is only a part of a large community of beings… in order to live in harmony with nature we must recognize that not only human beings have rights, but also the planet, the animals, the plants, the rivers, the forests, the glaciers, and all the components of this system that is our Mother Earth.

“The 20th century has been the century of the human rights. First, with the approval of the civil and political rights in 1948, and second, with the approval of the economical, social and cultural rights in 1966. Now, the 21st century has to become the century of the Rights of Mother Earth and all natural beings.”

Another objective of the conference is to “develop an action plan to advance the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal.” According to the conference’s website, “the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change contains no mechanisms for trying or sanctioning developed countries that fail to comply with their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The working group would explore the possibility of creating an International Climate Justice Tribunal at the United Nations.

Finally, as a mechanism to help increase public understanding of the problem of climate change, the conference plans to initiate a global referendum on climate change. The referendum could serve as an educational and mobilizing tool, similar to the referendums on debt and trade held in Brazil in the early 2000s (see this related article).

Those who are not able to participate in the conference in Bolivia can register to participate in preparatory discussions through the internet. In order to increase participation, during the conference, parallel events are being organized worldwide with video feeds of the plenary sessions.

The irony that Bolivia, a country heavily dependent on polluting extractive industries for its national income, is, on the international level, advocating for mammoth reductions in fossil fuel use has not been lost by some Bolivian activists who have complained about this apparent hypocrisy. Yet, acknowledging that no government is without internal contradictions, Bolivia is practically alone in calling for the more profound changes in lifestyles and wealth distribution that are needed for a sustainable future; issues that no other country is willing to discuss. Hopefully the conference in April will be able to bring these issues to the fore in the climate policy debates.

Faith in action:
Go here for further information and to register for the conference or preliminary working group discussions. Consider organizing a parallel event in your community to help spread the word.

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