To cheers of “Ole! Ole! Ole!” Bolivia’s President Evo Morales walked on stage to officially open the People’s Climate Change Conference in the city of Cochabamba on Saturday.
Five thousand people from more than 40 countries applauded Morales for hosting the summit, which is focused on how climate change is impacting the developing world.
Morales wasted no time in blaming capitalism for the environmental crisis, saying it has ‘’achieved nothing in the world.’’ He called for a halt to deforestation, telling his critics — who note that around two-thirds of Bolivia’s greenhouse gases come from deforestation — that for every person in Bolivia there are ‘’more than 5,000 trees.’’
While some environmental groups are disappointed that the Bolivian government has allowed oil and gas exploration in areas they would like to see preserved, Morales often points out that it is industrialized nations that release the vast majority of greenhouse gases.
That point was stressed at the conference, with leaders from the developing world calling on Western nations to take responsibility for the effects climate change is already having on the Global South.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was one of the few representatives from a Western government at the summit. He conceded that ‘’industrialized countries have a particular responsibility’’ when it comes to climate change and urged those in attendance to ‘’engage and show what direction the governments should follow’’ in their efforts to tackle the problem.
Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, Diego Parry, told teleSUR English he plans on presenting those views at the next major gathering of the global community. ‘’We want to hear the voice and the words of the people on climate change,” he said, “and to hear their proposals for discussion at the Paris summit in December.”
Any proposals discussed at the Bolivia summit will be formally submitted for consideration at the Paris talks.
The main focus of the summit is to give grassroots activists and other ordinary people in the developing world a say on how future policy should be shaped. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, in the past 25 years an estimated 95 percent of fatalities from natural disasters have occurred in developing countries, with the rate of such disasters expected to increase as the effects of climate change worsen.
At the conference, attendees heard that if the temperature of the planet increases by another 2 degrees celsius than an environmental catastrophe will be unavoidable. In addition to natural disasters, people could go also go hungry: For every 1 degree rise in the global temperature, grain yields are expected to fall by 5 percent.
Those who will be most affected by changes in the climate want to be heard. Indigenous people from all across Bolivia arrived in Cochabamba with one simple message. ‘’We just want to protect our beloved mother earth,’’ one delegate told teleSUR english. They hope to confront the UN’s Ban Ki-moon and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with that message, both of whom are attending the conference.
So far no concrete proposals have been discussed. Delegates hope that behind all the pomp and ceremony, however, real solutions to help combat change will be found.
In the words of President Morales, ‘’the planet has a limit and we have almost reached that limit.’’ And whatever the shortcomings of Bolivia when it comes to its environmental record, few here would disagree with that — and with the reality that those most responsible for pushing the planet to its limit have yet to fulfill their responsibilities to the world’s poor.