At the onset of an unexpected eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the first World Conference of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Earth. While the eruption reduced the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere associated with the European airline industry by about 207 000 tons of CO2 per day, as it grounded most of the air traffic in the old continent, it also prevented more than a thousand conference attendees from participating, as they remained stranded in Europe.
One of those affected by this situation was the representative of CADTM Togo, Samir Abi, who could not join the rest of the delegation of the Red CADTM, comprising Enith Flores (CADTM Ecuador), William Gaviria (Colombia CADTM) and Maria Elena Saludas (ATTAC Argentina).
Yet despite the logistic difficulties, the conference was attended by about 20 000 participants, representing 136 countries of the world. The start of the activities took place on April 19 with the discussions of the Assembly of Social Movements, which were aimed at crafting a consensus document on the topic of climate change. The Assembly was attended by representatives of most of the movements that compose it (Alianza Social Continental, Amigos de la Tierra América Latina, Climate Justice Now!, Confederación Latinoamericana Campesina, COMPA, Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres, Red CADTM AYNA, Vía Campesina). The meeting began with a mystical ceremony in order to bring to a positive end the process of transformation. Interventions were made by different organizations, all with the same commitment of changing the current predating capitalist system.
Afterwards a workshop entitled, "The Cultural Response to Climate Change: Vulnerability and resilience to the Global Crisis" took place. The panelist were Francois Houtart (Centre Tricontinental), Joel Suarez (COMPA - Martin Luther King Center of Cuba), Rina Aguirre (MAS Bolivia), Elizabeth Peredo (Solon Foundation). Houtart connected all the topics addressed in the working groups related to culture, in a simple exposition of which its clarity was appreciated by the attendees. Suarez for his part elaborated on the need to achieve a new cultural hegemony, dismantling anthropocentrism theory, and the importance of building a new cultural paradigm through day-to-day acts and attitudes. The Bolivian Senator of the MAS, stressed the need for a cultural revolution of life to create awareness on the rights of the Earth. The representative of the Solon Foundation, Elizabeth Peredo concluded the debate by linking all the previous interventions.
The second day began at the Stadium of Cochabamba, with an address by the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales. In his speech, Evo pointed out the responsibility of industrialized countries in the phenomenon of climate change by not fulfilling the targets included in the Kyoto agreement, at the same time he emphasized the disastrous consequences for developing countries of the current model of development. On behalf of the United Nations system, Silvina Barcelo of ECLAC participated in the opening ceremony as a special envoy of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Her statement about the willingness and actual capacity of the current international system to provide a substantive solution to the problem of climate change was met with derision from the audience. The event also featured presentations by representatives of the different continents and the lecture of the letter to the Conference by Eduardo Galeano.
On April 20 took place the workshop organized by the CADTM AYNA network, entitled "Responsibilities of the World Bank and IDB on Climate Change". Despite the logistical difficulties associated with the organization of several activities taking place at the same time, the panel included the participation of Roberto Espinoza (Alternative Paradigms), Romulo Torres (Latindad), Maria Elena Saludas (ATTAC Argentina), Francois Houtart (Centre Tricontinental) and as moderator, William Gaviria (Colombia CADTM).
The panelists emphasized the responsibility of the IFIs in promoting the adoption of an economic model in southern countries that accelerates the exploitation of natural resources on unsustainable conditions for the planet. It presented the example of one of the projects carried under the IIRSA initiative of the IADB, in the area of Paraguay-Parana. The project, which focuses on the construction of infrastructure to facilitate the export of soybean, has had serious environmental, economic and social effects as it exacerbates the problem of economic specialization in products such as soy. This production does not solve the problems of employment and income inequality that plague the region and on the contrary, it actually affects the water quality in the area.
For his part Francois Houtart made a provocative suggestion by linking the structural adjustment plans with the acceleration of global warming over the last decades. Although no scientific studies have been conducted on the subject, it is logical to connect the increased dependence on exports of indebted countries with increased CO2 emissions. The logic of the market has led to the gradual replacement of domestic production by imports. According to Houtart, the higher number of ships and aircraft required to accommodate the increase in the volumes of international trade must certainly be associated with global warming.
The speakers also stressed the importance of keeping the guard high against the IFIs and their Green Capitalism speech. In that sense, although these organizations have begun to take positions on climate change, they are founded on the logic of the market. Needless to say, such efforts are doomed to failure. In the capitalist system, the hunger for profits is always above the needs of the conservation of nature.
After intensive discussions, the declaration of the Agreement of the People was adopted. From the text is important to highlights the proposal for drafting a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and the need for developed countries to take responsibility not only economically but also morally for global warming. To this end, the text calls for the establishment of an Adaptation Fund that will allow adequately address the effects of climate change on developing countries. It also calls for the 2nd World Conference of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in 2011 as part of the construction process of the Global Movement of People by Mother Earth and to react to the results of Climate Change Conference to be held later this year in Cancun, Mexico.
By Daniel Munevar (CADTM Belgium). Reporting from Cochabamba, William Gaviria (Colombia CADTM), Maria Elena Greetings (ATTAC Argentina)