Cuban VP: “Sustainable development requires a revolution in our values”

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Address by José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of Cuba’s Council of State, at a session on “Sustainable Development: the Environment, Climate Change and Energy,” during the 5th EU/LAC (European Union / Latin America and Caribbean) summit meeting in Lima, Peru, May 16-17.

Your Excellency:

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro 16 years ago, Fidel Castro issued a prophetic warning, stating that “an important biological species is at risk of disappearing as a result of the rapid and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humanity.”

Time has proven him right.

Let us not mince our words: we won’t attain sustainable development, the negative impacts of climate change will not be halted or reversed, and the environment will not be preserved for future generations, if the irrational patterns of production, distribution and consumption imposed upon us by capitalism prevail. The globalization of neo-liberal policies has drastically exacerbated the crisis.

Facing the crisis that threatens humanity today cannot mean preventing the development of those who need development the most. We have common but different responsibilities. Those who have unjustly and selfishly hoarded riches and technologies, who are responsible for 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions since 1850, must bear most of the burden of this effort.

Developed countries must honour the commitments they assumed at Kyoto to mitigate of this phenomenon and, in addition, must mobilize additional resources to aid adaptation efforts in South countries.

For instance, if the United States were to reallocate, as official aid for sustainable development, a small portion of its military budget for the 2008 fiscal year, a budget which reaches the astronomical figure of 696 billion dollars, it would make a vital contribution to this effort. European Union countries, several of which have the highest military budgets on the planet, could be the first to take steps in this direction, and urge their main ally to follow in their footsteps.

A growing number of countries can no longer afford to pay for food. Hunger continues to claim lives and the situation is getting worse. The sinister plan to convert food into fuel, advanced by the President of the United States, must be fought with strong scientific arguments and with the unquestionable evidence and eloquent facts provided by daily life.

Sustainable development requires a revolution in our values and in the way we confront the inequalities of today and the challenges of tomorrow. We must launch a global energy revolution, sustained by savings, rationality and efficiency.

Cuba hopes that the members of the European Union will assume their duties. Responsible conduct by its members would help to ensure that all developed countries meet their commitment to reduce their greenhouse emissions by no less than 40 percent from 1990 levels, by 2020.

The European Union, as a world leader in the production of clean technologies and the export of renewable energy sources, is in a position to create a mechanism for the transfer of these technologies, on preferential terms, to the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of the Third World.

I will mention but one example. The generosity of the people and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and initiatives such as PETROCARIBE and ALBA are an example that ought to be followed by the European Union.

The time is ripe for action in the spirit of solidarity, and without demagogy.

Thank you very much.

(Translation by Climate and Capitalism)