Cancun: Evo Morales Speaks on Climate Change and Capitalism

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“We came to Cancun to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalize capitalism with carbon markets.”

Quotes from speech and press conference by Evo Morales, president of the plurinational state of Bolivia, at the UN climate talks in Cancun today, December 9, 2010.  Climate & Capitalism will publish full transcripts as soon as they become available.

On what the goal of the summit should be:

“Our aim here is to look at how to cool down planet Earth. Our planet has a high temperature, it is wounded, and we are witnessing the convulsions of planet Earth. We have an enormous responsibility toward life and humanity. … I call on leaders to take responsibility, and make history by responding to the demands of the people.”

On the experience of Bolivians of climate change:

“It causes me a lot of a pain as President to listen to my brothers and sisters talking about permanent droughts… Without water, there is no production, and without production we lack food. It may be easy for us here in an air-conditioned room to continue with the policies of destruction of Mother Earth. We need instead to put ourselves in the shoes of families in Bolivia and worldwide that lack water and food and suffer misery and hunger. I feel that many delegates here have no idea what it is like to be a victim of climate change.”

On the need to tackle the causes of climate change:

“We talk about the effects and not the causes of the multiple crises we face: the climate crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis. The climate crisis is one of the crises of capitalism. If we discuss and address these crises, we are are being responsible to our children, grandchildren and future generations.”

On the Kyoto Protocol:

“If, from here, we send the Kyoto Protocol to the rubbish bin we are responsible for ecocide and genocide because we will be sending many people to their deaths.”

On the consequences of an approach based on the Copenhagen Accord:

“According to the proposals from some powers, they are happy to put forward measures that would lead to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius and some think even of increases to 4 degrees. Imagine what our planet would look like with an increase in temperature of 2 degrees or 4 degrees, given that at 0.8 degrees we already have serious problems in the world.”

On the need to discuss the rights of nature:

“In past decades, the United Nations approved human rights, then civil rights, economic and political rights, and finally a few years ago indigenous rights. In this new century, it is time to debate and discuss rights of Mother Earth. These include the right to regenerate biocapacity, the right to life without contamination.”

On the need for new enforcement mechanisms to hold those responsible for climate change accountable:

“Laws must be complied with, which is why with much wisdom, the people have proposed creating an International Climate Justice Tribunal. We all know how important it is to create one to ensure compliance with the Kyoto Protocol.”

Against the use of carbon markets to prevent deforestation:

“We came to Cancun to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalize capitalism with carbon markets.”

On the need for governments to respond to peoples’ demands:

“I am convinced that if presidents take on their responsibility, not to certain powers such as multinational companies, but instead to peoples and social movements, we can advance. Why don’t states here go to the Peoples’ Summit in Cancun, and listen to the concrete proposals of social movements who come here in representation of the victims of global warming? Why don’t we agree to a global referendum; take the historic decision of practicing global democracy, submitting ourselves to the demands of the people struggling against climate change and for life? If governments don’t act, it will be the people who will force their governments to act.

On Bolivia’s ‘radical’ position:

We are familiar with the slogan “Country or Death,” but it is better now to talk about “Planet or Death.” To try and look for an intermediary solution is to trick people. It is the major powers here that need to abandon their arrogance in the face of the peoples of the world. My experience as a social movement leader has been one of frequent attempts to isolate me by the major powers – something I am proud to do – but I will never isolate myself from the peoples.”


  • I had the pleasure of witnessing President Morales’ speech in person at the La Via Campesina Alternative Forum. It was brilliant and I don’t think these quotes capture the best part of the speech–where he identified capitalism as the cause of global warming and poverty and injustice; where he called for different institutions in the golbal south to replace the corrupt World Bank and IMF that actually focussed on development of the people and where he finally declared Planeta o Muerte–Planet or Death.

    It was powerful.

  • All the time the Economy takes precedence over the Climate, there will NEVER be any reduction in the ever increasing devastation and genocide caused by Global warming.
    NOW is the time when all the World Leaders must put the profit potential of renew ables behind the urgency we all face from their total disregard of the living Organism we all have to dwell on: EARTH.

  • With all due respect, you must live in Bolivia to form such an opinion. Do you? You do not want more leaders like Evo, he has done nothing more than to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    It is quite interesting to hear him speak about our people suffering, when it is our own people that is destroying our beautiful country. Building without any regards of environment or infrastructure, polluting by throwing garbage everywhere and anywhere (have you seen the Rio Choqueyapu?). We talk about loving our country, but we don’t respect it, because we, the indigenous are destroying it.

    Now, try being an indigenous and speak out about this things, and criticize our president…the consequence is tremendous from a social and an emotional perspective. I return to my country with hope, and I leave it with sadness and disappointment. It is not a democracy. You either with Evo…or you are an enemy, regardless of race.

  • “…take the historic decision of practicing global democracy, submitting ourselves to the demands of the people…” Morales is talking about PARTICIPATORY democracy. IF the people of the U.S. had real democracy, our govt wouldn’t be trashing the talks, the planet and the future. The best project for U.S. Participatory democracy is led by famed former Sen. Mike Gravel: