After Lima fiasco, Bolivia plans global assembly to fight climate change

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ALBA backs Bolivian call for international assembly of social movements in 2015; Evo Morales urges “a climate agreement for life, not business and capitalist commercialism”

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ALBA backs Bolivian call for international assembly of social movements in 2015; Evo Morales urges “a climate agreement for life, not business and capitalist commercialism”

The UN COP20 conference in Lima proves again that the governments and corporations most responsible for the growing climate crisis do not want to take any effective measures. The main voices for decisive action came from the small nations, and in particular from Bolivia and the countries of the ALBA alliance.

Below, Richard Fidler of Life on the Left outlines Bolivia’s important role at the Lima meeting, and translates Evo Morales’s powerful anti-capitalist speech to the conference’s general assembly.


by Richard Fidler
Life on the Left

Meeting in Havana December 14, the 13th summit of ALBA leaders endorsed a Bolivian proposal to host an international assembly of social movements in 2015 to discuss and adopt a united strategy for fighting climate change.

The decision by the Bolivarian Alliance for the peoples of Our America – Trade Treaty of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP) coincided with release of the final agreement adopted by the United Nations COP20 climate talks at Lima, Peru. The UN agreement, reached by representatives of 195 countries after two extra days of haggling, has been universally condemned by environmental activists for the failure, once again, to take meaningful actions to prevent catastrophic climate warming.

The “Lima Call for Climate Action” fails to commit governments to firm plans on how they will reduce emissions and provides no mechanism for international assessment and enforcement of such plans. Activists warn that its proposed individual state pledges, called “Intended National Determined Contributions” (INDCs), will be too weak to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times – a guarantee of increasingly severe heatwaves, rainfall, flooding and rising sea levels. Major provisions of the agreement are summarized here.

The COP20 outcome is “unacceptable for the people and Mother Earth and represents a roadmap to global burning,” said Pablo Solón, former Bolivian ambassador and now director of Focus on the Global South. For other reactions, see “Lima agreement fails humanity and the earth.”

Addressing the ALBA Summit in Havana, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales proposed that “faced with the failure in Lima” the environment ministers of the ALBA member countries[1] should work to organize a “world encounter of social movements” that would develop “a proposal to save life and humanity.”

The Bolivian proposal was adopted in number 29 of the 43 points in the final Summit agreement. The date of the proposed world encounter has yet to be determined.

Bolivia played a prominent role in the UN’s Lima conference. In a major speech to the COP20 delegates — excerpts translated below — Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, urged adoption of a new international climate agreement that would reflect basic principles upheld by South America’s indigenous peoples. He showed how adherence to each of these ethical standards entailed a rejection of “predatory and insatiable capitalism” with its dynamic of “accumulating and concentrating wealth in the hands of a few… generators of poverty and marginalization.”

“Either we change global capitalist society” said Morales, “or it will annihilate the world’s peoples and nature itself.”

And he denounced the “more than 30 years of pretense, futile negotiations with no result” of the UN climate negotiations. Participation by the developing countries, he said, seemed only to legitimate what had become “a simulacrum of dialogue,” a “staging of environmentalism” characterized by “a great deal of hypocrisy, racism and neocolonialism.”

In the climate talks at Lima, Bolivia’s delegation argued for what it termed an alternative to the carbon-market UN program known as REDD+ — “Reduction of Emissions for Deforestation and Degradation of Forests” — which essentially allows polluters to continue polluting if they buy “carbon credits” from developing countries. What this program entails is explained in this Democracy Now interview with Pablo Solón at the summit.

Prior to the summit, a strong “call to action to reject REDD+ and Extractive Industries, to confront capitalism and defend life and territories” was issued by a large number of Latin American and other environmental organizations.

Bolivia’s proposal of a “joint mitigation and adaptation [JMA] approach for the integral and sustainable management of forests” would create an international program of “ex-ante financing, technological support and capacity building” to promote “integral and sustainable managements of forests, ecosystems and environmental functions taking into account the holistic views of indigenous peoples, local communities and local resource users about environment and Mother Earth, and the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.”

However, the JMA was proposed not as a substitute for the REDD program, but as a voluntary alternative to it.

Bolivia also proposed, apparently without success, an alternative method of measuring carbon footprints that would reflect the differentiated responsibility of developed and developing countries for climate change; support for communal projects to strength food security and biodiversity; and the integration of measurable indicators of poverty, sustainable development and ecosystem management into global climate accords. These proposals, while popular in the workshops, were ignored in the final agreement.

Simultaneous with the COP20 summit was a People’s Summit on Climate Change that drew the participation of thousands of environmental activists from around the world. A mass “March of the Peoples” was held on December 10. It reportedly stretched some three kilometers in length through the streets of Lima.

The People’s summit issued a strong statement December 11 with a clear anti-capitalist content. Unfortunately, I have been unable so far to locate an official English translation.


The following are major excerpts from the address of Evo Morales at the COP20 summit. He spoke not only as Bolivia’s president but also in the name of the G77+China bloc, which was chaired by Bolivia in 2014. Translated from Spanish by Richard Fidler. 

Evo Morales speaking at COP20 in Lima

Evo Morales speaking at COP20 in Lima

Climate change is one of the most serious global challenges of our time. And we note that the developing countries continue to be the countries that most suffer the adverse effects of climate change and the growing frequency and intensity of extreme natural disasters, although they are historically the countries that are least responsible for climate change.

Climate change threatens not only the development perspectives of the developing countries and their attainment of sustainable development but also the very existence and survival of the countries, societies and ecosystems of Mother Earth.

We declare that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the essential international and intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. That response must fully respect the principles, provisions and final objective of the Convention, in particular the principles of equality, equity and common but differentiated responsibilities….

And we highlight the creation of the new UN climate change provisions on adaptation, financing and technology, proposals from the G77+China with an holistic vision of climate change that includes mitigation and adaptation in compliance with the law and the development of the peoples….

Sisters and brothers, I request your patience and tolerance now while I express the profound vision and position of the Plurinational State of Bolivia regarding the ethics and politics concerning climate change…. We can achieve a climate agreement based on the protection of life and Mother Earth, and not on the market, profit and capitalism.

In what is today the territory of Peru there was many years ago a great civilization that extended throughout the continent, a great indigenous civilization with much learning, and which has left us with a great legacy. Today, with COP20 being conducted in Lima, I ask that we orient our decisions by taking into account the learning of our indigenous peoples of Abya Yala….

Let us create a climate agreement using the philosophy and values of those peoples, a new climate agreement based on an anticolonialist vision. We indigenous peoples of the world meet and discuss things until we reach a consensus; we can spend days and nights dialoguing and discussing, but our goal is to reach an agreement among all of us.

We don’t manipulate, we don’t cheat and we don’t confuse things. To reach agreement we give ourselves the necessary time to talk and to listen. Everything is transparent.

And our indigenous grandparents have taught us that a just society has to be based on three principles: “Ama Sua,” “Ama Llulla,” Ama Quella” — do not steal, do not lie, and do not be lazy.

I ask that using those principles and values of our ancestors we develop a new climate agreement beginning with “Ama Sua”: We are not robbers; we must not steal what belongs to others.

Recently the intergovernmental UN panel of climate change experts in its latest report concluded that if we do not want an increase in temperature by more than 2 degrees centigrade we cannot emit more than one thousand gigatons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by the year 2050.

And if we don’t want the temperature to increase by more than 1.5 degrees centigrade, that quantity must be much less, approximately 630 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

The atmospheric space that exists in the planet must be shared with all, respecting the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.

But there are some greedy countries that want to consume by themselves what remains of the atmospheric space. Those countries have been stealing from us since colonial times and they want to continue stealing. They are stealing our future, the future of our children and grandchildren, and they are robbing us of the possibility that we can develop in a sustainable way.

And if a developing country, with the obligation to feed and provide a more dignified life to its people, emits greenhouse gases, they begin to point accusing fingers at us. Yes, they want to sanction and punish those who take a little to eat and feed their people, but not to punish themselves, they who have stolen huge amounts in order to grow rich and feather their own nests.

There is a very large group of countries that have historically abused the atmosphere and who are committing ecocide on Mother Earth.

But we also have to say, in all honesty, that there are countries that are pursuing the same commercialist and consumerist road, with patterns of consumption and production based on predatory and insatiable capitalism, accumulating and concentrating wealth in the hands of a few, with a fondness for opulence — generators of poverty and marginalization….

Sisters and brothers, we cannot have a climate agreement that condemns Mother Earth and humanity to death in order to favor Capital, the enrichment of a few and predatory consumerist growth. We are here to develop a climate agreement for life, and not for business and capitalist commercialism.

Secondly, “we are not liars,” Ama Llulla. We cannot continue negotiating a new climate agreement in which countries lie to each other, in which they say they are going to do something about climate change but in reality they do not want to do anything, in which they say one thing but in reality they are thinking of doing something else, or in which they do not say what they are thinking and what they are doing.

Agreements that do not ensure the environmental integrity of Mother Earth, the integrity of our marvellous human community, are not ethical. Agreements that think only of business and do not promote life are lying. We cannot let the powerful with interests in Capital and not in life impose on us a new climate agreement that condemns humanity and Mother Earth to death.

The third principle, “we are not lazy,” Ama Quella. The developed countries do not want to increase their emissions reduction goals, and still less do they want to implement their commitments under the framework Convention in terms of adaptation, provision of financing and technology, and development of capacities.

Even worse, there are some countries that are promoting a new climate agreement in which all efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are voluntary, that is, that each makes undertakings that are most convenient to them, disowning their historic responsibility as developed countries and condemning humanity to increases in temperature by more than 3 or even 4 degrees centigrade in the next 30 years.

If the developed countries had fulfilled their emissions reduction undertakings and taken the actions anticipated in the Convention, you can be sure that we would not be hearing at this stage the “apocalyptic” forecasts about climate change. But there are countries that are unwilling to face up to the obligation to carry out domestic reductions in their countries that compromise their economic development, and that are unwilling to support the developing countries and deal with climate change.

There are countries that instead of fulfilling their obligations under the convention do whatever they can to ensure that it is the others that do what they had to do or will have to do in the future. And that is why I ask them to comply with the rules of the indigenous countries: Ama Sua, Ama Llulla, Ama Quella.

We do not steal atmospheric space and the right to development that corresponds to other countries, particularly the poor countries. We do not lie, and we do not cheat; we fulfill the agreements to which we have subscribed. We are not lazy and we make agreements with ambitious promises that require us to ensure the integrity of our Mother Earth, and that incorporate all the elements of mitigation, adaptation, financing, technology and capital development.

Sisters and brothers of COP20, we sometimes debate in this class of conferences only the effects, and not the origin, of global warming. We have had more than 30 years of pretence, futile negotiations with no result….

Today we find ourselves on the threshold of the destruction of Mother Earth, faced with the disappearance of the human species. The developed countries of the North, responsible for the destruction of nature, have brought us to a barren land to legitimize their supposed commitment to humanity. We, the developing countries, have served as a source of legitimation for a unilateral and sterile dialogue.

We have served as a pretext for the powerful to continue doing the same thing, which has settled into a simulacrum of dialogue and deliberation. There is in this entire staging of environmentalism a great deal of hypocrisy, racism and neocolonialism.

Climate change has become once again the safety valve to avoid discussing substantive questions like the voracious model of capitalist development that is putting an end to humanity…. We are losing time because the dialogue is not between equals; it is an unsuccessful monologue….

We must now say to you, nothing has changed in those 30 years….

On behalf of my people, I can only say that we feel betrayed once again faced with this simulacrum of international agreements that are never enough. Our peoples are tired of all this deception, they are tired of suffering the increase in temperature, the melting of our mountain snow caps, of the heavy rains, the cruel flooding and the heartbreaking droughts, which each time make us poorer.

We have to get at the fundamental roots of the problem of climate change. We don’t want more protocols; we want more structural solutions, overcoming capitalism, saving the peoples of the world…. What is the use of reducing gas and toxic emissions by 1 or 2 degrees if the next generation will end up baking in suffocating heat?

Basically the problem is the supposedly civilizing model that is based on a greedy financial architecture in which wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, producing poverty for the majority of humanity.

I want to tell you, sisters and brothers, that unless we change the centre of gravity of all the financial, economic, political, ecological and social distortions confronting our century and the planet, the search for a consensual agreement will be nothing more than a chimera.

A second root of the problem of climate change is the war politics of the great powers and the huge budget devoted to it. With only a fifth of the money spent on the military by the five major military powers of the world we would be able to resolve 50 percent of our environmental problems….

And the third root of climate change has to do with the exaggerated industrialization, disproportionate consumption and pillaging of resources that could alleviate the major ills of humanity. The economic model upholding the financial architecture and war politics has as its nucleus the politics of the free market, that is, the voracious capitalist policy that pays no attention to anything other than profit, luxury, and consumerism…. People are treated as things, and Mother Earth as a commodity.

Proposals to preserve the Life of Humanity and of Mother Earth

What are we doing now? Governments and businesses of the major world powers responsible for the climate catastrophe have shown they are unable to slow down this planetary tragedy that is jeopardizing humanity and nature as a whole. Their power and profits are fueled by the irreparable destruction of the environment….

Stopping climate change cannot be left to those who profit from the destruction of nature. That is why we the peoples must directly accept our own responsibility for the continuation of life and society by taking control of governments, and using that power to pressure and force government and businesses alike to take drastic and immediate measures to stop us from falling into this abyss of nature’s destruction.

To defend our life and the existence of future generations it is absolutely necessary that the world’s peoples, the hard-working society suffering daily the effects of climate change, take control of states, politics, the economy and use it to preserve humanity and the planet….

We have to put the brakes to capitalist accumulation, the endless accumulation of commodities. We need another civilization, another society, another mentality, other values, another culture that prioritizes the satisfaction of human needs, not profit, that believes in human beings and Mother Nature, not the “money god.”…

Either we change global capitalist society or it annihilates the world’s peoples and nature itself.

The environment is a common heritage of all the peoples of the world, of the ancient peoples, of the present peoples and the peoples who are to come….

The environment is a common resource…. And that is why it must be administered by us as a community. Nature itself is a community, since it benefits everyone and affects everyone. Our ancient indigenous peoples knew this and that is why they lived as a community. …

Sisters and brothers, community is the only way to live in equilibrium with nature. Community is salvation of the environment, of life, and accordingly of human beings. Community is life, capitalism is death. Community is harmony with Mother Earth and capitalism is destruction of Mother Earth.

Finally, it is really important to consider how we are to create institutions to judge those who pollute our planet, who injure our Mother Earth. Humanity needs to create an International Tribunal of Climate Justice, so that justice may be done.

Sisters and brothers, that in a nutshell is the experience that the indigenous peoples provide for the good of all humanity.

Thank you very much.


See also: How Bolivia is leading the global fight against climate disaster.

[1] ALBA comprises nine Latin American and Caribbean countries: Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam and Venezuela. Haiti, Iran, Syria, Honduras and El Salvador are observer states. The Summit admitted two new members to the Alliance: Grenada and St. Kitts-Nevis.