By JEFF MCMAHON
Diplomats from the 17 largest economies are meeting behind closed doors for a second day today in Washington D.C. to work out their differences on climate change. As the name suggests–the Major Economies Forum–all the major players are there: the U.S., the European Union, Japan, China, India, Brazil, South Africa…
But 4,000 miles to the south, as many as 15,000 people are expected to gather at the municipal coliseum in Tiquipaya, Bolivia, to open the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. Many who have been excluded from the major forums will be there–not just less influential nations, but also indigenous peoples, activist groups, non-governmental organizations.
“Everybody is invited: individuals, scientific, civil society, NGOs, 192 countries. Everybody. Everybody can come to Bolivia, give their view, debate,” said Bolivian Ambassador Angelica Navarro. ”We think democracy is key. The wisdom is in the people, the wisdom is in those that are suffering or that are willing to help.
“We hope that together, those of us that were excluded can have a stronger say in the formal setting and come back and say (to governments), this is what civil society is asking. Can you deliver or not?”
On the agenda:
• An International Climate Justice Tribunal: “The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change contains no mechanisms for trying or sanctioning developed countries that fail to comply with their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, President Evo Morales has proposed the creation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal at the United Nations.”
If the proposed court were ever to be realized, it would have jurisdiction over United Nations climate change agreements, possibly other international environmental treaties, and perhaps “any serious crimes against nature.”
Likely defendants would be Canada, which ratified the Kyoto Treaty but failed to meet its requirements, and the United States, which is responsible for most of the greenhouse gas pollution currently in the atmosphere.
• A World Referendum on Climate Change: In Copenhagen, Morales proposed a worldwide referendum to ask the people how governments should respond to climate change. Delegates to the World People’s Conference will consider the proposal and the proposed yes-or-no questions, which might seem leading in their present, draft form:
1) Do you agree with reestablishing harmony with nature while recognizing the rights of the Mother Earth? YES or NO
2) Do you agree with changing this model of over-consumption and waste that represents capitalist system? YES or NO
3) Do you agree that developing countries reduce and reabsorb their domestic greenhouse gas emissions for temperature not to rise more than 1 degree Celsius? YES or NO
4) Do you agree with transferring all that is spent in wars and for allocating a budget bigger than used for defense to climate change? YES or NO
5) Do you agree with a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth? YES or NO
• Climate Debt: The conference organizers contend that the developed world, which produced as much as 80 percent of the world’s current greenhouse gas pollution, owes a debt to those less developed nations likely to bear the brunt of climate-change effects. The conferees will strive to “produce a text that systematizes and expands upon the concept of climate debt, enumerating its components, its creditors, and forms of compensation.”
These are but three of 17 topics that working groups will consider as they develop texts to present at the next major UN Climate Conference in Cancun Nov. 29.
“There will be no secret discussions behind closed doors,” Bolivia’s UN ambassador, Pablo Solon, told The Guardian. “The debate and the proposals will be led by communities on the frontlines of climate change and by organisations and individuals from civil society dedicated to tackling the climate crisis.”
The Bolivian president has taken an increasingly prominent role in challenging the dominance of the major economies, at some cost to Bolivia. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the U.S. cut off $3 million in climate-related aid to Bolivia and $2.5 million to its neighbor and ally, Ecuador.