Environmental activists, indigenous leaders and Hollywood celebrities are gathering in Bolivia ahead of a self-styled global people’s conference on climate change starting on Tuesday.
Individual participants include an assortment of anti-globalisation activists such as writer Naomi Klein of Canada and Jose Bove of France.
Also invited is James Cameron, the Canadian-born director of the blockbuster film, Avatar, and James Hansen, a US researcher who was among the first to warn about climate change.
Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Adolfo Perez Esquivel, noted for his demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, was also due to take part, as was Hollywood actor and political activist Danny Glover.
Thousands of attendees intend to highlight the plight of the world’s poorest, who they argue were largely ignored at the official UN-sponsored summit in Copenhagen in December last year.
The Copenhagen meeting was widely drubbed for failing to produce a new treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, with Bolivia, along with Cuba and Sudan, among the leading voices questioning the climate accord.
Critics say that deal will not avert a catastrophe and the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights, which runs through Thursday, aims to draft new proposals for consideration at the next UN meeting in Mexico at the end of the year.
Bolivia’s UN ambassador Pablo Solon said the conference, expected to be attended by about 18,000 people, was the only way to get the climate change talks back on track.
And Bolivian Environment Minister Juan Pablo Ramos described the Cochabamba meeting as a major mobilisation to fundamentally influence the next climate summit in Mexico in December.
Developing nations have resisted a legally binding climate treaty, arguing that wealthy nations must bear the primary responsibility for climate change.
Nearly 130 countries, including many of the world’s poorest, will be represented at the Cochabamba conference, which symbolically reaches its climax on Earth Day.
This week’s gathering will also give a giant megaphone to a left-leaning bloc of Latin American leaders, including presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales, the indigenous president of host nation Bolivia.
The conference will seek to refine proposals presented by Morales in Copenhagen that included the creation of a world tribunal for climate issues and a global referendum on environmental choices.