Robert S. Eshelman.Independent Journalist, Posted: April 20, 2010 09:29 PM

The Bolivian government detailed today a broad plan for future international climate change negotiations and how governments and social movements might work together to push for climate justice internationally.

Bolivian President Evo Morales opened the People’s World Conference on Climate Change this morning, strongly condemning capitalism and calling for a “communitarian socialism” that will provide for the material wants and needs of the world’s populations and promote a more sustainable relationship between humans and the natural world.

He said:

The main cause of our planet’s destruction is capitalism. As people who inhabit Mother Earth, we have the right to say that the cause is capitalism and to protest endless growth. Capitalism is the source of the problem: more than 800 million people live on less than two dollars a day. Until we change the capitalist system, our measures to address climate change are limited.

Speaking before an estimated 15,000 people, including several Latin American heads of state; government representatives from Africa, Asia, and Europe; and indigenous delegations, Morales detailed his government’s proposal for establishing an international climate justice court, passage of a U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, reparations from rich countries to assist poor and low-lying nations that will be impacted by the effects of climate change, and financing of clean energy technologies. He also urged countries to open their borders to future waves of climate refugees.

Morales set the tone for the conference by reiterating throughout his speech that in order to address climate change, social movements and governments must cooperate. If he referenced government, he also mentioned social movements.

During the climate conference, occurring a few kilometers outside of Cochabamba in the small town of Tiquipaya, environmental justice activists are convening in over a dozen working groups to discuss issues ranging from long-term movement strategy to combating particular issues such as deforestation. The work of these groups, the Bolivian government promises, will be presented to the 192 nations involved in the UNFCCC process. The social movements, the theory goes, will be given greater voice and legitimacy through partnership with allied governments such as Bolivia, while these governments will hold greater legitimacy within the negotiations due to the backing of international organizations and their millions of rank and file.

Adding to this collaboration between nation-state and environmental justice movements is the presence of the Bolivian military in conference working groups – a strange event in a region that has been gripped by military coup after military coup during the past half century. The Bolivian Chief of Staff has ordered cadets from the country’s military academy to attend working groups. Several participants I spoke to today and yesterday found the soldiers to be a welcome, if odd, addition to discussions – seemingly less interested in surveying, and potentially repressing, oppositional movements than becoming part of Bolivia’s efforts at projecting a national strategy based upon leading a new, international environmental movement.

During an afternoon panel discussion on the state of international climate negotiations, Angelica Navarro, lead climate negotiator for Bolivia, rehashed why talks in Copenhagen failed to deliver a comprehensive agreement, arguing that several countries, primarily the U.S., sidestepped the consensus-based U.N. process and negotiated the Copenhagen Accord during small group discussions.

She said:

That is why some ask if it is the United Nations that had failed. We say it is the other way around. Copenhagen failed because [the countries that negotiated the Copenhagen Accord] didn’t follow a way of inclusion or democracy […]. They just excluded. And that is what we want to change in this Cochabamba session. We want it to be the other way around from what happened in Copenhagen. […] We want a true and participatory democracy from the grassroots and to show that solutions can be generated from the social movements.

Navarro re-iterated many of Morales’ morning points: capitalism has brought about an ecological crisis and is a “false solution” for addressing climate change, nations need to open their borders to future waves of climate refugees, and collaboration between social movements and nation-states is the only path forward for developing alternatives to capitalism and addressing climate change.

She concluded the discussion saying:

[Rich countries] are trying to preserve their trade and financial interests. They were negotiating an economic agreement in Copenhagen not an environmental one […]. We believe that the interests of money should not be at the forefront but the interests of our people. So, that is why we are here – to listen to you, what your concerns are, and the possible solutions. So we can transfer them to our future negotiations in Cancun … for all of us and all of our peoples.

Working groups will present their concluding statements during afternoon sessions tomorrow and, on Thursday, a dialogue between government representatives and civil society will occur. At that point, one will be able to better discern the future course of this new nation-state and social movement cooperation.