Ambassador Pablo Solon. Article in Outreach magazine distributed in Cancun
Cancun should be about those responsible for climate change committing to reduce greenhouse gases. It sounds like a strange thing to say. Unfortunately our experience in past climate talks is that emission reductions is often the last thing discussed. Instead valuable time is spent trying to shift responsibility from those who have caused climate change to those suffering the effects, and looking for ever more creative financial mechanisms for multinational corporations to make profits from climate change.These constant attempts to deviate from our critical task of preventing runaway climate change were most starkly exposed at the COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. After days of blocking any progress on the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding agreement on climate change; the US, EU and a small handful of hand-picked countries met in a secretive location to draw up a voluntary agreement, misnamed the Copenhagen Accord. Bolivia and many other nations opposed the Accord, because it ignored the views of more than 160 countries and because it would move us backwards rather than forward.

The UN’s own research has shown that the Copenhagen Accord’s voluntary pledges would lead to temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius – a level that many scientists consider disastrous for human life and our ecosystems. An internal report by the EU of its own commitments suggested that, thanks to various loopholes, the EU could actually increase its emissions by 2.6% by 2020. This is hardly a step forward and is why the Accord was rightly denounced by millions of people worldwide.

During the Copenhagen climate talks, President Evo Morales of Bolivia observed that the best way to put climate change solutions at the heart of the talks was to involve the people. In contrast to much of the official talks, the hundreds of civil society organisations, communities, scientists and faith leaders present in Copenhagen clearly prioritised the search for effective, just solutions to climate change against narrow economic interests.

So Bolivia decided to put its words into action, and host a Peoples Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010. The summit in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba was open to everyone, and was attended by more than 35,000 people from more than 70 countries including representatives of 40 governments. More than 17 working groups developed innovative and effective proposals to both reduce greenhouse gas reductions and tackle the root causes of climate change. The Bolivian government then agreed to formally present these demands within the UNFCCC negotiations.

The Cochabamba Accord includes the following key demands:

1. 50 % reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 2017.

2. Stabilising temperature rises to 1C and 300 PPM

3. Acknowledging the climate debt owed by developed countries

4. Full respect for Human Rights and the inherent rights of indigenous people

5. Universal declaration of rights of Mother Earth to ensure harmony with nature

6. Establishment of an International Court of Climate Justice

7. Rejection of carbon markets and commodification of nature and forests through the REDD programme

8. Promotion of measures that change the consumption patterns of developed countries.

9. End of intellectual property rights for technologies useful for mitigating climate change.

10. Allocation of 6% of developed countries’ national gross product to actions related to addressing climate change

The Cochabamba conference was inspiring in contrast to Copenhagen, because no-one was excluded and because it put the interests of stabilising the climate before the interests of business and profit. As the Cancun talks start, there is a long uphill road to climb if the UN is to re-emerge with its credibility in responding to the most critical crisis humanity has faced. The first step it could take is to stop listening to the interests of powerful corporations and instead listen to the demands of the peoples in Cochabamba.