Bolivia plans anti-capitalist climate summit to sway Paris

South American firebrand Evo Morales is organising an October meeting to discuss capitalism’s destruction of the environment

Bolivia president Evo Morales at the UN General Assembly in New York in 2013 (credit: UN photos)

Bolivia president Evo Morales at the UN General Assembly in New York in 2013 (credit: UN photos)

By Alex Pashley

Bolivia has announced a sequel to a 2010 grassroots summit which demanded carbon pollution curbs five times stricter than the Kyoto treaty and a world environmental court.

President Evo Morales scheduled the ‘World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth’ for 10-12 October in the Andean town of Tiquipaya, EFE news agency reported on Thursday.

The summit would tackle “the threats of capitalism against life, climate change and the culture of life,” Morales, a leftwing populist who became the country’s first indigenous leader in 2006, told reporters in capital, La Paz.

The last such meeting in April 2010 was considered a reaction to a Copenhagen climate change summit which ended in bitter acrimony between rich and poor nations, with Morales among several leaders refusing to sign an agreement.

The 2010 Bolivia conference, which gathered several thousand attendees from civil society movements to government delegations, called for countries to cap warming to 1C and stabilise atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at 300 parts per million.

New declaration

October’s meet will too publish a declaration, Morales said, seeking to sway envoys re-attempting a global climate pact binding all countries to emissions cuts.

In Paris this December, countries are seeking a deal to limit warming to 2C on pre-industrial levels, but analysts say voluntary national pledges aren’t sufficient to achieve this goal.

Bolivia has yet to submit its contribution to the UN.

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Morales, who won a third term in October, has often spoken out against wealthy interests at UN forums.

At the latest round of talks in Peru last year, the coca farmer-turned-politician denounced developed countries as greedy, liars and thieves.

In 2010, he called for an embargo on Coca-Cola (best used to unblock drains, he joked) and suggested eating hormone-injected chicken can cause homosexuality.

Double standards

At the same time, Morales has approved oil exploration and moves towards fracking in indigenous territories, causing activists to question his environmental credentials.

“There’s an idea that this government is progressive in defending Mother Earth,” independent environmentalist Teresa Flores, formerly from organisation PRODENA, told the Guardian.

“It’s totally to the contrary. That’s totally false. This government is destroying the environment more than any other. The only interest is to exploit natural resources as quickly as possible.”

The landlocked country is one of South America’s poorest but under Morales poverty has drastically fallen, with the spoils of a natural gas bonanza widely distributed.

Analysis: Can Latin America blaze a trail towards a Paris climate deal?

The continent is divided between market capitalist countries, which are set to embrace emissions cuts, and left-leaning governments more concerned with making the rich accept their “historic responsibility” for global warming.

The former, a grouping known as AILAC includes Colombia, Chile, and Peru. The latter, ALBA, contains the likes of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

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