By Hugo Blanco, translated by Richard Fidler for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal (acknowledgments Derek Wall)
The concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is already so high that the climate system has been brought out of balance. The CO2 concentration and global temperatures have increased more rapidly in the last 50 years than ever before on Earth, and will rise even faster in the coming decades. This adds to a multitude of other serious ecological imbalances, the impacts of which threaten the lives and livelihoods of the people of the world, most acutely, impoverished people and other vulnerable groups.
The imbalance of the climate system leads to greater and more frequent extremes of heat and rainfall patterns, tropical cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons, extreme flooding and droughts, loss of biodiversity, landslides, rising sea levels, shortage of drinking water, shorter growing seasons, lower yields, lost or deteriorated agricultural land, decreased agricultural production, losses of livestock, extinction of ecosystems, and diminished fish stocks, among others. These phenomena result in food crises, famine, illness, death, displacement, and the extinction of sustainable ways of life. -- People’s Declaration from Klimaforum09
January 2010 -- In response to this, the United Nations agreed to hold a Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15), which met in Copenhagen December 7-18 to draft a treaty for the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming.
The meeting ended without any agreement since the countries primarily responsible for global warming — led by the United States, which, with only 4 per cent of the world’s population, produces 25 per cent of the pollution due to carbon dioxide emissions — were unwilling to commit themselves to even the least reduction in that pollution.
At the last minute, after the official meeting had broken up, US President Barack Obama met with some accomplices and got them to sign, without discussion, a paper expressing “every intention” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but without any binding commitments, and promising “to help” the major victims of warming, basically in Africa and other poor countries, but again without establishing any amounts or enforcement mechanisms. Simply expressions of good intentions without any commitment.
Despite the failure of the official meeting, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales stated: “They say it was a failure, but I would not say that the Copenhagen summit has failed, but rather that it is a triumph for the entire world... because the developed capitalist countries could not impose their statement.”
We fully agree with him. It was different from the Kyoto meeting which set ridiculous goals that the US and other major culprits did not sign and did not fulfill — which made environmental protection a commodity, but nevertheless gave hope to people that something was being done. In Copenhagen, fortunately, the failure of the official meeting was completely clear.
This awakened many who still had the illusion that within the capitalist system it is possible to stop global warming, that the world’s major predators can act in defence of the survival of the human species.
Copenhagen brought together not only official representatives. In the international demonstration on Saturday, December 12, there were 100,000 people concerned about climate change. The meeting was preceded by massive demonstrations in England and other countries.
An organisation was formed, “Change the system, not the climate”, and it issued the “People’s Declaration in Klimaforum09”.
In the meeting of the presidents, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez repeated two slogans raised by the people in the streets: “Change the system, not the climate” and “If the climate were a bank they would have saved it by now.”
Evo Morales reported that when he went to speak they evacuated the room so that only the official leaders heard him. He posed five questions on climate change that the United Nations should put to the world’s peoples in a global referendum, asking that they answer yes or no, "That will leave the decision in the hands of the peoples of the world.” (The United Nations will hold no such referendum, of course.)
1. Do you agree with re-establishing harmony with nature while recognising the rights of Mother Earth?
2. Do you agree with changing this model of over-consumption and waste that the capitalist system represents?
3. Do you agree that developed countries should reduce and re-absorb their domestic greenhouse gas emissions so that the temperature does not rise more than 1 degree Celsius?
4. Do you agree with transferring everything spent on wars to protecting the planet and allocating a budget for climate change that is bigger than what is used for defence?
5. Do you agree with establishing a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth?
Morales has also issued a call for the “Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change” in defence of humanity, life and the planet. Those invited will be not only the presidents of interested countries concerned about the issue, but experts, academics and representatives of the social organisations.
“The goal is to achieve a consensus position to be raised at the next Summit on Climate Change to be held in Mexico in December 2010.”
The People’s Summit will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia April 20-22, coinciding with the first worldwide celebration of Mother Earth Day recently instituted by the United Nations.
It is naive to think that the world’s major polluters will do anything about climate protection.
Large multinational companies are the ones who govern the world through the “leaders” who are nothing more than their servants.
Their neoliberal religion commands them to make as much money as possible in the shortest time possible. They know very well that to do this they must destroy nature. They know very well that they will have no descendants, but they do not care. Through their media they spread the most possible disinformation about global warming and the appropriate steps to be taken.
Evo is right when he says:
They only deal with the effects and not the causes of climate change.
Climate change is a product of the capitalist system, which favours the pursuit of the maximum possible profit. That is the purpose of the capitalist system, with no consideration for the lives of others. In Copenhagen we should analyse which countries are doing the most damage to the environment and, with that in mind, focus on the need for those countries with the greatest responsibility to pay for this debt to the global climate. That is an obligation ...
The Copenhagen summit is much more global in nature, it is a debate about life, about humanity. Here we have profound differences with capitalist governments. I remain convinced that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity.
We might still be able to ensure the survival of the species. We have cause for optimism in the meeting of 100,000 people in Copenhagen, the formation of the organisation “Change the system, not the climate”, the call for the meeting in Cochabamba, the violent impact on the rich countries of Europe of the freezing temperatures in recent days.
Apparently we Indigenous peoples, who for centuries have been struggling and dying in defence of Mother Earth and the defence of our collectivist solidarity, will no longer be alone.
Only the extinction of capitalism will ensure the survival of our species, and the sooner the world understands this the better.
[Hugo Blanco was leader of the Quechua peasant uprising in the Cuzco region of Peru in the early 1960s. He was captured by the military and sentenced to 25 years in El Fronton Island prison for his activities, but an international defence campaign won his freedom. He continues to play an active role in Peru's Indigenous, campesino, and environmental movements, and writes on Peruvian, indigenous and Latin American issues. He edits the Lucha Indigena newspaper. An earlier English version of this article first appeared at Another Green World.]
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