Hemispheric Social Alliance Statement on Climate Change

We demand effective commitments for fighting climate change

Between the 7th and 18th of December, 2009 during the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP15) in Copenhagen, world governments will attempt to make commitments for reducing carbon emissions and lay out policies for mitigating climate change. In the face of the urgency and the growing recognition of the dangerous consequences of this phenomenon, the whole world is awaiting the decisions that will be made.

Nonetheless, the transformation of the climate is advancing faster than the negotiations, given the lack of political will of the industrialized nations and their hurry to transform the need for solutions into business opportunities. These are the principle obstacles to the adoption of policies that truly contribute to avoiding climate change and counteracting the environmental damages that the current production model has created. In the face of such obstacles social and popular movements and organizations, environmental groups, unions, indigenous communities and women’s organizations from the entire American continent raise the flags of climate and ecological justice, demand from our governments a real commitment and urge the whole of society to recognize the need to change our patterns of consumption and production.

In recent years it has been more and more evident that the climate is changing due to global warming. This is reflected in, among other impacts, the increase of extreme climate events that affect disproportionally the so-called developing countries. This is a grave problem that humanity faces, heightening other existing problems like poverty, hunger, violence, social inequality, problems of gender (women make up 70% of poor people), the control of land, food sovereignty, access to water and sanitation, among others.

Who is responsible?

We the social organizations of Latin America believe that it is necessary to seek solutions through the search for Climate and Ecological Justice, which should be based in the recognition that each human being has the right to climatic and environmental space and that nature, as a whole, has rights that should be respected. Although climate change requires global actions, the historical responsibility for emitting the majority (80%) of the greenhouse gases in the last 250 years lies on the countries of the North. Cheap energy has been the motor for their rapid industrialization and economic growth, while the countries of the South have assumed the economic, social and environmental costs of extradition, transport and production of fossil fuels. The countries of the North should recognize the existence of an ecological, social, financial and historical debt to the countries of the South and to nature.

The unprecedented crisis that the world is currently living reveals the failure of the capitalist system and its neoliberal model, whose ideologues believed – and still believe – that the laws of the market are more important than life, converting natural resources into merchandise and removing the State from is role to regulate, protect and promote, converting the State into a mere manager. The climate crisis is the result of a development model that promotes production based upon the use of fossil fuels; deforestation; monoculture; industrial agriculture and cattle farming; and the intensive, chaotic and massive extraction of natural resources from the earth, all with the aim of exportation and of strengthening in the countries of the North and in the upper classes patterns of exaggerated consumption, which have contributed to the generation and concentration of greenhouse gases, the direct cause of climate change.

The major corporations and their accomplice governments are therefore those principally responsible for the emission of CO2 and the exhaustion of the planet’s natural resources, and at the same time are those promoting an accelerated and limitless rhythm of consumption that is closing the circle of the debilitation and destruction of Mother Earth. In the words of Evo Morales, “‘climate change’ has placed humanity in the face of a grave dilemma: continue on the path of capitalism and death, or embark on the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”

The liberalization and deregulation of international commerce and the investment and protection of intellectual property (imposed via the WTO and Free Trade Agreements) contribute to climate change because they guarantee and promote the continuation of the production, consumption and commercial model and deepen the international division of labor that has destroyed the economies of the South, provoking great migratory waves. In addition, the illegitimate indebting of our countries, imposed to favor the policies and projects that have generated enormous ecological and climate debts, continue being a heavy factor in these unequal and submissive relationships. It is imperative to change the rules of the world economy, currently governed by transnational corporations. Additionally, it is very important to guarantee access for the countries of the South to existing technology and to at the same time develop new technologies with low carbon emissions that are appropriate to national realities without becoming the source of financial or technological dependence.

Our demands:

In the context of this exportation and extraction model that prioritizes economic benefits and the rights of transnational corporations over human rights and the rights of nature, those responsible have proposed some solutions to climate change that instead of addressing the true causes, maintain the unsustainable production and consumption structures and project onto the backs of the people and the most-affected countries the costs of mitigation or adaption.

Developed countries have not fulfilled the greenhouse gas emissions reduction agreements of the Kyoto Protocols, and have created an emissions trading system instead of eliminating carbon encourages practices that don’t actually reduce it, reproducing the speculative logic of the financial system and allowing companies and governments of the North to evade with money the assumed obligations to reduce emissions.

Biofuels do not constitute a real solution to the environmental problematic. The change in the use of land for cultivating palm and cane puts at risk food sovereignty, forests, biodiversity and the territorial relationships of native and rural communities. The purpose of biofuels is to maintain the patterns of energy consumption of industrialized countries.

Market mechanisms are based upon manipulation and business lobbying, incentivized and even financed by the World Bank, the International Development Bank and other development banks, investors and lenders. They are slow and complicated mechanisms that exclude local and indigenous communities from the decisions that affect their territories. These instruments don’t solve the climate crisis, but instead allow the North to transfer its obligation to reduce emissions and the problem itself to the people of the South.

The recent negotiations in Bangkok and Barcelona, preceding the meeting in Copenhagen, have served as the stage for the countries of the North to align their agreements on the reduction of emissions with the commitments of the countries of the South, who they blame for the lack of results and agreements. We demand the participation of all countries in the search for solutions to climate change, but recognizing that in order to be effective, the starting point should be the respect for and compliance with the commitments and diversified obligations agreed upon by industrialized countries more than 15 years ago, in agreement with their historic obligation. Even if there are advances in the commitments of the South, there is no guarantee that the mitigation of the countries of the North will be effective (and not using false market solutions, as has occurred until now).

The International Financial Institutions, co-responsible for the current global financial, economic and climate crisis, promote market solutions through credit programs that allow them to maintain the status quo and continue intervening in the political and social economy of the countries of the South. We therefore demand the immediate end of this conduct of the International Financial Institutions, which only contributes to the imposition of a speculative logic in the management of climate issues. No resource destined to the mitigation or adaption of climate change should be converted into debt.

We demand from the industrialized countries a commitment to the restitution and reparation for the peoples and countries of the South, through mechanisms and alternative flows of funds and the transfer of technologies in order to assure the life of the planet. The necessary reparations should be based on the autodetermination of communities and with the guarantee of no repetition.

All governments should promote alternatives that contribute to the mitigation of the effects of climate change. Similarly, it is essential to discuss current proposals, like the REDD program (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), which prioritize monocultures of trees instead of the protection of tropical forests, offering industrialized countries a way to compensate for increased emissions of greenhouse gases without committing to reducing emissions.

Alternatives from the Americas

As social organizations we demand that our governments prioritize the strengthening of local and regional economies; peasant agriculture; and the recognition of the rights of working men and women, indigenous peoples, peasants, and fishermen to protect their territory and natural resources. The governments should promote the transition to sustainable societies that are not based on hydrocarbons. Public policies that guarantee a just transition to another economy are necessary so that it won’t always be the same ones picking up the bill.

The international climate negotiations can’t be based on market mechanisms, but instead should contribute to the reversal of the development model based on unrestricted export-oriented growth. The negotiations should look to a new model of production, consumption, distribution and consumption, based on the sovereignty, solidarity and integration of peoples. We demand that those responsible for climate change transform the consumer lifestyle and the economic system that they have imposed on society.

For the indigenous communities, women, peasant and afro-descendent communities of our countries, the defense of projects that sustain life has been very important. Along with other social movements they have been constructing a different vision of territory, development, and economics that emphasizes biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources. It is necessary to recognize and appreciate the community knowledge and the traditional practices bases on coexistence with Mother Earth and respect of her rights.

Our continent is heterogeneous. From dense urban populations to tiny villages that promulgate the Good Life. We should nourish ourselves with these realties in order to formulate alternatives, demand effective commitments from governments and advance in the struggle of the people for sovereignty and social and climate justice.