(Ruxandra Guidi is blogging from Bolivia’s climate change conference.)
On Tuesday, the first day of the climate change conference in Bolivia, participants argued for one hour about the definition of a forest. And that was just the start of Bolivia’s World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC)—a three-day event that concludes today.
The conference has brought together environmentalists from around the world, peasant organizations, indigenous communities, a few heads of state, and the public for a more inclusive discussion about climate change. Envisioned as the “alternative” Copenhagen Conference of the Parties, the CMPCC is dissecting the various debates and definitions presented at last December’s UN Climate Change Conference, or COP 15, from the perspective of the developing world, indigenous groups and those affected by the effects climate change.
“The declarations they made at Copenhagen aren’t good for us,” says a Brazilian delegate from the panel on forests. “Their definition of a forest means nothing to us.” But what is that definition? And who are they?
Some of the peopled seated around me in the audience were visibly puzzled by the discussion and one man suggested we look up the definition. Another participant argued against using the term “forest” saying “that word doesn’t apply to us in Venezuela; what we have there is jungle, not forests, in the European sense of the word.”
Semantics aside, getting everyone here to agree—or at least to understand the vast impacts of climate change and, for that matter, the current mechanisms designed to fight it—is incredibly difficult. Unlike COP 15, the meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is challenging many of the widely-accepted solutions to climate change: carbon markets, cap and trade and the mitigation measures championed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Earlier this month, a report by The Washington Post revealed that Bolivia would lose $3 million in climate aid from the State Department’s Global Climate Change Initiative for failing to sign on to the U.S.-brokered Copenhagen accord. Aside from criticizing the cap-and-trade model that was a cornerstone of COP 15, Bolivian President Evo Morales responded by organizing this conference.
Three million dollars for climate change adaptation measures may not seem like much, but for Bolivia, these are much-needed funds. But for President Morales the move by the U.S. is validating—it gives him all the ammunition needed to make his alternative conference a success in Bolivia and beyond.
Ruxandra Guidi is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org based in San Francisco, California. She is one half of the collaboration group, Fonografia Collective.