Cochabamba Summit Diary – Day 3 April 21

Day 3
We realised that we have so far neglected to paint a picture of what exactly are the activities underway at this conference and for this, dear readers, we apologise and rectify forthwith.

First of all, there are the seventeen working groups that we mentioned in our first post, each preparing statements and recommendations which will eventually find their way to the UN climate summit in Mexico at the end of this year. These working groups reported back to several plenary sessions today and we have listed some of the main outcomes below.

Apart from the working groups there are countless self-organised workshops, put on by organisations on a range of different topics (including, funnily enough, Australian coal). At the same time, there has been a range of panel discussions. These panel discussions cover the big picture issues, such as the structural causes of climate change or the concept of climate debt, and feature conference celebrities such as Naomi Klein, Dr. James Hansen and Bill McKibben, as well as a range of Latin American government ministers and international climate negotiators.

Of course there are also the stalls, both official and unofficial, with the government run stalls giving away posters and flyers attracting long queues and indignant accusations when they run out of free stuff (the crappiness of the free stuff bearing no relation to the level of indignation).

The Bolivian media has also given plenty of attention to the unofficial 18th working group, which the Morales Government tried to suppress. This working group, focused on local Bolivian climate and environment issues and run by Cochabamba grassroots environment groups, has been critical of the Morales Government, accusing it of not living up to its environmentalist rhetoric in its domestic policies (sound familiar?).

So back to Day 3. This morning we managed to accost a bureaucrat from the Bolivian Environment Ministry and talk to her about the Transition Decade (T10) approach. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to have much awareness of the backcasting and full transition to zero emissions concept here. In fact, so far, we’re the only ones we´ve heard talking about it. The coca-chewing bureaucrat was very excited about the idea, and promised to pass on our work to the appropriate people.

After a lunch of vegetarian empanadas (and that’s Australian standard vegetarian, not South American standard which sometimes includes chicken or fish) came the moment we had all been waiting for: the Aussies got to run their own workshop! We almost had to cancel it because the room it was supposed to be in had been taken over by the working group on forests, and they were in heated debate furiously trying to finish their work, but luckily they were done about ten minutes before we were due to start.

The workshop was about the climate movement in Australia, with a focus on coal export campaigning and direct action. Steve from Rising Tide in Newcastle presented some facts and figures on Australian coal and then went through a series of photos showing actions in Australia over the last few years.

We emphasised the significant impact of Australian coal exports on global greenhouse gas emissions and the importance of working together as sellers and buyers of coal to break the coal addiction. While the presentation may have seemed a little abstract to an audience consisting mainly of Bolivians with a smattering of other Latinos, Europeans and South Africans, an interesting dialogue was generated afterwards in the question and answer session, and continued after the workshop had finished.

Key outcomes of the 17 Summit working groups

As mentioned above, 17 themed working groups have been meeting and working continuously since the conference began 3 days ago. Anyone was free to participate – if they could get into the room! These groups today presented their conclusions and recommendations at three concurrent plenary sessions.

The ideas generated, some of which are listed below, will be formally passed on to government officials (from Bolivia and other delegations) tomorrow morning at a special ´Government-Peoples Dialogue´ session. The story goes that several people have been nominated to then integrate and prepare a final document which will constitute the official outcomes of the Summit and be taken to UN climate change negotiations.

Some of the main statements or outcomes of the working group process include:

· An International Climate Justice Tribunal should be formed with headquarters in Bolivia. The Tribunal would have the capacity to warn, judge and sanction States, businesses and people who pollute and cause climate change by action or failure to act.

· Preparation of text for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, outlining obligations of humans to preserve and take care of natural systems, which will be presented for adoption by the UN in Mexico in December this year.

· The United States should sign the Kyoto Protocol and the commitments of developing countries under Kyoto limit global emissions sufficiently so as to return atmospheric carbon dioxide to less than 300 parts per million.

· A Global Referendum on 22 of April, 2011 to determine agreement with issues including the need to change the capitalist system and redirect current military budgets towards defense of the Earth. In countries where referendums cannot be carried out officially there should be a popular vote or consultation.

· Capitalism, and its model of endless growth, is incompatible with life on a finite planet. We need to choose a path that establishes harmony with nature. (There was agreement about the need to change the capitalist model of production, but not that socialism would be an appropriate alternative.) The notion that economic growth should contribute to wellbeing was put forward as a shared vision.

There was lots more said, of course – with some speaking in higher-pitched voices than others. We will post a more complete summary if it is available before the end of the summit.