World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Cochabamba, Bolivia – Day 0, April 18

Welcome to the first edition of the five part series reporting back for YCAN from the World People’s Conference on Climate Change here in Cochabamba, Bolivia. These diary entries are designed to give you an on-the-ground account of what is happening at this historic event.

First we have to say how pleased we are to be here! This Summit has held the door wide open to civil society and it is refreshing to have a platform to bring governments together with diverse members of civil society from around the world, to discuss the structural causes of climate change and work on proposals for real solutions.

The Cochabamba Summit gets going tomorrow, though it will be officially kicked off by Bolivian President, Evo Morales on Tuesday. The local media is saying that around 15,000 people are already registered on line, just over half of which are from outside Bolivia. The guest list includes presidents, Hollywood actors, government ministers, bureaucrats, indigenous people and activists from 138 countries. Even the Rudd Government has sent a representative, a mid-level employee from the Department of Climate Change, whose identity we don’t yet know.

The conference will have 17 main working groups which will discuss the relevant issues and develop a position that will then be presented to the full conference for ratification. The idea is that these positions will be presented to the UNFCCC process at the meeting in Mexico at the end of this year.

It’s already abundantly clear that this conference will be very different to the UN versions (such as the disastrous one at Copenhagen last December). One critical difference is that the structural causes of climate change will be explored and discussed here in Cochabamba. While the UN process tends to treat as taboo the political, cultural, economic and ideological structures that allow climate change to continue worsening and create such large barriers for action, this summit will take this analysis as its starting point.

This week the Bolivian media has been previewing the summit and the newspapers have been full of information about global warming. As distinct from mainstream debate in Australia, indigenous perspectives are integral here, as well as whether capitalism is capable of ever achieving a safe climate future.

On a more practical level, as Australians we are planning a workshop with representatives from our biggest coal customers, to discuss ways in which we can wean the world off Australian coal. We will keep you posted on how that goes. We also hope to learn from the different viewpoints that a very diverse range of people are bringing to the conference.

On the eve of this summit, we are excited about the potential it has to help strengthen the global movement for real, science-based action on the climate crisis. So from the beautiful Andes mountains, whose glaciers and snow caps are fast disappearing, we ask you to stay tuned!!