Bolivia and Cuba: Radical Action Needed Now to Stop Global Warming

Letter from Bolivian President Evo Morales
to the members of the United Nations, September 24, 2007

Sister and brother Presidents and Heads of States of the United Nations:

The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change, and the disease is the capitalist development model. Whilst over 10,000 years the variation in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on the planet was approximately 10%, during the last 200 years of industrial development, carbon emissions have increased by 30%. Since 1860, Europe and North America have contributed 70% of the emissions of CO2. 2005 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years on this planet.

Different investigations have demonstrated that out of the 40,170 living species that have been studied, 16,119 are in danger of extinction. One out of eight birds could disappear forever. One out of four mammals is under threat. One out of every three reptiles could cease to exist. Eight out of ten crustaceans and three out of four insects are at risk of extinction. We are living through the sixth crisis of the extinction of living species in the history of the planet and, on this occasion, the rate of extinction is 100 times more accelerated than in geological times.

Faced with this bleak future, transnational interests are proposing to continue as before, and paint the machine green, which is to say, continue with growth and irrational consumerism and inequality, generating more and more profits, without realising that we are currently consuming in one year what the planet produces in one year and three months. Faced with this reality, the solution can not be an environmental make over.

I read in the World Bank report that in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change we need to end subsidies on hydrocarbons, put a price on water and promote private investment in the clean energy sector. Once again they want to apply market recipes and privatisation in order to carry out business as usual, and with it, the same illnesses that these policies produce. The same occurs in the case of biofuels, given that to produce one litre of ethanol you require 12 litres of water. In the same way, to process one ton of agrifuels you need, on average, one hectare of land.

Faced with this situation, we – the indigenous peoples and humble and honest inhabitants of this planet – believe that the time has come to put a stop to this, in order to rediscover our roots, with respect for Mother Earth; with the Pachamama as we call it in the Andes. Today, the indigenous peoples of Latin America and the world have been called upon by history to convert ourselves into the vanguard of the struggle to defend nature and life.

I am convinced that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently approved after so many years of struggle, needs to pass from paper to reality so that our knowledge and our participation can help to construct a new future of hope for all. Who else but the indigenous people, can point out the path for humanity in order to preserve nature, natural resources and the territories that we have inhabited from ancient times.

We need a profound change of direction, at the world wide level, so as to stop being the condemned of the earth. The countries of the north need to reduce their carbon emissions by between 60% and 80% if we want to avoid a temperature rise of more than 2º in what is left of this century, which would provoke global warming of catastrophic proportions for life and nature.

We need to create a World Environment Organisation which is binding, and which can discipline the World Trade Organisation, which is propelling us towards barbarism. We can no longer continue to talk of growth in Gross National Product without taking into consideration the destruction and wastage of natural resources. We need to adopt an indicator that allows us to consider, in a combined way, the Human Development Index and the Ecological Footprint in order to measure our environmental situation.

We need to apply harsh taxes on the super concentration of wealth, and adopt effective mechanisms for its equitable redistribution. It is not possible that three families can have an income superior to the combined GDP of the 48 poorest countries. We can not talk of equity and social justice whilst this situation continues.

The United States and Europe consume, on average, 8.4 times more that the world average. It is necessary for them to reduce their level of consumption and recognise that all of us are guests on this same land; of the same Pachamama.

I know that change is not easy when an extremely powerful sector has to renounce their extraordinary profits for the planet to survive. In my own country I suffer, with my head held high, this permanent sabotage because we are ending privileges so that everyone can “Live Well” and not better than our counterparts. I know that change in the world is much more difficult than in my country, but I have absolute confidence in human beings, in their capacity to reason, to learn from mistakes, to recuperate their roots, and to change in order to forge a just, diverse, inclusive, equilibrated world in harmony with nature.

Evo Morales Ayma
President of the Republic of Bolivia

Speech by Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque,
to the UN high-level event on climate change in New York, September 24, 2007

Mr. President:

We met, as we are doing now, fifteen years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro. It was a historic moment. There, we took on the commitment later on contained in the Convention on Climate Change and, subsequently, in the Kyoto Protocol. Cuba was then the first country to take the environmental issue to a constitutional platform.

That day, President Fidel Castro delivered a brief and fundamental speech, which overwhelmed those present in the plenary of such conference. He told profound truths, breaking them down one by one from an unwavering ethical and humanistic position:

“An important biological species is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat: man.

“… consumer societies are fundamentally responsible for the atrocious destruction of the environment.

“The solution cannot be to hinder the development of the neediest.

“If we want to save humanity from that self-destruction, there must be a better distribution of the available wealth and technologies on the planet. There must be less luxury and less squandering in a few countries so that there will be less impoverishment and less famine in a large portion of the Earth.”

The truth is that almost nothing was done afterwards. The situation is now a lot more critical, the dangers are greater and we are running out of time.

The scientific evidence is clear. Practical observation is overwhelming. These could only be called into question by irresponsible people. The last ten years have been the warmest. There is a decrease in the thickness of artic ice. Glaciers are receding. Sea level is on the rise. Also increasing is the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

The future looks worse: some 30% of all species will disappear if global temperature increases by 1.5 to 2.5 degrees centigrade. Small island states are running the risk of disappearing under the waters.

In order to face the danger, we have agreed on two strategies. Mitigation, which is the reduction in and absorption of the emissions; and adaptation, referring to actions aimed at reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

However, it is increasingly clear that this dramatic situation will not be tackled unless there is a shift in the current unbridled production and consumption patterns, presented as the dream to achieve through an unscrupulous and ongoing worldwide advertising campaign on which a trillion dollars is invested every year.

We have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries, responsible for 76% of the emissions of greenhouse gases accumulated since 1850, have to bear the brunt of mitigation and must set the example. What is even worse is that their emissions increased by over 12% between 1990 and 2003, and those of the United States in particular grew by over 20%. Therefore, they must begin by honoring the ever-modest commitments contained in the Kyoto Protocol and by taking on new and ambitious goals to reduce emissions as of 2012.

The problem will not be resolved by purchasing the quota of the poor countries. That is a selfish and inefficient path. Nor will it be resolved by turning food into fuels as proposed by President Bush. It is a sinister idea. Real reductions must be achieved in the emission sources. A real energy revolution must take place with a focus on saving and efficiency. A great deal of political will and courage is required to wage this battle. Cuba’s modest experience, successful and encouraging despite the blockade and the aggressions that we suffer from, is proof that we can do it.

On the other hand, the fight against climate change cannot be an obstacle impeding the development of the over 100 countries that have yet to attain it and which, by the way, are not the historic culprits of what has happened; it has to be compatible with the sustainable development of our countries. We reject the pressures on the underdeveloped countries to enter into binding commitments to reduce emissions. What is more, the portion of global emissions pertaining to the underdeveloped countries must increase in order to meet the needs of their socio-economic development. The developed countries have no moral authority to demand anything on this issue.

Paradoxically, the countries that have caused the least global warming, particularly the small island states and the least developed countries, are the most vulnerable and threatened. For them to implement adaptation policies they need unrestricted access to clean technologies and to financing.

However, the developed countries are the ones monopolizing the patents, the technologies and the money. They are, therefore, responsible for the Third World to gain access to substantial amounts of fresh funding above the current Official Development Assistance levels, which are completely insufficient in fact. They must also be held accountable for the effective free transfer of technologies and the training of human resources in our countries – something which, of course, will not be resolved through the market or the neoliberal policies imposed through pressure and blackmail.

And the largest responsibility lies, without a doubt, with the country that most squanders, the one that most pollutes, the one that has the most money and technologies – which, at the same time, refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and has not shown any commitment at all to this meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General.

Mr. President:

Cuba is hopeful that the forthcoming Bali Conference will produce a clear mandate for the developed countries to reduce, by 2020, their emissions by no less than 40% as compared to their 1990 levels; a mandate negotiated within the framework of the Convention and not in small cliques and selective collusions as proposed by the Government of the United States.

Cuba also expects that a mechanism be adopted to ensure the expeditious transfer to the underdeveloped countries of clean technologies under preferential terms, with the utmost priority to the small island states and the least developed countries, which are the most vulnerable.

We also expect that new and additional resources be allocated, and that financial support mechanisms be adopted to assist the underdeveloped countries in implementing our adaptation strategies. By way of example, if only half the money that our countries must pay every year in servicing a burdensome debt that does not cease to grow were set aside for these purposes, we would have over US$ 200 billion per annum. Another alternative would be to earmark merely the tenth of what the sole military superpower on the planet spends on wars and weapons and we would have another US$ 50 billion available. The money is there, but political will is lacking.

Mr. President:

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has called upon us today to send a powerful political message to the forthcoming Bali Conference. I find no better way to say it on Cuba’s behalf than to repeat Fidel’s words that 12 June 1992:

“Let selfishness end, let hegemonies end, let insensitivity, irresponsibility and deceit end. Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.”

Thank you very much.