The people's summit to tackle climate change is a radical, transformative response to the failure of the Copenhagen club
By Naomi Klein
More than that, the United States made clear that it didn't need small countries like Bolivia to be part of a climate solution. It would negotiate a deal with other heavy emitters behind closed doors, and the rest of the world would be informed of the results and invited to sign on, which is precisely what happened with the Copenhagen accord.
When Bolivia and Ecuador refused to rubberstamp the accord, the US government cut their climate aid by $3m and $2.5m respectively. "It's not a freerider process," explained US climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing. (Anyone wondering why activists from the global south reject the idea of "climate aid" and are instead demanding repayment of "climate debts" has their answer here.)
Pershing's message was chilling: if you are poor, you don't have the right to prioritise your own survival. When Morales invited "social movements and Mother Earth's defenders … scientists, academics, lawyers and governments" to Cochabamba for a new kind of climate summit, it was a revolt against this experience of helplessness, an attempt to build a base of power behind the right to survive.
The Bolivian government got the ball rolling by proposing four big ideas: that nature should be granted rights that protect ecosystems from annihilation (a "universal declaration of Mother Earth rights"); that those who violate those rights and other international environmental agreements should face legal consequences (a "climate justice tribunal"); that poor countries should receive various forms of compensation for a crisis they are facing but had little role in creating ("climate debt"); and that there should be a mechanism for people around the world to express their views on these topics ("world people's referendum on climate change").