Bolivia's attempt to win fresh support for the Kyoto Protocol is a step ahead in the efforts of the developing world to advance climate negotiations. Brazil, South Africa, India, and China have, as the BASIC countries, called for a legally binding, long-term cooperative agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The failure at Copenhagen has underlined the importance of going all out for an agreement in the current year. To this end, the World People's Conference on Climate Change recently hosted by President Evo Morales in Cochabamba, Bolivia, deserves credit for drawing attention to the more contentious issues. The grassroots conference, which drew an estimated 30,000 people, has demanded that the affluent nations bear responsibility for the accumulation of greenhouse gases and prepare massively to compensate those who are most at risk from climate-linked environmental destruction. This has been the long-held position of the least developed and developing countries, but the Bolivia conference resolution goes much further. It asserts the deep sense of injustice nursed by the nations of the global South and wants a climate tribunal to be constituted on the lines of the International Court of Justice. This forum, it contends, should rule on the failure of developed countries to fully implement the Kyoto Protocol, and order reparations.
President Morales is unlikely to win many allies in today's world by calling for the end of capitalism, which he blames for the climate crisis. Bolivia is confronting its own economic dilemmas. It follows a policy of enabling the earth to regenerate its bio-capacity but finds it difficult to abandon the gains oil and gas bring. Another conundrum presents itself in the form of lithium, a ‘green energy' source of which Bolivia has the majority reserves. How can mining of the metal be reconciled with the national policy of not causing harm to ‘Mother Earth'? The Bolivian leader begs the question when he says it needs to be studied in depth. There are no dilemmas, however, when he speaks of the role of the biggest carbon polluters. The United States, he points out, is willing to spend staggering amounts of money on defence and the Iraq war, but not on paying compensation to poor nations. The Cochabamba conference also highlighted the conflict faced by indigenous people between their traditional rights and the U.N. scheme of carbon credits for forest preservation, called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Forests are a big part of the solution, but the UNFCCC must convince these communities that their interests will be protected.