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Un dia, Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climático y los Derechos de la Madre Tierra

After a good rest following long travels, I woke up this morning to participate in ‘day one’ of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth.

Step number one: accreditation. With an estimated 18, 000 participants, the accreditation line (to get the badge to access conference proceedings) was daunting. That said, the mood of the crowd was certainly one of anticipation and excitement for a historic event attracting a number of progressive governments and social movements from around the world working to bring forward proposals to address the climate crisis and advance social justice.

Going into the conference a number of proposals have been on the table including a Climate Justice Tribunal, World Referendum on Climate Change, Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth and strategies under the UNFCCC process (what the Copenhagen negotiations were all about) that aim for deeper emission reduction targets, more responsibility on the part of the global North for climate debt repayment and resisting the expansion of carbon markets (including offsets and carbon trading). Certainly a large part of this is making clear that the Copenhagen Accord (a deal struck behind closed doors in the final days of the Copenhagen negotiations) is not a sufficient response to the crisis we face. You can read Brent Patterson’s (Campaigns and Communications Director) blogs on the proposals moving forward in Cochabamba on our Cochabamba climate justice webpage. You can read our analysis of the Copenhagen Accord shortly following the December negotiations here, and our take on the Canadian government’s emission reduction targets here.

Last I heard, over 80 governments have representatives present including a number of high level delegates such as Presidents (Ecuador and Venezuela to name two) and Vice Presidents, as well as high level negotiators under the UNFCCC process, many representatives from LDC (least developed countries) who’s populations are most vulernable to the impacts of climate change, and a handful of global North (or ‘developed’) countries such as Germany, Spain and France.

The Council of Canadians issued an open letter to Prime Minister Harper requesting public disclosure of the government’s response to the invitation from the Bolivian government to this conference, we have yet to receive a response. This is a shame. Our governemnt should be here to hear first hand what the impacts will be if the weak targets (including our own) under the Copenhagen Accord don’t change, as well as the positive alternatives being proposed to address the climate crisis including non carbon market funding for  climate debt repayment and strategies for the needed transition (which should be a just transition) off of fossil fuels.

Once Brent and I got our accreditation, we made our way to Univalle, a university where most of the events are taking place. This is where the 18 working groups are meeting – theses working groups which yon can read about here, will produce documents that will be presented to government delegates later in the conference. This is also where a number of ‘self organized events’ will be taking place. These events are organized by the many knowledgeable participants that are in Cochabamba for the conference. Tomorrow, the Council of Canadians will be hosting a panel on the tar sands alongside the Indigenous Environmental Network. Anil Naidoo (Blue Planet Project Organizer) is also active in organizing two events focused on water justice and climate justice.

Shortly after entering our first self organized event at Univalle, it became very clear that there were many social movement representatives and international organizations present. Social movement representatives participating in this conference include Via Campesina, Hemispheric Social Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network and Our World is Not for Sale. There are a number of well-known organizations in the social and environmental justice movements here as well including Focus on the Global South, Jubilee South, International Forum on Globalization and Friends of the Earth International. There is a strong Bolivian and South American presence at the conference including social movement representatives, trade unionists and NGOs.

We spent the rest of the day participating in working groups (in the topics, actions strategies and the dangers of the carbon market), making connections with many of the international organizations we work with, and planning for upcoming workshops.

Maude Barlow joined us in Cochabamba today, she has been formally invited by the Bolivian government to participate in a main plenary panel on forests food and water in an era of climate change. Keep an eye on the live webcast we are linking to from our webpage, there will be live footage of Maude’s panel on Wednesday (more details coming soon on timing).

Also today, the Council of Canadians issued a media release alongside the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition outlining some of our interventions here in Cochabamba as well as climate justice events happening in Canada in solidarity with the Cochabamba conference and in celebrating Earth Day this Thursday. You can read our press release here

It has been an exciting first day and I am looking forward to reporting more soon on the progress of the conference, both in the official working group process and dialogue between peoples and government, as well as the many informative events happening.