Systemic instead of climate change

Presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia call for radical rethink at Copenhagen climate summit. Her performance reflects Sud America’s new self-confidence

They had turned the climate summit into a tribunal against capitalism, Latin American media reported. In fact, the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, have harshly criticized the globally dominant economic system in Copenhagen. Above all, capitalism and the resource policies of the industrialized countries are responsible for the increasing destruction of the environment as well as for the dangerous warming of the global climate, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales said at the world conference.

It is "already strange", when China and the United States are put on the same level in the climate debate, Chavez said Wednesday in his speech of representatives of the 192 member states of the United Nations Organization. "The U.S. has a population of just 300 million, China has five times that number", according to Chavez, who started: "The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels of petroleum per day, while China comes in at five or six million barrels." With regard to the leftist states of Sud America, Chavez said that they were not trying to change the climate. His appeal: "Let’s change the system to save this planet." For if the climate were a capitalist gross bank of, "then the rich countries had already saved it for a long time".

A similar criticism of the system came from Bolivia’s head of state Evo Morales. The global climate talks, he said, are about "Culture of death", which wasted global resources at the expense of the majority of the population, a "culture of life" . During his speech on Thursday, Morales put forward three main demands: The industrialized countries had to make their own commitments to the countries of the South "Climate debt" settle. In addition, global warming must be limited to a maximum of one degree Celsius by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times. And finally, an international court for climate law must be established. Such a UN-based tribunal would be able to hold those responsible for environmental destruction accountable, Morales said.

Little hope for climate agreement

The concerted action of the two South American leaders in Copenhagen is not a coincidence. At the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) summit last weekend, Chavez, Morales and other Latin American and Caribbean delegations agreed on a common position. Cuba’s head of state and government Raúl Castro already predicted the failure of the World Climate Summit. The negotiations in the Danish capital were to "to end with concrete and verifiable results", dpa correspondent Vicente Poveda quoted from the speech. But it is already clear in advance, "that there will be no such agreement", Castro said.

In Copenhagen, Hugo Chavez announced a possible boycott of the now nine ALBA countries. Not only the leftist governments of the Latin American alliance, but also the emerging countries such as Brazil, China and South Africa are extremely dissatisfied with the course of the negotiations. At the last moment, the Danish presidency had to "conjured up out of thin air", which takes into account the youngest submissions. This uncoordinated procedure was "undemocratic", Chavez said. The ALBA countries therefore dare not sign the Copenhagen Declaration.

The Bolivarian Alliance was founded five years ago by Cuba and Venezuela as a counter-concept to the neoliberal free trade model of the USA. ALBA – and this is the direct link to the climate debate in Copenhagen – is based on the concept of limited growth. This is exactly what developing and newly industrializing countries are now demanding in Copenhagen.

Morales: First the people and the environment

In an interview, Bolivian President Evo Morales explained his government’s approach. Of course, in the future they will not reject foreign investment outright, the indigenous leader said.

Above all else, we are obliged to think of the good of the human being. We must try to think always of our homeland, of this planet Earth – and not only of money.

Evo Morales

Foreign investors are in no way deterred by this concept of sustainable ecological economic development, Morales said. Although there is with the USA "some problems". But Chinese and European companies are increasingly present in Bolivia, he said. Morales does not accept the argument that cutting emissions-intensive industries will hurt labor markets. "I am not an expert, but a counterexample is the lithium", he said. This alkali metal, whose rough reserves can be found in Bolivia, was used by the "100-percent ecological car engines" produce.

However, the development of new market and production mechanisms in South America is not without contradictions. At the recent summit of the ALBA countries in the Cuban capital Havana, several presidents warned against a more aggressive U.S. policy. Between Washington and the left-leaning states of the continent "the controversy has become more acute", Cuba’s head of state and government Raúl Castro said. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his Venezuelan counterpart Chavez made similar remarks. Summit guests cited the coup in Honduras as evidence, as well as the establishment of seven new U.S. military bases in Colombia. There are "clear signs of a U.S. offensive", said Chavez.

Alternative integration model gains ground

Whether or not this is the case, the political and economic integration of the anti-neoliberal states of Latin America is increasingly threatening the historical dominance of the United States and the European industrialized countries, along with their model of production and consumption. At the ALBA summit in Havana, not only was the construction of a common development model discussed and sealed by numerous treaties.

For the first time, the members of the Alternative Land Alliance have set a date for the launch of a new regional currency system. The Unified Compensation System (Sistema Unitario de Compensacion Regional, SUCRE) is to be established from the beginning of January 2010, initially as a virtual currency between the states of the ALBA confederation. The intergovernmental monetary unit is modeled on the ECU, which was traded as a monetary unit in Europe between 1979 and 1998. Later, the initially virtual ECU became the real euro. The Sucre could also, according to the goal, become a real regional currency in the medium term.

The leftist states of Latin America and the Caribbean are reacting directly to the global economic crisis by orienting themselves toward a regional currency independent of the U.S. dollar. No one should believe that this crisis is already over, warned Raúl Castro at the beginning of the ALBA summit in Havana. Apparently, this assessment meets with approval beyond the left-wing alliance of states. The idea of a regional currency comes from the economist and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The latter has been trying for some time to get away from the US dollar, which was introduced in his country in 2000. With the introduction of the new regional currency, a joint presidential council is now to be created. The Sucre initially serves as a common unit of account. In addition, a reserve fund for trade transactions is planned. Latin America is trying to break away from the Western model of production and consumption on various levels. The self-confident appearance in Copenhagen, where two exposed representatives of this progressive group of states represent alternative models, is a reflection of this development.

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