Cancun, Mexico - On the antepenultimate (scheduled) day of the COP 16, I sat down with Bolivia's climate negotiator Pablo Solón to discuss how the COP 16 negotiations were proceeding, what Bolivia's demands were at the conference and how they were being received.
What are Bolivia's demands at the COP 16?
We are seeking the inclusion of key points of the People's Agreement that came out of the World People's Conference on Climate Change, convened in Bolivia in April by President Evo Morales.
The People's Agreement included the following items, which have been put forward for inclusion in the UNFCCC draft negotiating text:
1. a declaration on the rights of nature;
2. an inclusion of mention of a respect for human rights;
3. an inclusion of mention of a respect for the rights of indigenous peoples;
4. a definition of forests that does not include plantations or genetically modified trees;
5. a rejection of market mechanisms;
6. a rejection of the UN program to Reduce Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation or REDD;
7. a mention of the impact of war on greenhouse gas emissions;
8. and the creation of a climate justice tribunal.
How are these demands being received?
We were deeply disappointed with the initial draft text that was circulated last weekend.
It was imbalanced and excludes the proposals of Bolivia and many other developing nations. It left out many things that Bolivia called for, coming out the World People's Conference on Climate Change.
There have been accusations that Bolivia is stalling the negotiations. We have come to seek an accord for humanity and for nature in its totality. The most current research indicates that 300,000 people die each year due to natural disasters and climate change. We are playing with human lives, if we do not produce an accord. So we are not blocking the process. Our proposals are motivated simply by a desire: to prevent the kind of disastrous rise in temperatures that would condemn humanity to death.
There are also rumors that Bolivia will walk out of the negotiations. Let me say that we will never close ourselves off from any kind of negotiation among parties.
How are the negotiations proceeding?
Well, yesterday at 2:30 pm, we received an invitation to attend an informal meeting where about 40-50 people would be meeting and we very respectfully said, we have a problem. An informal meeting cannot replace the official negotiating structure of the COP [Conference of the Parties, the supreme body of the UNFCCC, which meets annually]. That is why we have expressed our apologies to the chair but we left that meeting stating our signal is a clear sign of our decision to officially re-establish the meeting where we have all 192 nations present, where there is no one who is left outside. Our people did not come here on vacation. They came here to negotiate.
We have announced three projects: 1. on services; 2. on forests; and 3. on different approaches, which has to do with mitigation, where we wanted to discuss mainly the market option.
We hope that this signal will contribute to an official, formal, actual negotiating process. These consultations or extra meetings are all welcome but are supplementary and will never replace this formal negotiating process. We presented these three projects in a press conference and wanted to inform people of because we have always acted in the most transparent way.
In the UNFCCC there is a process and you have to respect that process. We are not sure what the structure of the process is currently. But it is necessary to have a formal and inconclusive process of negotiations through which mechanisms are submitted.
We do not want to go into any process of finger pointing. We want to find a positive solution. There are negotiating meetings affiliated with the two tracks and the two working groups. The discussions and the texts come from within the working groups. It cannot be that the negotiating groups negotiate and that we are then presented with a different text.
We do not want to repeat the situation we had in Copenhagen where we were working with the G77 and then we learned an agreement had been reached. There has to be a roadmap for official negotiations and there has to be a text we all know about.
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic, who has covered international climate change negotiations, most recently in Copenhagen and Bonn. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times and The Nation.