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Monday, January 30, 2023

Why Colombia should convene World Climate Summit of Mother Earth in 2023

The Ecosocial and Intercultural Pact of the South, in this treatise, makes a case for the Colombian government to convene a World Climate Summit of Mother Earth next year

Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez
The Colombian government is headed by President Gustavo Petro (left) and his vice, Francia Marquez

The Ecosocial and Intercultural Pact of the South requests the Colombian government to convene, organise and carry out a World Climate Summit of Mother Earth, in the year 2023 in Colombia

More than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the catastrophic consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we see the emergence of a “new normal”, which is even more disturbing. This new global status quo reflects a worsening of multiple crises: social, economic, political, ecological, health and geopolitical.

Environmental collapse is drawing near and daily life, globally, has increasingly become militarized. Access to good food, clean water, and affordable healthcare has become even more restricted. More governments have become autocratic; the super-rich have become richer and more polluting, the powerful more powerful, and unregulated technology has accelerated these destructive trends.

The drivers of this unjust status quo – capitalism, patriarchy, racism, colonialism, predatory relationships with nature, and various fundamentalisms – are aggravating the situation, escalating it to highly dangerous levels. We need profound changes, but they will not come from the current multilateral architecture. Social inequalities have worsened, and CO2 emissions continue to rise. In the name of “energy security”, the European Union has enabled all kinds of dirty energy, which has further emboldened extractivist governments in the North and South to deepen maldevelopment programs, thus continuing their steady race towards planetary ecocide.

Faced with this scenario, we must urgently debate and implement new visions that enable fair transitions and ecosocial transformations that are gender-based, regenerative and popular, at a local, national, regional and international scale. Furthermore, as we stated in the Manifesto for a Just and Popular Energy Transition of the Peoples of the South, the problems of Latin America and the rest of the Global South are different from those of the Global North and emerging powers like China. An imbalance of power between these two spheres not only persists because of a colonial legacy but has been deepened by a neocolonial global economy.

Faced with climate change, growing demand for energy and the loss of biodiversity, the capitalist centers have increased their pressure to extract natural wealth, based on cheap labor from countries on the periphery. Not only is the well-known extractive paradigm still in force, but the ecological debt of the North to the South is increasing. Thus, what today is called green transition by the dominant actors is nothing more than a corporate and colonial transition that entails an increase in geopolitical inequalities between the global North and South -as we see in the cases of balsa wood, lithium, and with the other so-called minerals for the transition.

This export-oriented decarbonisation process, driven by large corporations, opens a new phase of environmental dispossession of the Global South that will further affect the lives of millions of women, men and children, and non-human life. In this way, the Global South has again become a sacrificial zone, a warehouse of supposedly inexhaustible resources for the countries of the North, now under a new “green” rhetoric.

Nor can we pin our hopes on multilateral conferences like the climate COPs. COP27, recently held in Egypt, not only yielded meager results in terms of global policies but revealed itself to be a space co-opted by the fossil fuel industry. 636 fossil fuel lobbies were present at the conference in Egypt, 25% more than in Glasgow, where there were 503. As some international media commentators ironically pointed out, this was “the largest COP delegation.”

We have to start from this recognition of the situation and therefore offer a creative and transformative counterproposal from the Peoples of the South. We have an enormous diversity of resistances, territories and peoples in struggle that are building concrete experiences of transition and socio-ecological transformation. We also have relevant alliances and articulations on various fronts. However, we lack broader spaces for convergence, which allow us to debate, act together, and agree on a shared roadmap.

We don’t have to start from scratch. There are precedents in our region. In 2010, the World Conference of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, or Tiquipaya summit, was held in Bolivia. No doubt, this event was the outgrowth of factors such as the accumulated organizational experience of the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre since 2001, the successful experience at the IV Summit of the Americas, held in Mar del Plata, in 2005, which concluded with the “No to FTAA”, and the failure of the COP in Copenhagen in 2009.

Unfortunately, the proposals and programmes that came out of that summit did not have an international impact, not only due to geopolitical asymmetries, but also due to the weakness and features of the prevailing progressive regimes, chiefly, the continuation and deepening of extractivist policies. All this left us an enormous lesson, from which we must draw its consequences: that it is not possible to preach the rights of Mother Earth at a global level, if they are not defended in the territory itself!

Likewise, we welcome and support the possibility of holding a summit of presidents linked to the protection of the Amazon. In this sense, we consider of utmost importance to promote in this space mechanisms that support the proposals emanating from the organizations that care for the Amazon, especially indigenous organisations, and pan-Amazonian articulations, in order to save these territories for life.

We will enter 2023 against the clock. The pandemic has confronted us with new dilemmas and the war in Ukraine and its global impacts have further accelerated the civilisational dispute. In the Latin American region, we see a complex and ambivalent scenario: while old-generation progressive governments bet on more extractivism, which significantly reduces the horizons of democracy and the chances of a dignified and sustainable life, new governments, such as Colombia’s, represent the hope for a socio-environmental progressivism, within which democracy and responses to the climate crisis from the perspective of socio-environmental justice might finally find expression across the board in a comprehensive government program.

To this could be added the favourable winds with the new Brazilian scenario after the decisive victory of Lula da Silva, although it remains to be seen how his promise to stop deforestation in the Amazon will evolve, and what might happen with the possibility of building a regional agenda that avoids the pitfalls of the first generation of progressive regimes.

According to the different movements for climate justice, “transition is inevitable, but justice is not.” We are still on time to initiate a fair and democratic transition, which dismantles (neo)colonial relations between the Global North and South. We can move away from the neoliberal economic system in a direction that sustains life, combines social justice with environmental justice instead of pitting them against each other, brings together egalitarian and democratic values with holistic and resilient social policy, and restores the ecological balance necessary for a healthy planet.

But for that we need more creative political imagination and utopian visions of another society that is socially just and respectful of both diversity and our common planetary home. We also need to engage in dialogue and collaboration at the regional and supra-regional level, to overcome the old differences. It is necessary to establish new regional blocs, which aim at production and self-sufficiency (food and energy), outside of global circuits, de-escalating dependency and seeking to reduce the ecological debt gap.

The cultural change needed to encourage a true political transformation and generate new social consensus and horizons for the ecosocial transition is already underway. We can see it in new relational narratives (Good Living, Ubuntu, Rights of Nature, Climate Justice, Just Transition, the paradigm of Care). Also, in the multiple local experiences and social and eco-territorial struggles, linked to community energy projects, agroecology, and restorative practices, even in those societies increasingly hit by extractivism and the climate crisis.

We are facing the possibility of taking a historical socio-environmental political turn, led by the organic accumulation of eco-territorial struggles and resistances that say “enough of being sacrifice zones” and open up the opportunity for more participatory eco-governance. As activists, intellectuals and organisations from different countries of the South and Our America, we call on change agents from different parts of the world, and particularly in the Latin American region, to commit to a radical, democratic, ecosocial transition, with global justice, gender justice, intercultural, regenerative and popular that transforms both the energy sector and the industrial and agricultural spheres, which depend on large-scale energy inputs.

For this reason, from the Ecosocial and Intercultural Pact of the South (PEIS) we respectfully request the current government of Colombia, headed by Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez, given the authority that it has on these matters, to convene and organise a Summit Climate Change of Mother Earth, to be carried out during the year 2023 in Colombia, to urgently deal with all these issues, We ask the Colombian government to act in his capacity to convene and bring together in Colombia all the active militants of the peoples, governments and societies committed to a horizon of just ecosocial transition.

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