Greenpeace Forest Campaign Coordinators Paloma Neumann from Mexico, and Hernnán Giardini from Argentina are in Cochabamba, Bolivia for the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. The Conference, which sees 20,000 participants from 129 countries, has been organised by Bolivian President Evo Morales. It aims to put people and not economic interests back into the heart of climate talks. It strongly emphasises the need to make sure that indigenous peoples are central to the climate debate.
Although the World People’s Conference officially opened today, activities started yesterday, with 18 working groups discussing and agreeing common positions on various topics, including forests - hugely important in the fight against climate change. The workshop day at the forest table began by giving gratitude to "Pacha Mama", which is what they call Mother Earth in Aymara, which represents the source of life, like a fertile mother.
Participants gathered in a circle around a tree, and then indigenous peoples from Achacachi, in northwest Bolivia and Dakota in the US, held a ritual in their native languages to thank Pacha Mama and ask for a clear and good guidance for the workshop discussion. It was an emotional moment in which we all remembered that we are the children of Mother Earth, and we are here to share a common vision that allows us to build a global agreement to fight climate change.
In our workshop group there were representatives from indigenous peoples of Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, United States, and environmental organizations in Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica and Brazil.
Throughout the day each of them outlined their concerns:
"As indigenous people we have understood the problem of climate change. We see that there is an excess of C02 in the atmosphere. The sources of this problem are the pollution, the mining, the extractives industries and the burning of fossil fuels. Mother Earth just can not absorb so much C02".
"False solutions have been proposed to stop climate change, and this endangers indigenous communities".
"We live into the Forest, we are Amazon, We care about our Forest, our development, and it is a big concern: what about our children?"
"The indigenous community have managed to preserve, but we never have got any help. Now our lands need to be preserved"
The communities are afraid that even if there is a global forest fund created, they will never get the money, and that this could lead to them being displaced.
To deal with these concerns some clear demands were made:
The management and conservation of forests must be based on knowledge of indigenous people.
That the possible global funding for the protection of tropical forests does not involve a comercial arrangement. Forests are not a product.
The burning of fossil fuels must be stopped, instead we must use clean renewable energy.
The 20,000 people at this conference come from diverse backgrounds including social organizations, indigenous peoples movements, NGOs, universities, academic and scientific insitutions, political, religious and cultural movements, women, youth, workers, scientists, academics, lawyers, artists, activists, governments, parliamentarians, local authorities, international and regional institutions.
Hopes are high that together we can achieve some real solutions for the fight against climate change and the rights of Pacha Mama.