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Bolivian UN Ambassador Pablo Solon on the World Peoples' Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth

April 19, 2010


Pablo Solon

Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations

Today marks the start of the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth here in Tiquipaya. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the gathering to give the poor and the Global South an opportunity to respond to the failed climate talks in Copenhagen. We are joined now by Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations. Prior to his role in the government, Solon was a social activist who worked for several years with different social organizations, indigenous movements, workers’ unions, student associations, human rights and cultural organizations in Bolivia. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, it’s remarkable that we are here in Tiquipaya, just outside Cochabamba. Today marks the start of the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the gathering to give the poor and Global South an opportunity to respond to the failed climate talks in Copenhagen.

We’re joined right now by Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations. Prior to his role in the government, Solon was a social activist who worked for several years with different social organizations, indigenous movements, workers’ unions and student associations, human rights and cultural groups in Bolivia. His father, Walter Solon Romero, was a renowned Bolivian muralist and social artist.

Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, here with us in Tiquipaya, it’s wonderful to be with you. Thank you for joining us.

PABLO SOLON: It’s a pleasure to have you here and to be able to speak to all the audience that you have on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this summit that’s about to begin in this building in just a few hours. Why did President Morales call it?

PABLO SOLON: Well, the problem is that in Copenhagen, we didn’t come out with a commitment from the developed countries in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions for the second period of the Kyoto Protocol. The main issue is that if there isn’t a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, what we are going to see is that the temperature is going to rise two degrees more in this century, and it even can go to four, five or even six. If this happens, many islands are going to disappear. Some are states. Our glaciers are going to melt here in the Andean mountains and also in the Himalayas. We are going to see a problem of food. Almost 40 percent of the food of the world is threatened because of the increase of temperature. And so, we need to have a real serious commitment by Mexico. But we’re not going to have that if there is not —-

AMY GOODMAN: When you say “by Mexico,” you mean by the Mexico summit in December.

PABLO SOLON: Yes, by the Mexico summit in December. But what we are seeing is that this is not going to happen, if there is not social pressure, if the social movements around the world don’t begin to organize and to build a very broad coalition that makes and puts a lot of pressure, especially into developed country governments, in order that they do real commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from here until 2020.

So that is the main goal of this conference, how we are going to organize this in order that Mexico is not again a new Copenhagen, because as ambassador -— and I was just ten days ago in the negotiations in Bonn — what I’m seeing is that the governments are beginning to say, “Well, Mexico, we must lower our ambitions, we must begin to think in South Africa” — that’s where the next summit is going to be in 2011. So we’re beginning to feel that there isn’t going to be a very substantive commitment in Mexico in relation to the main issue. That is not final. The main issue is not transfer of technology. The main issue is, are developed countries going to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a substantive way by the — in the next ten years, yes or no?

AMY GOODMAN: You just came, Ambassador Solon, from Bonn, where you criticized the United States cutting aid to Bolivia. Explain what happened.

PABLO SOLON: Well, we were notified by the media that the United States was cutting around $3 to $3.5 million for projects that have to do with climate change. And the explanation that they gave was that because we were not supporting the Copenhagen Accord — that is, a declaration that is being promoted by the United States government. And we are not in favor of that accord.

Why? Because of what I just said. The Copenhagen Accord is a way to not have substantive commitment for the next period. For example, the United States, with all due respect to the population of the United States, is making a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent, but taking into account the levels of 2005. So in reality, the reduction is going to be only three percent, taking into account the levels of 1990. Those are the levels, the base levels, that are established in the Kyoto Protocol. Well, if everybody does that, we’re going to have an increase of the temperature in — well, far beyond four or five degrees in this century. So that is why we don’t support the Copenhagen Accord. We think we must think in our — in humanity in the future of mankind and in our nature, in our Mother Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: So the US is cutting off aid to Bolivia for climate change projects because you didn’t think that the Copenhagen Accord, which very much was shaped by the United States, didn’t go far enough?


AMY GOODMAN: Explain climate debt. This is a term that is being talked about very much in other parts of the world, but in the United States, very few people have heard it.

PABLO SOLON: Well, climate debt has five components, from our perspective. It doesn’t have to do especially with money, because people, when they hear the word "debt," they think money. For us, it has to do, in first place, with the atmospheric space. What has happened is that the 80 percent of the atmospheric space of the world has been occupied by 20 percent of the population that is in developed countries. What we need is to have a democratic and equitable distribution of the atmospheric space between all nations, taking into account their population. So that, for us, is the first main issue when we speak about climate debt. It’s not possible that only 20 percent of the world occupies 80 percent of the atmosphere with their emissions, because then what happens with the rest of the world is that we don’t have any space for any kind of development, because you need to industrialize, and that’s going to mean you are going to throw some greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. But if that’s already occupied, then whatever you do goes against that. So that is one problem.

The second issue is, for us, climate debt means to recognize that we have a debt not only with humankind, but also with nature, with Mother Earth. Now, how do you repair, how do you pay that debt to Mother Earth? We say by recognizing the rights of Mother Earth, with the goal to reestablish harmony with our nature.

The third component is the debt with the migrants. We’re going to have between 200 and 1,000 migrants in the next years. And then we have the debt of adaptation and development for developed countries — for developing countries, excuse me, because instead of spending money for health, for education, we have to spend money in order to attend natural disasters.

AMY GOODMAN: I identified you as the UN ambassador from Bolivia, but in fact you’re really Bolivia’s only ambassador right now in the United States, when you’re there, because the US tossed out the — Bolivia’s ambassador to the United States. Explain why.

PABLO SOLON: Because we expelled the ambassador of the United States when here there was some kind of coup d’état in different regions in order to split the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Particularly in Santa Cruz.

PABLO SOLON: Particularly in Santa Cruz, but we had a massacre in Pando, and they almost took the city of Trinidad in Beni. So we said of course we respect Americans, and we don’t have nothing against the American people, but we don’t want any kind of interference of any government in our political internal affairs. So that is the main reason why we expelled the ambassadors, and we hope that the government of the United States now will seek to have a relation that is respectful and that we will respect your sovereignty, and of course the government will respect — the government of the United States will respect our sovereignty.

AMY GOODMAN: In terms of the UN conferences on climate change, you had Copenhagen, you’re going to have Mexico. No one planned on this one. This was called by President Morales of Bolivia.


AMY GOODMAN: How do you plan to have any kind of effect? I mean, true, thousands of people are going to attend. You expect some presidents, some world leaders, like — who do you expect will be here?

PABLO SOLON: Well, for example, there are — until now, we have — we’re going to have the representatives of governments of about fifty-four nations. Some are going to come at the presidential level, some at ministerial level, some at special envoys, and some at the ambassadors. When it comes to heads of state, we’re going to have from Ecuador, from Nicaragua, from Paraguay, from Venezuela, from Dominica and — I don’t want to forget any other countries, but at least for other three or four.

AMY GOODMAN: But this is not a binding summit.


AMY GOODMAN: So what is the point?

PABLO SOLON: What is the point? To organize. We need to organize a worldwide coalition of social movements, of networks, of NGOs, in order to — all of them, with different perspectives maybe in Asia, Africa, Europe or here in Latin America, but all with a common purpose, how we are going to save the future of humankind and of our Mother Earth by trying to have enough force in order to press developed governments to have a really commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

AMY GOODMAN: Will the United States be sending a delegation?

PABLO SOLON: It is the only country, and I may say, that has not — that has sent a letter saying that they are not going to send any delegate to this conference.

AMY GOODMAN: So what response do you have to that?

PABLO SOLON: Oh, it is a pity, because we are very open. We invited to 192 governments. We didn’t do what they did in Copenhagen, because in Copenhagen they did only a meeting with about twenty-five to twenty-nine presidents, and they didn’t invite the rest. We invite everybody, because we want to dialogue with everybody. But the main and the most important thing is that we’re going to have about 500 persons coming from the United States to this conference, representatives and leaders from different social movements and civil society of the United States. And that, for us, is the main thing.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there.


AMY GOODMAN: Pablo Solon, the Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, joining us in Tiquipaya, where the global conference, the global summit on climate change, is taking place.

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