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Negotiations over the World’s Rainforests Hang in the Balance

StoryDecember 09, 2009
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We speak with Miguel Lovera, the chief negotiator for Paraguay, who has played a key role in negotiations over the world’s rainforests that many expect will be one of the few deals to be actually finalized at the climate summit here in Copenhagen. It’s called REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, and a final text is expected as early as this weekend. [includes rush transcript]

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

ANJALI KAMAT: Well, we go now to the chief climate negotiators from both Bolivia and Paraguay. Bolivia has been one of the countries leading the call for just climate reparations here at the COP15 talks. President Evo Morales, who was just reelected in a landslide victory, has been outspoken on the issue of climate debt. He told Mother Jones magazine last November, quote, “If there are countries that are doing a lot of damage to the environment, those countries should make some acknowledgment, some reparation for the damages that they are causing.” Soon after, he released a sweeping twenty-point plan, including a demand that developed countries contribute a minimum of one percent of their annual GDP to a United Nations fund for poor countries.

We’re joined now by Angelica Navarro, the chief climate negotiator for Bolivia, and we’re also joined by Miguel Lovera, the chief negotiator for Paraguay. He has played a key role in negotiations over the world’s rainforests that many expect will be one of the few deals to be actually finalized at the summit here in Copenhagen. It’s called REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, and a final text is expected as early as this weekend.

Angelica Navarro and Miguel Lovera, welcome, both of you, to Democracy Now!

MIGUEL LOVERA: Thank you very much.

ANJALI KAMAT: Angelica, maybe we can start with you. Talk about the Danish text and your reaction.

ANGELICA NAVARRO: Well, I have to say that everybody was taken a little bit by surprise, but I also want to congratulate the very good work that the press has been doing, because we have learned it from the press, actually. And the reaction has been quite straightforward from the G77, and in two accounts: on process and on the content.

And on the process, I have to say that we are quite surprised, because this is not what we were expecting. One hundred and ninety-two countries are united here to try to come to a deal. And there is this pallid process that basically seems to be untransparent, undemocratic, nonparticipatory, top down, that it seems to be imposing itself on what we are trying to achieve with 192 countries. We think that we have to come back to the real track, and that is a track with participation, inclusiveness and democracy. That is for the process.

But in the content, we have serious also concerns on the content. It seems that we are talking about just one agreement, disregarding the two tracks, two mandates and two results that we are trying to achieve here in Copenhagen. I want to remind everybody that G77 and Bolivia, African Group and other groups have been calling very strongly to have the Kyoto Protocol survive — that is, that developed countries should come with their second commitment period, ambitious numbers for their reductions of emissions. That is one of the results we want from here. The second result that we want is, of course, an enhanced implementation of the convention through the LC process.

What the Danish text seems to do is a merger of the two, which impose new obligations to developing countries. So we are the ones who are supposed now to be mitigating. And I’m asking, what will a developing country, rural men or women — indigenous women in Bolivia doesn’t even have electricity — will mitigate? And for what? So that developed countries can even have still have two, three cars? Or just like four times change their clothes in a year? What are they asking? Do they want all us to finance the problems they are causing? Why should I pay for them? But on top of that, why should we choose between building a school, a bridge or a hospital, and adapt? So that is what we think.

And on top of that, we think that the level of ambition that was what is proposed in the Danish leaked text is definitely not enough. It will not solve the problem. It will not solve the climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: Angelica Navarro, you took the stage by storm, to use a climate metaphor, in June in Bonn, Germany, when you talked about this issue of climate debt. Explain what you mean by it.

ANGELICA NAVARRO: I just want to remind that actually historical responsibility is already in the convention. And we were, if I’m not mistaken, five countries that presented in Bonn, in a technical briefing, a historical responsibility quantification of what developed countries have done and what they should do as a result. That was India, Brazil, China and Bolivia.

The Bolivian proposal, in specific, is climate debt. What do I mean and what does Bolivia mean by that? It’s basically that developed countries have over-consumed atmospheric — common atmospheric space. Twenty percent of the population have actually emitted more than two-thirds of the emissions, and as a result, they have caused more than 90 percent of the increase in temperatures. As a result, developing countries, we are suffering. Bolivia’s glaciers are melting between 40 to 55 percent. We have extended droughts. We have in the lowlands more flooding. And we are losing between four to 17 percent of our GDP in the worst years. That is climate debt.

And what we are asking is repayment. We are not asking for aid. We are not asking — we are not begging for aid. We want developed countries to comply with their obligation and pay their debt.

How are they going to pay it? The first part is to pay it through reduction emission domestically. They have really to fulfill their obligations. This is not money. This is not the part of monetary. They just have to comply with their obligations, ambitiously, for the first and second commitment period. And the second part of the climate debt is adaptation debt. Everything that we’re already suffering, as Bolivia, as indigenous people, in Africa and in other parts, that we can accept that is finance and transfer of technology, but not the peanuts that we are seeing on the table right now that is not even a fraction of what they have used to save their bank. But apparently, finance and banks are more important than people and life. And that is very sad, but it’s like that, because we think that they are negotiating not an environmental agreement. They seem to be negotiating an economic agreement.

AMY GOODMAN: Evo Morales, your president, is calling for a 49 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions?

ANGELICA NAVARRO: Yes. Actually, we have several numbers. We are asking for the 49 percent, and I’m happy to be with Paraguay, because we are co-sponsoring the same, actually, submission. This 49 percent has to be in 2017. But even like that, developed countries will not be able to repay their debt. They have to pay more. We know they cannot do that, but the amount is so important that actually developed countries should do negative cuts. How are they going to do that? We have to think about it. The 49 percent is just a fraction of what they are doing.

AMY GOODMAN: What is a negative cut?

ANGELICA NAVARRO: Meaning that they have to reduce everything to zero, but on top of that they have to liberate atmospheric space they have occupied unrightfully, for developing countries to develop. What they cannot pay in emission cuts, they can pay a little bit in finance and transfer of technology. We can think on that. And, of course, we have to go real on the numbers. It’s not only the cuts, but it’s also the degrees that we want to talk about. We are talking less than one percent as Bolivia, because two percent is the reality of the North. Two percent is three percent for Africa or for the South. You have to add at least one degree to what developed countries are proposing. Let’s get real on the reality of the South has come, and it has to come in numbers.

ANJALI KAMAT: Speaking of numbers, I want to go to Miguel Lovera, the delegate from Paraguay. Can you talk about REDD? There’s been a lot of emphasis on how there’s going to be a final deal on REDD achieved in Copenhagen, and it’s being touted as the only way to save the world’s rainforests. What are your concerns about REDD? How does financing work within REDD? And where do the emission cuts come from?

MIGUEL LOVERA: Yeah, thanks for the question.

I guess the only thing we agree with the rest of the crowd here is that stopping deforestation is the only way to save the forests. That’s basically it. But then, how do you do that? We definitely disagree with the proposals. And especially, we don’t want to submit our forests to a mechanism that will transform them into mere carbon, carbon stocks.

ANJALI KAMAT: Could you explain what that means?

MIGUEL LOVERA: I can — that means that our forests are much more, are a guarantee to life on earth, to life cycles on earth, to the carbon cycle, definitely. They’re the greatest terrestrial reservoirs of carbon. But they’re also home to more than 90 percent of the species that live on earth, on terrestrial systems. They are home to indigenous peoples. They are sources of water or fresh water. Just think of the Amazon and think of deforestation. You don’t have both. You have deforestation, you don’t have the Amazon, you don’t have the Paraguay River, you don’t have the Paraná River. Those are realities that we have to deal with every day. And if they are reduced to just carbon, well, you lose all that perspective, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s happened to Paraguay, by the way?


AMY GOODMAN: What has happened to Paraguay?

MIGUEL LOVERA: Well, yes —

AMY GOODMAN: How do you experience global warming?

MIGUEL LOVERA: Well, we — the main feature of global warming in Paraguay is drought and floods, basically with one to two months from each other. So you have areas of the countries — of the country that are under tremendous, very severe droughts at the moment, that a month ago were completely underwater. And if you take the forest away, all this pumping system that forests provide and storage for that water and purifying systems, natural ones, free of charge, just on our sovereign soil, are gone. Right? So that’s why it’s not just carbon stocks.

So I started by saying, well, saving them is the only thing we seem to agree with especially developed countries, but we don’t want to transform our forests into a trading token, because basically they are worth much more than what they’re being valued for. Monetary terms are just incapable of engulfing all those values. And if you look at the — speaking in the terms Angelica — Angelica was talking, for instance, the adaptation debt we had from forests in our country will also amount to very, very close to 30, 35 percent of our GDP. Those are the numbers we are working — we’re being forced to work with at the moment. We’re having people in the street, actually, because the government is not — is just not capable of providing the cash necessary for adaptation of its citizens. But every person in the street is doing it. So the principle of saving the forests, of course we agree with that, we are all for it. Now, the principle of transforming forests into the world’s forests, into an offset mechanism to keep on justifying this opulence Angelica was talking about in other parts of the world, on this minority of the population, that is, well, unjustifiable.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a few seconds, and I wanted to ask you, Angelica Navarro, do you see any possibility of a walkout here, of a collapse of the COP15?

ANGELICA NAVARRO: Actually, I don’t think so. I mean, we are all working very hard here, because we know that the stakes are very high, and we want extremely ambitious results. So I will be the first to be very saddened by such an outcome. But —

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you very much, Angelica Navarro, for joining us, as well as Miguel Lovera. They are the two climate negotiators, the chief negotiators, for Bolivia and for Paraguay.

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