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Why Is the US Cutting Off Climate Aid to the Poorest Country in South America?–Bolivian Climate Negotiator Angélica Navarro

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The Obama administration has confirmed it’s denying climate aid to at least two countries that refused to sign onto last year’s Copenhagen environmental accord. The State Department has canceled funding of $3 million to Bolivia and $2.5 million to Ecuador. The funding was canceled at a time when Bolivia is losing its glaciers and suffering mass drought due to climate change. Bolivia’s lead climate negotiator Angélica Navarro calls on the developed world to pay a climate debt to poor nations suffering the impact of climate change. [includes rush transcript]

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StoryDec 09, 2009“We Are Not Begging for Aid”–Chief Bolivian Negotiator Says Developed Countries Owe Climate Debt
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting here at the summit in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya just outside Cochabamba. We did say that we were going to be joined by President Morales for the hour. We are anxiously awaiting his arrival. It’s not clear if he will be here, but stay with us. We’ve got some very interesting people coming up.

First, we’re going to turn to Angélica Navarro. She’s the Bolivian lead climate negotiator. She took part in an afternoon discussion yesterday on the state of international climate negotiations following the failed talks in Copenhagen. After the panel, she took questions from reporters, including Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke. She began by talking about how climate change is affecting Bolivia.

    ANGÉLICA NAVARRO: We have at least two major imprints of climate change. And the first one is regarding our mountains and glaciers. And as I was mentioning in the presentation, what we have is the Tuni and Condoriri, that are two of the main glaciers that give drinking water to La Paz and [inaudible], the main cities of Bolivia and the capital, are running out, actually, in the [inaudible]. And they have reduced between 40 to 50 percent.

    So what we are facing, actually, in this case is problems with food security, but also only for drinking water for a population of around one to two million that may become internal migrant on climate change. The other one is, of course, droughts in the other parts of the country that are affected. And the third one is in the Amazon, where we have seen an increase on floating and also the malaria boundary that has been pushed to the north, because it’s more humid and more warm, actually. So this is the main ones.

    MIKE BURKE: What is your response to the Obama administration’s decision last week to essentially cut off climate aid to Bolivia and other countries that opposed the Copenhagen Accord?

    ANGÉLICA NAVARRO: Well, actually, we always thought that aid is also part of the international policy and relations. But we weren’t necessarily expecting in this administration to be so blatantly with — use it against one of the poorest countries in Latin America. We can have differences in international politics, but also on climate change. That doesn’t mean that they should penalize one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

    On the other hand, maybe they think that we don’t need this aid anymore. And it’s true that what we think is that we want aid, but aid that is really needed and really member-driven or country-driven. So if it’s this kind of aid, we are happy to have it. If it’s a directed aid, then, of course, we have to think.

    But we were really surprised by that decision. We don’t see how it has to affect it, one decision that we take on the international level, to aid to the poorest country in South America.

    MIKE BURKE: Now, I know yesterday in Washington there was a closed-door meeting with the United States and sixteen other nations discussing climate change, preparing for the Cancun talks. And I was wondering if you could compare that meeting to what’s going on today here in Cochabamba.

    ANGÉLICA NAVARRO: Well, the easiest way to do it is to say that there is the light of the sun and the darkness of the night and the moon. They are repeating Copenhagen again. Have they learned any lessons? Seclude, exclusive, non-democratic groupings of very selective countries that try to get a solution for them and to try to impose it to others, that is completely different from what we’re having in Bolivia. In Bolivia, everybody is invited, including, of course, the sixty countries — sixteen countries, sorry, that are in the US, and they’re welcome to come here and to give their opinions and their points of view and to have a real dialogue with not only governments, but with civil society and their own people, that they should listen more, as we are trying to listen ourselves.

    MIKE BURKE: And what is your overall assessment of the Obama administration so far, compared to the eight years under George W. Bush, on this issue?

    ANGÉLICA NAVARRO: Well, I have to say that the first point that is very important for us is that at least they are on the table. What we had previously is that we didn’t have even an engagement of the US under negotiation. It was either a non-issue or an issue that we wanted to put under the carpet. What we have here at least is an openness to be on the table of negotiation.

    Is that enough? Well, it’s far from enough. But what really worries more us is that not only that is not enough, is that what they are putting on the table of negotiation is bringing down not only the agreement that we have reached among 192 countries in the convention and in the Kyoto Protocol, but also that they are bringing most developed countries and developing countries to the lowest level, common level denominator. So what we expect from the Obama administration is like to keep up to their motto that change can really happen and they can bring this change to the international arena, so they can lead the world in climate change and their solution and put the most ambitious proposal on the table instead of the lowest.

    MIKE BURKE: Now, I know the whole concept of climate debt is something that the Obama administration simply will not address, but I was wondering, could you explain for an American audience what is climate debt, and why do you see it as a needed thing?

    ANGÉLICA NAVARRO: Well, first of all, I have to say that the first point is that we are in an international arena. For not having war, what we have to have is to have dialogue. So it’s not that you cannot engage in an issue. We have equal right and dignity. If my country or other countries decide to put this on the table, the other parties have to be able at least to listen and to have a dialogue.

    Trying to explain it as much as I can, as simple as I can, is the following: 20 percent of the population that is in the North or developed countries have produced more than two-thirds of the CO2 emissions. The actual climate change or increase in temperature is a direct consequence of these actions. They have benefits from a so-called development in doing so, but they haven’t thought about the consequence to themselves, but to the rest of the world and to the poorest ones. So these actions of the so-called development, using heavily petrol and either carbon, have as a consequence that the poorest countries in the world are suffering. What we are trying to explain to the developed countries is that they have to think their actions in — also having into account the consequences to the others.

    And what are these consequences is that peasants are suffering more of drought or that there are more typhoons, or there are more floodings. How can you express to a farmer that has lost, as I just heard, part of their crops due to drought, and that it’s not the responsibility of them? How can I explain them that it’s something very far in the north that is causing this increase in drought? We call it that they have to have a debt and that they have to repay this debt.

    But I want to reassure the public it’s not necessarily a financial debt. It’s an emission debt. So you have to take out of the atmosphere the CO2 that you have put in and that is creating this problem to this farmer. That is the debt. It’s not necessarily financial. It’s in emissions. And of course it can have other components. It could be, in certain cases, financial, because there are no other ways to solve the problem. But what we’re really trying to do is, like, that developed countries live up to their commitments and that they reduce in their homes the CO2 production, so they stop causing problems to the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Angélica Navarro. She is Bolivia’s lead negotiator on climate change.

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