Venezuela climate summit calls for end to “green economy”

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UN-backed event ends with unusu­al call from civ­il soci­ety groups to end capitalism

Green groups celebrate the Margarita Declaration

Green groups cel­e­brate the Mar­gari­ta Declaration

A UN-backed con­fer­ence in Venezuela has end­ed with a dec­la­ra­tion to scrap car­bon mar­kets and reject the green economy.

The Mar­gari­ta Dec­la­ra­tion was issued at the end of a four-day meet­ing of around 130 green activist groups, which the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment host­ed in order to raise the vol­ume of civ­il soci­ety demands in UN dis­cus­sions on cli­mate change.

The struc­tur­al caus­es of cli­mate change are linked to the cur­rent cap­i­tal­ist hege­mon­ic sys­tem,” the final dec­la­ra­tion said. “To com­bat cli­mate change it is nec­es­sary to change the system.”

The dec­la­ra­tion will be hand­ed to envi­ron­ment min­is­ters when they meet ahead of the UN’s main round of talks in Lima this year.

The meet­ing, called the Social Pre-COP, is the first time that civ­il soci­ety has been invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate with the UN at this scale at inter­na­tion­al cli­mate talks.

Groups who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the meet­ing include WWF, CAN Inter­na­tion­al, Third World Net­work and Chris­t­ian Aid.

Venezuela said the pur­pose of the meet­ing is to “set the basis of an alliance between peo­ples and governments”.

While it is unclear who signed the dec­la­ra­tion, it con­trasts with the views of many nation­al gov­ern­ments, which see the tran­si­tion to a green econ­o­my as under­pin­ning efforts to tack­le cli­mate change.

False solu­tion’

The dec­la­ra­tion also con­flicts with the UN’s own schemes to tack­le cli­mate change.

It says car­bon mar­kets are a “false solu­tion” to the prob­lem of cli­mate change and brands a UN-backed for­est con­ser­va­tion scheme “dan­ger­ous and unethical”.

The forests pro­gramme, called Reduc­ing Emis­sions from Defor­esta­tion and Land Degra­da­tion (REDD), was first intro­duced into UN pro­ceed­ings in 2005 at the request of the gov­ern­ments of Papua New Guinea and Cos­ta Rica.

Under this mech­a­nism, rich coun­tries pay devel­op­ing nations to pre­serve their forests, remov­ing some of the finan­cial incen­tive to chop them down.

Defor­esta­tion is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to cli­mate change as it releas­es the car­bon that is stored in trees.

Sim­i­lar­ly, the UN has set up its own car­bon mar­ket, called the Clean Devel­op­ment Mech­a­nism, which allows devel­oped coun­tries to pay for projects that will reduce the car­bon foot­print of poor countries.

The lat­est set of pro­pos­als for a glob­al cli­mate treaty recent­ly released UN offi­cials explic­it­ly includes ref­er­ences to mar­ket-based solu­tions aimed at tack­ling envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and rais­ing invest­ment capital.

Maria de Pilar Gar­cía-Guadil­la, a pro­fes­sor at the Simon Boli­var Uni­ver­si­ty in Venezuela, said that there was an under­ly­ing assump­tion in the dec­la­ra­tion that cap­i­tal­ism was the cause of cli­mate change – a posi­tion main­tained by the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment in its own devel­op­ment plan – but that this was a “fal­la­cy”.

Venezuela relies heav­i­ly on the use of hydro­car­bons, or the extrac­tive economies, to sup­port their anti-neolib­er­al social­ist poli­cies. The extrac­tive econ­o­my has a severe neg­a­tive social and envi­ron­men­tal impacts in the indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and in the most bio­di­verse areas,” she said.

She added that the Mar­gari­ta Dec­la­ra­tion is “very dis­cur­sive and the real issues are not inside.”

Mixed opin­ions

Objec­tions to the con­cept of a “green econ­o­my”, which encour­ages green growth through car­bon mar­kets and clean ener­gy invest­ments, prompt­ed a walk­out at the Rio+20 sum­mit in 2012.

Some devel­op­ing coun­tries are con­cerned that this mod­el could put them at a com­mer­cial dis­ad­van­tage, and that rich coun­tries should instead focus on how to trans­fer cash and sus­tain­able tech­nolo­gies to poor­er nations.

Venezuela, a staunch­ly social­ist gov­ern­ment, has long opposed the “green econ­o­my” con­cept, along­side oth­er Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries includ­ing Argenti­na, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

But the opin­ions of civ­il soci­ety are more mixed. CAN Inter­na­tion­al, a coali­tion of green NGOs which was present at the Social Pre-COP, said that REDD is “key to emis­sions reduc­tions” in the man­i­festo that it released before the UN’s last cli­mate con­fer­ence, in War­saw last year.

One par­tic­i­pant at last week’s meet­ing told RTCC on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty that: “In terms of being a neu­tral observ­er, [the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment] do have their views and they def­i­nite­ly have their ways”.

He added that most of the Venezue­lan groups present at the meet­ing were sup­port­ive of the government’s posi­tion, in con­trast to the 34 Venezue­lan NGOs who reject­ed their invi­ta­tion to the gath­er­ing, due to con­cerns that it would pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the gov­ern­ment to push their social­ist agenda.

That made Venezuela not need to active­ly push for things, let­ting the move­ments pro­pose their views instead,” he said.