Cochabamba climate summit: An opportunity for the world to listen and learn

Alternative climate change summit gives voice to the under-represented and ignored

By Karl Hansen

Over 20,000 delegates – including indigenous people and other representatives from 120 countries – gathered earlier this week in the central Bolivian town of Cochabamba to try to breathe new life into spluttering international attempts to combat climate change.

The event is taking place beneath Mount Tunari, whose melting glaciers now threaten the water supply of this land-locked Andean region. The timing is poignant, falling on the 10th anniversary of the Cochabamba Water Wars, during which local communities wrested control of the mountain’s glacial water supply from the US-based Bechtel corporation.

The ‘alternative’ climate change meeting, announced by indigenous president of Bolivia Evo Morales, follows other disappointing climate change meetings in Bonn and Washington DC over the last fortnight.

Colourful flags, feathers, costumes and musical performances underscored the high degree of participation of indigenous and local communities, compared with previous climate meetings elsewhere.

Yesterday United Nations top officials recognised the meeting, with a representative saying the gathering was a “great opportunity for the UN”.

“Sometimes at the global level, as with what happened with the recent climate change debate, many groups felt excluded and I think it is right to address this,” Alicia Barcena said yesterday, representing UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon. “The United Nations secretary-general is trying to send a message that we’re completely open to dialogue.”

The Nigerian environmentalist and head of Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey, called the gathering the “most important event in the struggle against climate change”.

Along with at least 1,000 other registered delegates in Europe, Karl Hansen was unable to attend the summit due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

 Links to other coverage of the conference

Conference website

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 at 5:15 pm and is filed under Blog, Forest of Life Blog.

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