Bolivia & the Global Fight Against Climate Change

Just weeks before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solón, expressed an acute sense of urgency for the world's developed nations to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "We need to come out of Cancun with emissions reductions pledges from developed countries that are much stronger than what we have seen," said Solón at an event co-hosted by the Inter-American Dialogue and George Washington University’s Latin American & Hemispheric Studies Program, adding that it would be a mistake to postpone the decision until South Africa, referring to the 2011 U.N. Climate Change Conference.

In the past year, the Bolivian government has emerged as an outspoken critic of climate change policies that it argues dilute the developed world's responsibilities for the crisis. Bolivia opposed adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, arguing it was a step backwards from the Kyoto Protocol and resulted in the United States pulling $3 million of aid earmarked for climate assistance. In April, President Evo Morales convened a grassroots conference, the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth, as an alternative to the U.N. talks in Copenhagen.

During the discussion, Solón was critical of the US role in the process. He said that the low commitment to reducing emissions creates a domino process, whereby other countries begin to reduce their pledges because they are worried about losing competitiveness. Solón also expressed opposition to the United Nations' Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) program, which would give forests a monetary value and institute an offset mechanism to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

During the question and answer section, several participants expressed disagreement with his assessment of the REDD proposal, arguing that it could potentially be an effective method to decrease deforestation. Solón responded that it would be a mistake to "apply market mechanisms to fix a problem that market mechanisms caused" and moreover, that there has not been enough discussion of the specific details of the proposal to merit its implementation.

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