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Apr. 20 2010 - 11:43 am | 183 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Amidst U.S. aid cuts, Bolivia’s Evo Morales stakes out a global role on climate

Current president Evo Morales

Evo Morales - Image via Wikipedia

The poorest country in South America, Bolivia– an indigenous majority nation– is seeking a heavyweight role on climate change.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales already has surprised the world’s economists by leading his nation to some of the hemisphere’s best economic growth figures. Even as the rest of the global economy went south, Bolivia grew significantly in 2008 (6%) and posted good numbers for 2009, a phenomenon tracked closely by blog Inca Kola News.

Morales also has managed to exercise a muscular control (including expropriations) over the country’s lithium and natural gas resources without permanently alienating potential partners such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Brazil’s Petrobras state-run energy behemoth

Now, after upping its economic and energy profile, Bolivia is seeking a larger voice on climate change, and is hosting a climate summit, a kind of anti-Copenhagen, in Cochabamba. The event started yesterday and will run through most of the week. My brother, journalist Teo Ballvé has an excellent summary of the issues on the table at Cochabamba, over at The Progressive magazine. An interesting side issue he mentions is fresh water reserves:

The grassroots summit will also pay special attention to the links between climate change and increased scarcity of fresh water. Bolivia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s tropical glaciers. In recent years, these glaciers have lost 40 percent of their mass, leading to growing strains on local water supplies.

Basically, Cochabamba is aiming to pool together poor nations’ views on climate change and related environmental impacts in order to give these countries a larger prominence in climate negotiations.

Earlier this month, the United States cut climate change assistance to Bolivia. The government of Evo Morales believes this was done in retaliation for Bolivia’s critical stance toward the Copenhagen deal, which led to nonbinding carbon targets and in the view of Bolivia, tacitly gave industrialized countries a free hand in running up their carbon output. Here’s Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations expressing that view in a strongly worded op-ed that circulated last month.

Bolivia … believed that Copenhagen marked a backwards step, undoing the work built on since the climate talks in Kyoto. That is why, against strong pressure from industrialised countries, we and other developing nations refused to sign the Copenhagen accord and why we are hosting an international meeting on climate change next month. In the words of the Tuvalu negotiator, we were not prepared to ‘betray our people for 30 pieces of silver’


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    Readers, thanks for your eyeball time, please send tips, corrections, complaints, rants, etc. My email is ballve [at] gmail.com. I was born in Buenos Aires and raised there and in Atlanta, Mexico City and Caracas. I've written and reported on Latin America for almost a dozen years. I started out as an Associated Press reporter and editor in the agency’s Brazil and Caribbean bureaus. In 2007 I co-founded El Sol de San Telmo, a community newspaper in Buenos Aires. I am now a contributing editor for the nonprofit New America Media, Americas correspondent for Amsterdam-based Research World magazine (publication of the international association of market and public opinion researchers), and a 2010-2011 Lemann Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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      Since 2002 I have been a contributing editor at New America Media, where I write about Latin America and the politics of immigration in the United States.

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