|Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has made some of the most radical suggestions at the climate conference [Reuters]|
As the Cancun climate talks enter their final day with delegates locked in stand-off over replacing the Kyoto Protocol, Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, has told Al Jazeera the world risks “genocide” if a deal cannot be struck to limit rises in global temperatures.
The talks have been deadlocked by a dispute between industrialised countries and the developing world over the future of the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, a climate deal which binds almost 40 rich nations to curb emissions until 2012.
Some developed countries say they will not extend their commitments to the deal beyond its expiry unless emerging economies also sign up, but the developing world says that its priority is economic growth, which could be hampered by binding caps on carbon emissions.
Morales, the left-wing president of Bolivia, has argued for cuts of up to 50 per cent in global carbon emissions, more than any other leader.
“We need limited industrial development, rational development, not industries to kill like we have now, but rather industries to save lives,” he told Al Jazeera.
Morales said failure to act would amount to genocide, as millions around the world could be left without food.
“It is leaving the world without ecology. I called it ecolocide, which will lead to genocide,” he said, adding that he had the backing of the “people of the world” for his proposals.
Morales said that rich nations have an “ecological debt to humanity and to Mother Earth” and should agree to binding emissions caps.
“The industrialised nations have to pay their ecological debt by reducing emissions and financing green policies,” he said.
The caps should be enforced by a new international court, Morales said. “It’s important to create an international court of climate justice. Industries, social movements, governments and international organisations who do not meet the norms that are established must be sanctioned.”
Asked whether he thought anyone was likely to listen to such far-reaching demands, Morales said that it was important to discuss the proposals.
“The most important thing is that the proposals of the people of the world are being debated, the rights of mother earth are being debated,” he said. “What’s never been in a debate before is how to live in harmony with Mother Earth – that’s the debate.”
But there is a serious risk that the debate will remain just that, with no concrete agreement made at the summit.
Some signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, led by Japan, have refused to sign up to new cuts to carbon emissions unless the world’s worst polluters, including China, the US and India, also agree to sign up to a new treaty.
Developing countries say that rich countries have emitted the most pollution since the industrial revolution, and should extend their commitment to Kyoto before they will consider signing up.
Al Jazeera’s Craig Mauro, reporting from Cancun, explained the rift.
“Developed countries say that Kyoto Protocol doesn’t go far enough, and only deals with the industrialised world,” he said.
“There are developing countries that have developed a lot over the past 13 years since Kyoto was signed, countries like China and India, that are polluting as well.”
“But the developing countries say they need to focus on economic growth, and responsibility for the past 100 years of pollution lies with the industrial countries.”
The dispute has blocked progess at the talks, with negotiators working through the night to find a solution, and delegates uncertain over the outcome of the summit.
Chris Huhne, Britain’s energy and climate change secretary, said the conference could go either way.
“It’s on a knife edge, we could well have a good outcome, but we could also have a car crash,” he said.
The Kyoto Protocol is the world’s first legally binding UN pact on climate change, and is designed to wean the developed world off fossil fuels and onto cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar power, by penalising greenhouse gas emissions.