"The Paris Agreement Will See the Planet Burn": Former Bolivian Climate Negotiator Pablo Solón


He once sat at the same table as the world leaders gathered in Paris to hammer out a U.N. agreement on global warming. Now he stands on the outside. We speak with Pablo Solón, former chief negotiator on climate change for Bolivia, as well as the country’s former ambassador to the United Nations. “The target was: We shouldn’t go beyond an increase of two degrees Celsius,” Salon says of negotiators’ failed attempts to limit an increase in global temperatures. “And now to be speaking about four or even five degrees Celsius is, to put it in other terms, to burn the planet.”


AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting live from the 21st COP, that’s the
Conference of Parties, the U.N. Climate Summit. They once sat at the same table as the world leaders who gathered here in Paris to hammer out an agreement over global warming, now they stand on the outside. Today we speak to two former, negotiators. Later in the show, we’ll hear from Yeb Saño, the former chief negotiator for the Philippines. But first, we turn to Pablo Solón, he’s the former chief negotiator on climate for Bolivia as well as Bolivia’s former ambassador to the United Nations. I caught up with him on Sunday shortly after thousands of climate activists lined the streets of Paris to form a human chain after French officials canceled a major climate march.

PABLO SOLÓN: I have been in two very important summits, the one in Copenhagen and then one in Cancun. And here, what we’re going to have in Paris, is the third climate agreement. We have had two climate agreements, one was the Kyoto protocol and the other one was the Cancun agreement. The Cancun agreement is for 2012 until 2020. And now in Paris, we’re supposed to have a third agreement for 2020 until 2030.

Now, the Paris agreement is going to be as bad as the Cancun agreement. Why? Because in reality, we’re not here to negotiate the emission cuts of any country. The way negotiations are is each country says, I’m going to do this, and that’s it. So the U.S. says, we’re going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 25 percent to 28 percent by 2025, and that is their pledge. That is not under discussion. So already, all of the countries have presented their pledges until the first of October. So we already know the result of Paris.

There is an official document from the UNFCCC that says, OK, after receiving the contribution of emission cuts of all of the countries, where are we now? And that official document says, we are going to be, around, increasing the temperature between 2.7 to 3.9 degrees Celsius. So that is a almost twice what we had to limit because the target was we shouldn’t go beyond an increase of two degrees Celsius.

And now to be speaking about four degrees or five degrees Celsius is, to put it in other terms, to burn the planet. So the Paris agreement is an agreement that will see the planet burn. I think this is a really bad agreement. And we are here in the show to try to sell the world a good outcome that is going to kill humans and life as we know it.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re standing, actually, on Sunday, the day before the U.N. summit opens, the day where hundreds of thousands of people were supposed to march, but the march was canceled after the terror attacks of November 13. Your thoughts on the environmental activists agreeing to no marching?

PABLO SOLÓN: Well, I think that there should have been a march. No? I think that the terrorist attacks are being used to undermine the climate mobilization and are going to be used in order to have a bad agreement. It remembers me a little bit like the ministerial of the WTO, the World Trade Organization, Doha, after 9/11. Before that, we had Seattle. Seattle was the moment where the anti-globalization movement came out very strongly, but then came 9/11 and then this was used to, hey, you have to agree on this agreement — which is a very bad agreement, the one we have now in the Doha round, until now. And the same thing is happening here. The attacks are being used to say, OK, don’t do mobilizations and we want to have that agreement ready before the end of the COPnext week.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the people in the human chain said they still are protecting the 130 world leaders who are coming. They didn’t tell them, cancel your visit, it’s too difficult here, we have to deal in the aftermath of the terror attacks, so they say they’ll protect the world leaders but not civil society. They prevent them from expressing their views.

PABLO SOLÓN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you have many public spaces where thousands of people gather here in Paris, and they don’t have any protection. So to say you cannot have this March but at the same time you can go to public spaces were you also don’t have any kind of protection, so it’s really to undermine the free voice of the people. My guess is they are using fear in order to hide what they’re doing. So we have a very bad, combination here in Paris.

One of the key things, for example, that is not being discussed at the negotiations at all is to put a limit to fossil fuel extractions. So this is — there is not one single leader, one single country that has put text to be negotiated that says you have to leave 80 percent of fossil fuels under the ground. And if you don’t leave fossil fuels under the ground, how are you going to limit greenhouse gas emissions that come mainly from fossil fuel extraction? So you don’t have the real key topics being discussed. And on the other hand, you have an ambiance of fear being created in order that the at the end you say, OK, this is the best we can do, let’s accept it, it was fine.

AMY GOODMAN: So what is happening in Bolivia? I mean, in the midst of all of these official U.N. summits from Cancun to Copenhagen, Doha, Durban, Peru, Poland, there was the People’s Summit on Pachamama, on the rights of the earth that was held in Bolivia, led by the President, Evo Morales. What is happening there today?

PABLO SOLÓN: Well, just a couple of months ago, we had the second Tiquipaya. It didn’t have so much coverage from the media. It was organized by the government, and very few climate activists from the world came. And the issue is that in Bolivia, we see more and more a contradiction between what the government says and what the government does. So one of the big discussions that we had with Evo Morales during the summit now was that he said we cannot be park rangers. No? Guarda bosques we say in Spanish, for the capitalist countries of the North.

And from our point of view, we have to preserve forests because forests are the lungs of Mother Earth. We cannot imagine a world without forests. And so the rules, the laws that are being pushed forward in Bolivia are going to increase deforestation. So that is why, for example, here during these days, we’re going to have a big event on zero deforestation until 2020 in all countries. Because there is an schizophrenia in the U.N., in the sustainable development goals, all countries have agreed that by 2020, they have to halt deforestation. But in the UNFCCC, those countries are still going to continue deforestation beyond 2020, and like my country, they say they’re going to deforest three million acres until 2030. So these are the contradictions between the scores and what is being done in the practice.

AMY GOODMAN: So in Bolivia, what is the issue around mineral and fossil fuel extraction? What is President Morales doing?

PABLO SOLÓN: The issue is that — well, I thought that when the price of oil went down, then the government was going to react and say, OK, we have to move away from gas extraction in five, ten years. But instead, what they said is, if the prices have fall half, now we have to export twice. So they are searching for even more gas. So they are searching for even more gas and more oil. So we are becoming more addict to fossil fuels than before when we should be already beginning to think how we’re going to phase out of fossil fuels. So this is another critical issue in the case of Bolivia.

AMY GOODMAN: What about nuclear power?

PABLO SOLÓN: Well, nuclear power is also — because we — another problem because we say, OK, let’s look for another kind of alternatives. And then the government has said, nuclear power. And we are absolutely against because it’s dangerous for nature, for the people. And in our Constitution, there is a ban to any kind of nuclear waste. So if there is any kind of nuclear plant in Bolivia, according to our Constitution, the waste of that nuclear plant cannot be deposit inside Bolivian territory. So it’s something very complicated, but even though there is a lot of pressure from civil society, the government has done an agreement with Russia and they are planning to begin with a center of nuclear investigation and they are going to invest $300 million just as a first step. And this is something that really is against everything we have fought for.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the scale of the size of the nuclear plant that is planned for Bolivia?

PABLO SOLÓN: That is another thing, because the government doesn’t speak very frankly about what is the final goal. They are holding 20 hectares, now they are saying 40 hectares. It’s going to be a plan that will go beyond 1000, 2000 megawatts. I don’t know. And you can’t find that information. That is also something that it should never happen, because if you have a plan like that, you have to share in a very transparent way what you want to do and you have to consult the people. That is not happening.

AMY GOODMAN: How has the Yasuni struggle in nearby in Ecuador, impacted nearby Bolivia, or just talk about the significance of that. And for people who’ve never heard of Yasuni, what was the trajectory of this extremely diverse place that seems so deeply threatened now?

PABLO SOLÓN: Well, between the Yasuni in Ecuador and the different national parks that we have in Bolivia, there are many connections, because, the problem is that, you can find probably oil or gas in these national parks like Yasuni, like Tipnis in Bolivia and others. And indigenous people that live there say, hey, we don’t want you to destroy our home. We don’t want you to destroy the biodiversity here in this these different national parks.

At the beginning, the proposal of Ecuador was, OK, we’re not going to dig, we’re not going to extract the fossil fuels. But then they said, oh, because international community is not going to give us a grant that is big enough to cover what we’re not going to extract —

AMY GOODMAN: To pay for it not to be developed or drilled. That was the idea that Correa, the President put out.

PABLO SOLÓN: Exactly. So they have received the money. And instead of digging, they do whatever they have to do with that money that they have received. But now President Correa has said we’re going to dig anyway because that money is insufficient, and this has created a whole protest inside Ecuador. It is the same case in Bolivia. And we’re all saying, come on, you’re going to do this in order to get fossil fuels.

How much does it cost to deforest one hectare? What is the cost of losing that biodiversity? It — it’s huge. So why are we going to destroy forests, national park, to find something that we are ready know is killing us? Because climate change is mainly due to fossil fuels that are being burned. So instead of going this way, we should begin to learn and live with the forest. There are many ways where we can get resources with the forest without affecting the forest. So, I think that in the case of Bolivia and Ecuador, the struggle against climate change is the struggle against deforestation. You have the combination of oil extraction plus deforestation as the most greatest challenges of climate activists in our countries.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pablo Solón. He’s the former chief negotiator on climate change for Bolivia as well as Bolivia’s former ambassador to the United Nations. I spoke to him Sunday in the streets of Paris where he joined the human chain and then the protest at the Place de la République. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we come back, we go to yet another chief climate negotiator who’s now taken his cause to the streets. Stay with us.


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