Colombia president: LatAm left made mistake by not embracing climate fight

By Álvaro Mellizo

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Nov 8 (EFE).- Latin America’s failure to embrace the campaign against climate change was a “monumental” error that the progressive forces coming to power in the continent must now address, Colombia’s new president Gustavo Petro has said.

The leftist leader said “inertia” on both ends of the political spectrum had led the region to become dependent on extracting natural resources and fossil fuels.

Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, spoke with Efe at the United Nations Cop27 climate summit taking place in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh.

EFE: Colombia plays a leading role in protecting the Amazon.

PETRO: At the moment we are almost alone in this defense (of the Amazon). The current Brazilian government was not interested in saving the rainforest, and the rainforest is a fundamental climate pillar, because if it goes, we will arrive at a point of no return for the whole planet.

Saving the rainforest is crucial within a policy of climate balance and our governments are responsible for this. Right now, Colombia and the current Venezuelan government have decided to act jointly in this field, and we hope the Brazilian government does the same. That way we would have a decisive axis, so that from the point of view of the governments we have budgetary strength for an effective policy to save the rainforest.

EFE: Latin America is not a protagonist in this so-called Global South summit…

PETRO: In reality, both the left and right forces that have governed Latin America in recent years have been reluctant to pave the way in the defense of humanity against climate change, basically because the economic model of Latin America was based on the exportation of fossil raw materials: gas, fuel and coal. And that has made (Latin America’s) political role less important when it comes to leaving behind the fossil fuel economy for a decarbonized economy.

The Latin American left has not addressed – and this is a monumental error – the fight against climate change. On the contrary, it has supported international prices of fuel, coal and gas.

I have proposed to the governments of Latin America, to the new progressive forces that are winning election after election, that we should shift the agenda of Latin American progressivism and stop our support for the development of raw materials and their international prices for (…) a transition to a productive economy based on knowledge.

EFE: Will the region accept this transition?

PETRO: We are creating a new debate, an American dialogue on this perspective and with the idea of a political agenda to overcome the climate emergency, which must be anchored by Latin American governments. More so when we have the advantage that the rest of the world does not and an enormous potential to develop clean energy, water, wind, sun…

I see an opportunity. Latin America could be politically and economically powerful if it accepts decarbonization in its own economies. Being tied, for the last five centuries, to a primary economy of exporting non-renewable raw materials has not worked from the point of view of economic development and overcoming poverty.

EFE: Do you have faith in this?

PETRO: There is no alternative. I sometimes stop to think about whether we are going too fast in Colombia, whether we are pressuring structures and economic interests that for decades have been linked to exploiting coal and petrol (…). The pressure to take steps toward an energy transition and decarbonization are enormous.

Europe’s economic inability to decarbonize, and its continued dependency on resources like petrol, has ended up generating wars. The step towards decarbonization is a mirage, it’s just more rhetoric that you hear at these Cop summits where we are now, but concrete steps with a change in the economic system that can destroy economic interests, they are not being taken, and in a certain way we are heading toward extinction.

But there is no alternative, there is no other path than to change the economy and politics otherwise the human species will die. EFE


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