Colombia looks to Copenhagen

The indigenous and rural communities have joined Greenpeace’s campaign in Colombia, adding their signatures to a petition demanding that President Álvaro Uribe personally attend the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, where it is hoped that leaders will sign a new decisive treaty in the fight against global warming. The campaign was launched two months ago and more than 21,000 Colombians have already signed the petition.

Colombia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and several studies have shown that the rapid increases in global temperature will have social, economic and environmental implications. 

Colombia is not one of those principally responsible for causing climate change: its contribution comes to 0.2 per cent of total greenhouse gases emissions. But data show that the impact of global warming on Colombia will be severe: half the country will be adversely affected due to changes in rain patterns, 17 per cent of the island of San Andres could flood, having a severe adverse effect on the tourist trade, and almost all the snow and glaciers could disappear completely, along with 75 per cent of moorland. 

For that reason, people from mostly rural areas, such as Abriaqui, Canas, Gordas, Peque, Caldas, Dabeiba and Maceo, have been  supporting the Greenpeace campaign to save the wilderness and protect Colombia’s endangered ecosystem from the dangers of climate change. Global warming is leading to the disappearance of species and resources critical to the survival of towns and cities. The indigenous, or Amerindian, population in Colombia, estimated at nearly 1.4 million people, is made up of more than 100 different ethnic groups and represents 3.4 per cent of the total population.

In recent weeks, the community has been highly vocal about the environmental problems, with a ‘global mobilization for the liberation of Mother Earth and global warming’ initiated by various Colombian indigenous peoples (with the support of farmers, African Americans and other social organizations). Approximately 25,000 Indians marched peacefully from 11 to 16 October from the town of Santander de Quilichao to the city of Cali. 

‘We must make very strong appeal to humanity because life is at risk and this implies that human beings, land, animals, nature, the whole of life is also at risk and we humans are responsible for protecting it,’ says Feliciano Valencia, a member of the CRIC (Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca).

According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the march set forth its position rejecting the actions that have led to environmental degradation, accelerating global warming ‘as a result of premeditated actions by multinational corporations with the consent of neoliberal governments’.

Governments, particularly Colombia’s, do not, according to ONIC, contribute to finding solutions to climate change. For example, policies regulating water use – which promote privatization – are in favour of big business.
Valencia adds: ‘We want to discuss a very important issue: the global economic model. You have to project an alternative process to that model, an economic model that respects and includes ecology from the perspective we are proposing. We declare ourselves to be fighting in defence of the land and the environment. It is necessary to strengthen these initiatives. We have participated in a series of forums held in Bogota and Cali and we’re also going to Sogamoso, to look specifically at the problems there. We must make visible the position of the indigenous movement.’

Photos of the march are available at:

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