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Petro challenges the economic elite of Davos with its proposal to exchange debt for environmental services


The president of Colombia sends a forceful message: “Can capitalism overcome the climate crisis that it helped to cause?”

Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, with the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on January 18, 2023. Cristian Garavito (Presidency of Colombia)

Gustavo Petro has brought one of his old obsessions to the Davos forum, where the world economic elite meets: exchanging debt for specific environmental services to tackle the climate crisis.

The president of Colombia, very critical of capitalism, at least as we know it, has once again advocated ending dependence on oil and coal to undertake an accelerated energy transition.

"We are going to the point of no return, and the point of no return means the extinction of life," he warned dramatically.

“Can capitalism overcome the climate crisis that it helped cause?” the president asked himself after entering the main room of the World Economic Forum (WEF) a few minutes late.

He has been very skeptical of the most optimistic scenarios.

“If capitalism is not capable, either humanity dies out with capitalism or humanity overcomes capitalism,” said Petro, who has embraced environmentalism since his years in exile in Brussels three decades ago.

He spoke of a decarbonized capitalism – although he acknowledged that it may be “a simple illusion” –, with a large role for public and bilateral planning, which would require fundamental changes to bring coal and oil consumption to zero.

“Why not exchange, change, the debt that countries have and the productive processes for climate action, in such a way that budgetary resources are freed to undertake adaptation and mitigation?

Why isn't the world debt devalued, which also means a change in the system of power? ”, He asked himself again when he got to the heart of his proposal, at the end of his speech.

“These issues that a decarbonized capitalism would address today are not in the discussion,” he lamented.

Petro launched his speech at the session "Leading the charge through Earth's new normal", on climate action, oceans and biodiversity.

With a map of the Amazon rivers in the background, he shared a space with former United States Vice President Al Gore, who has spent two decades warning about the impacts of climate change, which he now refers to as the "climate crisis."

Marc Benioff, president of the Salesforce company, and Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, among others, also participated.

Already at the climate summit in Egypt, COP 27, Petro challenged world leaders to move from words to action with forceful measures.

The president has invoked that idea since his own inauguration speech, a semester ago.

“Reduce the external debt and we will spend the surplus to save human life.

If the IMF [International Monetary Fund] helps exchange debt for concrete action against the climate crisis, we will have a new prosperous economy and a new life for humanity, ”he said on August 7 at the start of his government.

"I propose to humanity to exchange external debt for internal expenses to save and recover our jungles, forests and wetlands", he pointed out then.

In September, in his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly, his speech with the greatest international echo to date, Petro outlined that idea in the middle of his harangue to end the failed war on drugs once and for all.

“I call on you to save the Amazon jungle entirely with the resources that can be used worldwide for life.

If they do not have the capacity to finance the fund for the revitalization of the forests, if allocating the money to weapons weighs more than to life, then reduce the external debt to free up our own budgetary spaces, ”he said from the podium in New York.

“We can do it if you from the north don't want to.

Just trade debt for life, for nature.”

Petro, the first left-wing leader in the recent history of Colombia, has set foot on the snow of Davos for the first time as president, an alpine ski resort that has become the epicenter of world capitalism, to present his proposals on the great issues that he considers “crucial for the existence of humanity”: hunger, the climate crisis and war.

His schedule, from Tuesday to Friday, is full of bilateral meetings with heads of government and heads of multinationals that invest in Colombia.

In all of them, the president has emphasized the climate crisis, promoting the energy transition and achieving total peace.

As the second most biodiverse country in the world, with close to 10% of the Amazon rainforest, Colombia is key in the global fight against climate change.

Earlier this Wednesday, Petro met with the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Brazilian Ilan Goldfajn.

After the meeting, Colombia announced that 70 million dollars from the IDB will be directed to strengthening the energy transition policy, one of the pillars of the Government, and that another 3.5 million dollars will be directed to the design and structuring of financial mechanisms and of a regulatory framework to implement payment for environmental services in the Amazon basin.

The total amount (73.5 million dollars) is part of a plan to contain deforestation in the Amazon,

that the Government presented as the first support from the multilateral banks in the Petro period.

Colombia is also launching a summit of the Amazon countries, and Goldfajn indicated that the IDB could support the financing of logistics.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-01-18

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