The Colombian president went to present his concern about the global environmental crisis to those who are generating it
On January 17, Colombian President Gustavo Petro participated in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, which brought together heads of state and world leaders, and presented Colombia’s proposals to address the climate crisis and promote energy transition. He also held bilateral meetings with several executives of global companies with investments in Colombia.
The space takes place in an alpine ski resort that has become the epicenter of world capitalism and far from popular protests. There, the lines of the globalizing plan established by the economic elites over the rest of the world are defined and reviewed.
In this framework, Petro attended the session “Food Action Alliance: Investing in Greater Resilience” where the Food Action Alliance Strategy 2023-2025 was launched and intervened together with the President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan.
After meeting with Alain Berset, elected president of the Swiss Confederation for 2023, he met with the founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, and Al Gore, former Democratic vice-president of the United States between 1993 and 2001. He also met with the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Ilan Goldfajn, and was a speaker at the session “Leading the charge through the new normal of the earth,” which covered topics such as climate action, oceans and biodiversity.
Meeting the Enemy | Klaus Schwab is Pdte of the World Economic Forum and driving force behind the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a plan that seeks to merge the digital, physical and biological worlds to reshape humanity and impose the total digitization of life. https://t.co/NIeYOxNJPW pic.twitter.com/qbqcCAE9sz
– MV (@Mission_Truth) June 6, 2022
He announced that $70 million from the IDB will be directed to strengthening the energy transition policy, and another $3.5 million will be oriented both to the design and structuring of financial mechanisms and a regulatory framework to implement payment for environmental services in the Amazon basin.
In the session “Leadership for Latin America” he shared with the presidents of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves, and Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso. His agenda included a meeting with Laurent Freixe, Nestlé Vice President for Latin America, and Adel Bin Ahmed Al Jubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia. He also attended the dialogue “Sustainable Solutions for Latin America”, in which the presidents of Costa Rica and Ecuador also participated.
He closed with the CEO of Enel; the CEO of Coca-Cola; the CEO of Microsoft; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva; the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte; the President of Yara International, Svein Tore Holsether. With the latter, he evaluated a possible investment of close to US$100 million to increase fertilizer production in Colombia.
DEBT SWAP FOR “DECARBONIZED CAPITALISM”
Although the main motivation of his trip was to present his concern about the global environmental crisis, the Colombian president established contact with the main actors (and perpetrators) of the system that generates it. As he did in his inauguration ceremony and in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, he proposed the exchange of debt for “concrete environmental services” to tackle the climate crisis, reiterating his idea of ending dependence on oil and coal in order to undertake an “accelerated” energy transition.
He also proposed in Davos that climate summits should be binding on the global economy and reiterated his criticism of the current relationship between capitalism and the fight against climate change in the quest to achieve zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by extractive industries.
Regarding the energy dimension of the global crisis, he raised the possibility of building an American power grid. During the panel “Leadership for Latin America” he proposed “selling our potential in clean energies so that the United States can change its energy matrix, the first element to change everything in the world”.
In his proposals for “decarbonised capitalism” he proposed that materials such as copper could be used in reindustrialization processes “to generate energy ourselves (…) by direct network to the United States and by sea to the rest of the world”.
OXYGENATING A COMATOSE MODEL
The WEF is the forum where the course of a planet in which the largest agricultural regions, such as Latin America, have the worst problems of access to food and the highest rates of poverty, diet-related diseases and air and water pollution, is decided.
While food harvested and packaged by migrant labor paid at low wages is exported, marginalized and overcrowded urban communities suffer disproportionate levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and obesity. While local markets are flooded with junk food, it is cheap but high in calories and low in nutritional value. At first glance there is a problem of equitable distribution, which is driven by the elites gathered in Davos.
An agro-industrial model based on the Green Revolution in which the Global South feeds the world while degrading its soils by deforesting and stripping them of their structures and nutrients. It has been scaled up through biotechnology packages that increase food and technology dependency, led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, owners of Microsoft, and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A Grain report found that most of the Gates Foundation grants ended up in U.S. and European research institutes to produce technology that creates dependency on African farmers.
The environmental crisis Petro refers to is accompanied by a collapse of the globalized civilizational model imposed from the West. It has as a symptom the conflict between Russia and NATO (with Ukraine as a battlefield) by highlighting how the arrangement between the poles of power is no longer the same. It is difficult for indigested debt capitalism to decarbonize when even the so-called green energies are experiencing a “self-destructive loop” and require a high footprint for their manufacture and implementation.
We have already seen how Germany, which promised to decarbonize its economy, had to resort to voracious coal mining on its own territory. The powerhouse, which has developed from cheap energy and raw materials like the entire Global North, responded to its “energy crisis” (loss of a low-cost supplier like Russia) by reactivating coal consumption since before the destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines.
For its part, China plans to build new coal-fired power plants and recently installed an unmanned oil platform in the South Sea. Its president, Xi Jinping, warned in 2022 that the Asian country will not stop burning fossil fuels until it is sure that clean energy can reliably replace them, a complex matter when economic growth is the great utopia.
In our Global South, it seems that the mere redistribution of income (be it oil, mining or agro-export) will not be enough to slow down the high rate of capital and income flow to a rich minority, especially when this is the core of the capitalism that Petro proposes to oxygenate with green economy. To continue to extend the life of capitalism, to the point of promising to decarbonize it, is to postpone the discussion on its weakness, which lies not only in the debt peak or the financialization of life, but in the biophysical limits of the planet.
TRANSITION TO THE TUNE OF WHAT?
The transition from an energy-unjust world to an equally unjust one has already been questioned, especially if one ignores the fact that “green” technologies depend on complex global supply chains fueled by fossil fuels at every stage of their manufacture, transport, deployment, maintenance and decommissioning.
A report by the company Ember has pointed out how the problem lies in energivory. Wind and solar, the fastest growing sources of electricity, reached a record 10% of global electricity in 2021, providing 38% of supply. But electricity demand reached an unprecedented increase in emissions and so did coal-fired power. Renewables, for the moment, are only accompanying the growth in electricity consumption, but are not replacing either gas or coal, which continue to grow.
It is possible that Petro, troubled by the burning of reserves caused by the ongoing devaluation of the Colombian currency, is looking for financing to solve the enormous socioeconomic crisis left by Uribism, whose policies left capital flows to national and transnational oligopolies intact.
The term “environmental services” refers to a web of impositions that have advanced in putting a price on life (or on what we call nature). These “market solutions” based on “green finance” assume that nature is destroyed because it is not given (exchange) value.
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are part of this mechanistic vision based on carbon offsets. Their approach is that, if trees capture carbon, one can finance the planting of many more or create protected areas to compensate for the amount of CO2 or other GHGs emitted. The countries gathered in the WEF do not intend to reduce their emissions to zero: they simply intend to “offset” those emissions elsewhere, paying for technologies that will remove them from the atmosphere so that they appear to do so.
Many sectors claim or wonder whether it will be possible to “decarbonize” the energy systems that allow us to carry out our daily activities, but also to maintain a flow of capital and income to a wealthy minority. It has already been demonstrated that corporate “sustainability” programs have a 98% failure rate.
The global agricultural model imposed by the WEF has generated levels of food dependence, not only on its technologies but also on fossil fuels. Thus, seven out of every eight people in the world, living in cities, will have died within a year if synthetic fertilizers (manufactured by corporations such as Yara International), pesticides and petroleum-based herbicides are eliminated. It would also stop the ships, planes, trains and trucks that transport food from farm to fork; not an absurd figure.
The government of the Netherlands plans to reduce emissions of pollutants by 50% across the country by 2030. But the way it’s doing it is severely affecting the country’s farmers. https://t.co/YJNWcMT83D
– MV (@Mision_Verdad) July 16, 2022
The Colombian president is betting on a transition that is supported by a sector of the U.S. political-economic elite, led by the Democratic Party, that wants to change everything so that nothing changes. It is difficult to understand these elites as the managers of this “transition” when they impose what is currently established. In reality, what they propose is more control and dependence, but disguised as a “green future”.
What Petro has said and done in Davos places him at a crossroads between the urgent and the important: between governing in the midst of the crisis of a country surrounded by Uribe’s plundering and promoting a realistic path towards food sovereignty for his country and the region. The latter requires boldness and a commitment to those who produce food and to get off the train wreck of green capitalism.
Translation by Internationalist 360°