Wasted in Margarita Island: Hugo Chavez as Climate Action Hero (Some People Say There’s a Capitalist to Blame)

by Marlo Lewis on July 25, 2014

in Blog

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The top story in international climate news this week is the Margarita Declaration issued in the name of 130 ‘social’ (non-governmental) organizations participating in the July 15-18 Social Pre-COP meeting on Margarita Island, Venezuela. The groups don’t sign the document, so we don’t know which (or how many) of them actually endorse it. Basically it’s a rant demanding that ‘social’ organizations have more clout in climate treaty negotiations. Participants seek in particular to influence the UN-sponsored COP 20 negotiations in December, in Lima, Peru.

The Margarita Declaration is attracting media attention because it (1) blames the climate ‘crisis’ of the “current capitalist hegemonic system” (par. 46), and (2) rejects solutions “whereby wealthy industrialized countries and corporations ultimately seek to use climate change as a source of profit” (par. 19). The latter include such ‘green economy’ policies as carbon trading and restrictions on deforestation in developing countries.

Some commentaries have pounced on the Declaration as smoking-gun proof that climate activists are watermelons — green on the outside, red on the inside. The environmental movement has no lack of collectivist impulses. Consider the obsession with “consensus” (groupthink), the popularity of social cost of carbon analysis (a pseudo science reminiscent of Marx’s labor theory of value), the zeal for green energy mandates (Soviet-style production quota), and the relentless lobbying for political-pricing of energy (cap-and-trade, carbon taxes) to correct alleged “market failures.”

Nonetheless, there are important differences.

Many ‘Reds’ hated capitalism but loved industry. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe-pounding boast, “We will bury you,” meant, in part, that communism would out-produce capitalism and thus vanquish it as an economic system. On the other hand, what most Western greens dislike is not capitalism per se but the coal, oil, and gas industries.

Besides, far from being a consensus statement, the Margarita Declaration reflects the views of a faction led by conference host, Venezuela, whose departed dictator, Hugo Chavez, is quoted in the epigraph (p. 2). As the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) points out, “Venezuela, a staunchly socialist government, has long opposed the ‘green economy’ concept, alongside other Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.” In contrast, Climate Action Network International, “a coalition of green NGOs which was present at the Social Pre-COP,” wants to increase anti-deforestation efforts in developing countries.

The Margarita Declaration is an anti-Western harangue in the style of Fidel Castro. It urges industrial nations to “immediately reduce production and consumption of fossil fuels” (par. 15), establish an international climate court to punish multilateral corporations for “crimes against nature” (pars. 17, 31), and pony up untold billions in climate assistance and reparations, with no restrictions on how “social movements and organizations” may use such financing (par. 54, bullet 6). It speaks for the fringe of a fringe.

Too bad. Nothing would kill the prospects for a Kyoto successor treaty faster than China and India’s embrace of this lunacy.





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