Chavez, who received a standing ovation for his speech, said the
process in Copenhagen is “not democratic; it is not inclusive”. In
particular, he criticised an attempt by rich countries to overturn the
Kyoto Protocol. Doing so would eliminate differentiation between the
obligations of rich and poor countries, treating countries from the global North and South as equally responsible for climate change.
“There is a group of countries that believe they are superior to
those of us from the South, to those of us from the Third Word… this
does not surprise us… we are again faced with powerful evidence of
global imperial dictatorship”, Chavez said.
The Venezuelan president also applauded the initiative of the
protesters outside the summit who were calling for serious measures to
stop catastrophic climate change.
“There are many people outside... I've read in the news that there
were some arrests, some intense protests there in the streets of
Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there, the majority of
them youth… They are young people concerned for the world’s future,” he
“I have been reading some of the slogans painted in the streets… One
said, ‘Don’t Change the Climate, Change the System!’ And I bring that
on board for us. Let’s not change the climate. Let’s change the system!
And as a consequence, we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a
destructive development model that is putting an end to life, that
threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.”
Another notable slogan is, “If the climate were a bank, they would
have bailed it out already”, Chavez said during his speech. “It’s true;
the rich governments have saved the capitalist banks”, he said, but
they lack the “political will” to make the necessary reductions to
“One could say there is a spectre at Copenhagen, to paraphrase Karl
Marx… almost no-one wants to mention it: the spectre of capitalism", he
declared. History requires all people to struggle against capitalism, and if
we don’t, life on the planet “will disappear”.
“Do the rich think they can go to another planet when they’ve
destroyed this one?” he asked as he recommended a copy of a book by
Hervé Kampf, How the Rich are Destroying the Planet.
“Climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental
problem of this century. Floods, droughts, severe storms, hurricanes,
melting ice caps, rise in average sea levels, ocean acidification, and
heat waves, all of that sharpens the impact of global crisis besetting
us”, he continued.
Human activity is exceeding the limits of sustainability and
endangering life on the planet, but the impacts of climate change are
also being felt disproportionately by the world’s poor, Chavez
Also click here to see the joint press conference of the ALBA (Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela) representatives at COP15, December 10, 2009.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s speech on climate change to COP15
Copenhagen, Kingdom of Denmark
December 16, 2009
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez:
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies, friends, I
promise that I will not talk more than most have spoken this afternoon.
Allow me an initial comment which I would have liked to make as part of
the previous point which was expressed by the delegations of Brazil,
China, India, and Bolivia. We were there asking to speak but it was not
possible. Bolivia's representative said, my salute of course to Comrade
President Evo Morales, who is there, President of the Republic of
She said among other things the following, I noted it here, she said the text presented is not democratic, it is not inclusive.
I had hardly arrived and we were just sitting down when we heard the
president of the previous session, the minister, saying that a document
came about, but nobody knows, I've asked for the document, but we still
don’t have it, I think nobody knows of that top secret document.
Now certainly, as the Bolivian comrade said, that is not democratic,
it is not inclusive. Now, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t that just the
reality of the world?
Are we in a democratic world? Is the global
system inclusive? Can we hope for something democratic, inclusive from
the current global system?
What we are experiencing on this planet is an imperial dictatorship,
and from here we continue denouncing it. Down with imperial
dictatorship! And long live the people and democracy and equality on
And what we see here is a reflection of this: Exclusion.
There is a group of countries that consider themselves superior to
us in the South, to us in the Third World, to us, the underdeveloped
countries, or as a great friend Eduardo Galeano says, we, the crushed
countries, as if a train ran over us in history.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that there is no democracy in the
world and here we are again faced with powerful evidence of global
imperial dictatorship. Then two youths got up here, fortunately the
enforcement officials were decent, some push around, and they
collaborated right? There are many people outside, you know? Of course,
they do not fit in this room, they are too many people. I've read in
the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests, there in
the streets of Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there,
most of them youth.
Of course young people are concerned, I think rightly much more than
we are, for the future of the world. We have -- most of us here - the
sun on our backs, and they have to face the sun and are very worried.
One could say, Mr. President, that a spectre is haunting Copenhagen,
to paraphrase Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx, a spectre is haunting the
streets of Copenhagen, and I think that spectre walks silently through
this room, walking around among us, through the halls, out below, it
rises, this spectre is a terrible spectre almost nobody wants to
mention it: Capitalism is the spectre, almost nobody wants to mention
It’s capitalism, the people roar, out there, hear them.
I have been reading some of the slogans painted on the streets, and
I think those slogans of these youngsters, some of which I heard when I
was young, and of the young woman there, two of which I noted. You can
hear among others, two powerful slogans. One: Don’t change the climate,
change the system.
And I take it onboard for us. Let’s not change the climate, let’s
change the system! And consequently we will begin to save the planet.
Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to
life; it threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.
And another slogan calls for reflection. It is very in tune with the
banking crisis that swept the world and still affects it, and of how
the rich northern countries gave aid to bankers and the big banks. The
U.S. alone gave, well, I lost the figure, but it is astronomical, to
save the banks. They say in the streets the following: If the climate
were a bank it would have been saved already.
And I think that's true. If the climate were one of the biggest capitalist banks, the rich governments would have saved it.
I think Obama has not arrived. He received the Nobel Peace Prize
almost the same day that he sent 30 thousand soldiers to kill more
innocents in Afghanistan, and now he comes to stand here with the Nobel
Peace Prize, the president of the United States.
But the United States has the machinery to make money, to make
dollars, and has saved, well, they believe they have saved the banks
and the capitalist system.
Well, this is a side comment that I
wanted to make previously. We were raising our hand to accompany
Brazil, India, Bolivia, China, in their interesting position that
Venezuela and the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance firmly share.
But hey, they didn’t let us speak, so do not count these minutes
please, Mr. President.
Look, over there I met, I had the pleasure of meeting this French
author Hervé Kempf. Recommending this book, I recommend it, it is
available in Spanish – there is Hervé - its also in French, and surely
in English, How the Rich are Destroying the Planet. Hervé Kempf: How the Rich are Destroying the Planet.
This is what Christ said: it would be easier for a camel to pass
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of
heaven. This is what our lord Christ said.
The rich are destroying the planet. Do they think the can go to
another when they destroy this one? Do they have plans to go to another
planet? So far there is none on the horizon of the galaxy.
This book has just reached me, Ignacio Ramonet gave it to me, and he
is also around somewhere in this room. Finishing the prologue or the
preamble this phrase is very important, Kempf says the following, I’ll
“We can not reduce global material
consumption if we don’t make the powerful go down several levels, and
if we don’t combat inequality. It is necessary that to the ecological
principle that is so useful at the time of becoming conscious, ‘think
globally and act locally,’ we add the principle that the situation
imposes: ‘Consume less and share better.’”
I think it is good advice that this French author Hervé Kempf gives us.
Well then, Mr. President, climate change is undoubtedly the most
devastating environmental problem of this century. Floods, droughts,
severe storms, hurricanes, melting ice caps, rise in mean sea levels,
ocean acidification and heat waves, all of that sharpens the impact of
global crisis besetting us.
Current human activity exceeds the threshold of sustainability,
endangering life on the planet, but also in this we are profoundly
I want to recall: the 500 million richest people, 500 million, this
is seven percent, seven percent, seven percent of the world’s
population. This seven percent is responsible, these 500 million
richest people are responsible for 50 percent of emissions, while the
poorest 50 percent accounts for only seven percent of emissions.
So it strikes me as a bit strange to put the United States and China
at the same level. The United States has just, well; it will soon reach
300 million people. China has nearly five times the U.S. population.
The United Status consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day,
China only reaches 5-6 million barrels a day, you can’t ask the same of
the United States and China.
There are issues to discuss, hopefully we the heads of states and
governments can sit down and discuss the truth, the truth about these
So, Mr. President, 60 percent of the planet’s ecosystems are
damaged, 20 percent of the earth's crust is degraded, we have been
impassive witnesses to deforestation, land conversion, desertification,
deterioration of fresh water systems, overexploitation of marine
resources, pollution and loss of biodiversity.
The overuse of the land exceeds by 30 percent the capacity to
regenerate it. The planet is losing what the technicians call the
ability to regulate itself; the planet is losing this. Every day more
waste than can be processed is released. The survival of our species
hammers in the consciousness of humanity. Despite the urgency, it has
taken two years of negotiations for a second commitment period under
the Kyoto Protocol, and we attend this event without any real and
And indeed, on the text that comes from out of the blue, as some
have called it, Venezuela says, and the ALBA countries, the Bolivarian
Alliance say that we will not accept, since then we’ve said it, any
other texts that do not come from working groups under the Kyoto
Protocol and the Convention. They are the legitimate texts that we have
been discussing so intensely over the years.
And in these last few hours, I believe you have not slept, plus you
have not eaten, you have not slept. It does not seem logical to me to
come out now with a document from scratch, as you say.
The scientifically substantiated objective of reducing the emission
of polluting gases and achieving an agreement on long-term cooperation
clearly, today at this time, has apparently failed, for now.
What is the reason? We have no doubt.
The reason is the irresponsible attitude and lack of political will
from the most powerful nations on the planet. No one should feel
offended, I recall the great José Gervasio Artigas when he said: “With
the truth, I neither offend nor fear.” But it is actually an
irresponsible attitude of positions, of reversals, of exclusions, of
elitist management of a problem that belongs to everyone and that we
can only solve together.
The political conservatism and selfishness of the largest consumers,
of the richest countries shows high insensitivity and lack of
solidarity with the poor, the hungry, and the most vulnerable to
disease, to natural disasters. Mr. President, a new and single
agreement is essential, applicable to absolutely unequal parties,
according to the magnitude of their contributions and economic,
financial and technological capabilities and based on unconditional
respect for the principles contained in the Convention.
Developed countries should set binding, clear and concrete
commitments for the substantial reduction of their emissions and assume
obligations of financial and technological assistance to poor countries
to cope with the destructive dangers of climate change. In this
respect, the uniqueness of island states and least developed countries
should be fully recognized.
Mr. President, climate change is not the only problem facing
humanity today. Other scourges and injustices beset us, the gap between
rich and poor countries has continued to grow, despite all the
millennium goals, the Monterrey financing summit, at all these summits
as the President of Senegal said here, revealing a great truth, there
are promises and unfulfilled promises and the world continues its
The total income of the 500 richest individuals in the world is
greater than the income of the 416 million poorest people. The 2.8
billion people living in poverty on less than $2 per day, representing
40 per percent of the global population, receive only 5 percent of
Today each year about 9.2 million children die before reaching their
fifth year and 99.9 percent of these deaths occur in poorer countries.
Infant mortality is 47 deaths per thousand live births, but is only
5 per thousand in rich countries. Life expectancy on the planet is 67
years, in rich countries it is 79, while in some poor nations is only
Additionally, there are 1.1 billion people without access to
drinking water, 2.6 billion without sanitation services, over 800
million illiterate and 1.02 billion hungry people, that’s the global
Now the cause, what is the cause?
Let’s talk about the cause, let’s not evade responsibilities, and
let’s not evade the depth of this problem. The cause, undoubtedly, I
return to the theme of this whole disastrous panorama, is the
destructive metabolic system of capital and its embodied model:
Here’s a quote that I want to read briefly, from that great
liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, as we know a Brazilian, our
American. Leonardo Boff says on this subject as follows:
“What is the cause? Ah, the cause is the
dream of seeking happiness through material accumulation and of endless
progress, using for this science and technology with which they can
exploit without limits all the resources of the earth.”
And he cites here Charles Darwin and his “natural selection”, the
survival of the fittest, but we know that the strongest survive over
the ashes of the weakest.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, we must always remember, said that between
the strong and the weak, freedom is oppressed. That’s why the Empire
speaks of freedom; it’s the freedom to oppress, to invade, to kill, to
annihilate, and to exploit. That is their freedom, and Rousseau adds
this saving phrase: “Only the law liberates.”
There are countries that are hoping that no document comes out of
here precisely because they do not want a law, do not want a standard,
because the absence of these norms allows them to play at their
exploitative freedom, their crushing freedom.
We must make an effort and pressure here and in the streets, so that
a commitment comes out of here, a document that commits the most
powerful countries on earth.
Well, Mr. President, Leonardo Boff asks... Have you met Boff? I do
not know whether Leonardo might come, I met him recently in Paraguay,
we’ve always read him.
Can a finite earth support an infinite project? The thesis of
capitalism, infinite development, is a destructive pattern, let’s face
Then Boff asks us, what might we expect from Copenhagen? At least
this simple confession: We can not continue like this. And a simple
proposition: Let’s change course. Let's do it, but without cynicism,
without lies, without double agendas, no documents out of the blue,
with the truth out in the open.
How long, we ask from Venezuela, Mr. President, ladies and
gentlemen, how long are we going to allow such injustices and
inequalities? How long are we going to tolerate the current
international economic order and prevailing market mechanisms? How long
are we going to allow huge epidemics like HIV/AIDS to ravage entire
populations? How long are we going to allow the hungry to not eat or to
be able to feed their own children? How long are we going to allow
millions of children to die from curable diseases? How long will we
allow armed conflicts to massacre millions of innocent human beings in
order for the powerful to seize the resources of other peoples?
Cease the aggressions and the wars! We the peoples of the world ask
of the empires, to those who try to continue dominating the world and
No more imperial military bases or military coups!
Let’s build a more just and equitable economic and social order, let’s
eradicate poverty, let’s immediately stop the high emission levels,
let’s stop environmental degradation and avoid the great catastrophe of
climate change, let’s integrate ourselves into the noble goal of
everyone being more free and united.
Mr. President, almost two centuries ago, a universal Venezuelan, a
liberator of nations and precursor of consciences left to posterity a
full-willed maxim: “If nature opposes us, let’s fight against it and
make it obey us.” That was Simón Bolívar, the Liberator.
From Bolivarian Venezuela, where a day like today some ten years
ago, ten years exactly, we experienced the biggest climate tragedy in
our history (the Vargas tragedy it is called), from this Venezuela
whose revolution tries to win justice for all people, we say it is only
possible through the path of socialism!
Socialism, the other spectre Karl Marx spoke about, which walks here
too, rather it is like a counter-spectre. Socialism, this is the
direction, this is the path to save the planet, I don’t have the least
doubt. Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the world.
We say this from Venezuela, which because of socialism faces threats
from the U.S. Empire.
From the countries that comprise ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance, we
call, and I want to, with respect, but from my soul, call in the name
of many on this planet, we say to governments and peoples of the Earth,
to paraphrase Simón Bolívar, the Liberator: If the destructive nature
of capitalism opposes us, let’s fight against it and make it obey us,
let’s not wait idly by for the death of humanity.
History calls on us to unite and to fight.
If capitalism resists, we are obliged to take up a battle against
capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species.
It’s up to us, raising the banners of Christ, Mohammed, equality, love,
justice, humanity, the true and most profound humanism. If we don’t do
it, the most wonderful creation of the universe, the human being, will
disappear, it will disappear.
This planet is billions of years old, and this planet existed for
billions of years without us, the human species, i.e. it doesn’t need
us to exist. Now, without the Earth we will not exist, and we are
destroying Pachamama as Evo says, as our indigenous brothers from South
Finally, Mr. President, and to finish, let’s listen to Fidel Castro
when he said: “One species is in danger of extinction: Humanity.”
Let’s listen to Rosa Luxemburg when she said: “Socialism or barbarism.”
Let us listen to Christ the Redeemer when he said: “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we are capable of not making
this Earth the tomb of humanity. Let us make this earth a heaven, a
heaven of life, of peace, peace and brotherhood for all humanity, for
the human species.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much and enjoy your meal.