Gustavo Petro will have his first intervention on Monday Global Climate Summit (COP27) At a table sits Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden, among others. The president of Colombia will have three minutes to explain his position in defense of the Amazon and against dependence on fossil fuels. He wrote a testament that is difficult to sum up in 180 seconds, especially in a speaker like himself, who tends to extend. That’s why, he admits, he might be tempted at that moment to tear up the papers and send a strong message: “The COP is not working, we must take action.”
The president, a convinced environmentalist since years in exile in Brussels, disembarked with the chancellor and two of his ministers in Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian city sandwiched between the deserts of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. Petro looked out of the window of the military plane in which he was traveling in a sea of sand shaken by the wind. Hours ago, he stopped in Cape Verde, where He was scheduled to meet for two hours, while the planes were refueling, with the last election winner in Brazil, Lula da Silva.He’s a politician he really likes. But due to the problem of coordinating agendas, the meeting did not take place, and the president only had a talk with the Colombian ambassador to the archipelago. Some fully dressed, sleep-faced stoic African soldiers made it the hall of honor despite the fact that it was three in the morning and the airport had no activity.
During the flight, the president thought about the weak mechanisms that existed to deal with an urgent problem such as the climate. He considers that leaders make political decisions at summits such as those in which he will participate, which later some technical teams try to implement to the best of their ability. The answer is usually not enough. Petro would be satisfied to leave here with a real commitment to defending the Amazon, especially from the rest of Latin America.
There is a conflict of interest in this matter. At a meeting last week in Caracas, he persuaded Colombian President Maduro to form a common front to defend the jungle. But the Venezuelan position is, in fact, conservative in terms of taking resolute steps against climate change. In these forums, Chavismo usually aligns itself with other oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia rather than with other, more natural partners such as Petro.
The Colombian president also understands that his extremist message of burying dependence on oil and coal forever runs counter to the interests of countries more powerful than his own. India argues that governments with the world’s major economies have used these resources for development, and now cannot prevent them from doing the same. Petro himself was met with reluctance by the eminent Economy Minister José Antonio Campo, when it came to the fight, with an important source of income for the state coffers. They both share the idea that Latin America – and Colombia in particular – should stop being extractive economies, but one is in a hurry to implement it and the other argues that this transition should be smooth and very progressive.
His intervention in the general debate of this United Nations Convention will follow this hard-line approach. In between, he will hold meetings with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, and in the evening he will attend a reception for all the leaders presented by Egypt. I have come to the firm idea that it is necessary to take action and take strong measures once and for all. He also knows that those big deals he’d like to sign, in the end, end in negotiations between the United States and China. He is trying to find a place with his sailboat in the middle of these sea ships.
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