Bolivian President Morales’ Stance on Capitalism too Simplistic

Bolivian President Morales at COP16

Boyd Cohen, Ph.D., CEO CO2 IMPACT

“O muere el capitalismo, o muere la Madre Tierra,” Evo Morales proclaimed at the recent UN COP16 in Cancun, Mexico.  The position that either “capitalism dies, or mother earth dies,” is certainly shared by many around the globe.

And with good reason.  It is hard to argue that capitalism and consumerism are not largely to blame for our current climate predicament.  Burning fossil fuels for our frequent travels around the world, to feed our gas guzzling SUVs, to run our factories, and to transport our pesticide and fertilizer-laden foods longer and longer distances have been driving climate change around the globe.

Industry has been overwhelmingly responsible for the growing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere which is contributing to climate change and the vast array of human and planetary impacts climate change has only begun to drive.  So President Morales has a real leg to stand on when suggesting that capitalism is the cause of all this suffering.  He is definitely not alone in this opinion as evidenced by the 35,000 people who attended the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia held in April of this year.

I was one of those 35,000 people, however I do not share their views that capitalism is the root of all evil and must be eliminated to protect the planet.  Generally speaking, most radical extreme right or extreme left views contain some kernels of wisdom but are typically fraught with flawed logic or are lacking in a sense of realism.

This is definitely the case with the Bolivia leader’s stance on climate change and capitalism.  While capitalists got us into this mess, it will, in my humble opinion, largely be capitalists, supported by visionary public and NGO entities, that will get us out of it.

I also had the good fortune to be part of the COP16 in Cancun last week.  I was struck by the emerging business voice who is starting to get impatient with the lack of progress at the multi-lateral level regarding a globally binding treaty to replace or advance the Kyoto Protocol.

Triple Pundit recently published an article by the CEO of the Carbon War Room, Jigar Shah, who was reporting on the War Room’s successful launch of their Gigaton Awards.

The Gigaton Awards were part of the first ever World Climate Summit held as a side event to COP16.  I was again lucky enough to be able to attend the World Climate Summit. Here were some of Capitalism’s biggest stalwarts such as Ted Turner and Richard Branson (the visionary behind the Carbon War Room by the way) leading the charge for a new form of conscience capitalism that takes into account the climate.  But rather than argue the moral reasons for addressing the climate, even if it comes at a loss to corporate profits, the pervasive message at the World Climate Summit as well as other side events such as Greener Solutions, is that companies can mitigate climate change while making as much if not more than they did before.

This “Climate Capitalism” argument has been largely lacking in the business, political and media dialog yet I believe it is the key to solving the climate crisis.  In a recent article published in the Financial Times leading up to COP16, Philip Stephens articulately points out that the conversation needs to switch from a moral imperative to a low-carbon=more profit argument.

The Gigaton Awards and companies like Walmart who expect to save as much as $300m/year from energy efficiency efforts as well as driving low carbon solutions throughout their supply chain, show that low carbon can mean more profits.  If we can get more capitalists on board by showing them the path to more prosperity, we can solve this crisis.  This of course directly contradicts President Morales’ dogged denouncement of capitalism.   His steadfast refusal to consider the role of business led to him being the only leader or government in the world to refuse to sign the Cancun Accords.  Rather than be part of the solution, President Morales is getting in the way of real progress.

Climate Capitalism to the rescue!

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