“A Latin American voice against climate change is indispensable”

The former president of Chile Ricardo Lagos during the interview in his office of the Foundation Democracy and Development, in Santiago

The Chilean socialist ex-president (2000-2006), warns that the fight against climate change cannot only be left to the United States and China

Away from Chilean cyclical policy – seriously affected by a crisis of trust in institutions – in the life of Ricardo Lagos Escobar (Santiago, Chile, 1938) – the first socialist to reach La Moneda after Salvador Allende – climate change is It has become a priority issue. As a former president, he was special envoy of the UN to deal with global warming and currently, among other things, the Elders group – Los Mayores, in Spanish – is the NGO founded in 2007 by Nelson Mandela that brings together well-known leaders to contribute to the world problems.

In April, Lagos visited Ethiopia, where he was able to observe the human displacement caused by the drought. At the end of August he will travel to South Africa. Its foundation, Democracy and Development, this year is focused on a green project, Change the climate, which seeks to collect the ideas of citizens to curb global warming. In the prelude to the COP25 held in December in Chile – the most important environmental summit on the planet – the initiative has collected some 12,000 proposals since April.

“How do we hold the citizen, the citizen, the youth, the elderly and the adult accountable so that they become aware that global warming is an issue that belongs to all of us? The idea is to say: ‘You, change the weather’, a kind of invocation to the person ”, explains Lagos in his office in the municipality of Providencia, in the Chilean capital, from where he has promoted different mechanisms for citizen participation through of the new technologies.

Climate Change is also a digital project that invites citizens to contribute ideas around eight relevant themes from a climate perspective: energy, city, transport, garbage, agriculture and livestock, production and consumption, water, and awareness and knowledge. It also launches an open question so that participants can contribute freely. So far, most have referred to issues related to the treatment of garbage (18%). Especially women (74.5%) and people between 25 and 34 years old (24%) have participated. He will collect ideas throughout 2019, and then present the proposal to the Chilean authorities. “It is an awareness of citizenship,” explains the socialist about his initiative.

“In 2020 we would like to have a counterpart in the rest of the Latin American countries. As a region, we could put together a much more enriching experiment for everyone, which would allow us to profile ourselves. Can we Latin Americans have a common look around global warming? ”Lagos asks rhetorically, one of the great symbols of social democracy in the South American country. “It is not easy today with the changes that are occurring in the region, which are quite obvious. But it is essential to have a voice like Latin America and one way is to listen to people ”, he analyzes while pointing out that there are conversations so that his project Change the climate extends even to Spain and Portugal.

He says that it all started with indignation, “when [Donald] Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement.” It is to ignore the historical responsibility of the United States. Because, what percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today come from the United States? 28% What country follows? Russia, with 9%. Then, the industrialized countries: England, Germany, France. Down there, China, with 5%, is just beginning its process. And below India: which has 2%, ”says Lagos. He then contacted the former presidents grouped in the Club of Madrid and wrote a joint statement: “Climate change is much more than data, figures and degrees Celsius. It’s about our values and our future, ”they wrote.

The mobilized citizenship

In Trump’s antipodes, therefore, Lagos installs mobilized citizenship. He has followed the work of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist, a symbol of weather protests. “Greta is remarkable … remarkable! She was convinced of this and made a direct invocation, ”reflects the ex-president. “Young people are more aware that the survival of the human being on the planet is what is in question. People say: “The Earth is going to disappear.” It is the life of us, homo sapiens, that is what is in question, ”adds the socialist.

In Latin America, Lagos continues, the largest issuer “is Brazil, by far”. “It has a sad record: it emits more every year for the trees it cuts and that no longer absorb greenhouse gases than for what it produces in its GDP to feed 200 million Brazilians. That record has no one in the world, ”he says. USA emits between 20 to 22 tons per person of carbonic gas, says the socialist. According to the same parameters, Euro Europe between 10 and 12. Latin Americans? Between five and six tons. “If we are going to be nine billion inhabitants on Earth in 2050, they cannot emit more than two tons per person on average. The effort that must be made in enormous ”.

Although Chile absorbs greenhouse gases – “because of the trees we have planted Chileans in the last 40 or 50 years” – Lagos is concerned about what is happening in his country. In the world ranking of water stress of the World Resources Institute, recently released, Chile appears in 18th place, immediately after the 17 countries with extremely high risk of lack of water, such as Qatar, Israel or Iran. “For a hair we are not among the 17, but we are among those at high risk,” says Lagos. The other Latin American that appears is Mexico, in place 24. A second alert report on the situation in Chile: that of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based in Geneva.

In Lagos’ view, the fight against climate change touches deep fibers: “It has to do with a moral, ethical issue.” It is the reason why he does not accept that small countries do not also assume their responsibility: “If the boys are going to wash our hands, are we going to leave the United States alone? and China? The Trump thing outrages me, I find it inadmissible, but to have the right to be outraged I have to have the ethics of what we are doing, ”says the former Chilean president, who predicts new paradigms:“ I am from the time when you were measured by income for habitant. In five more years, the question will be: ‘Sir, I congratulate you, you have done well, you have 30,000 dollars of GDP, but how much does it emit?’ Carbon emission per inhabitant will be the great presentation card to the world, “he says. the former president. “The countries are going to give an exam of how civilized they are, according to how much they emit.”

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