Gustavo Petro has brought one of his old obsessions to the Davos Forum, where the global business elite meets: exchanging debt for concrete environmental services to deal with the climate crisis. The President of Colombia, who is very critical of capitalism as we know it, has once again advocated ending dependence on oil and coal in order to start an accelerated energy transition. “We are going to the point of no return, and the point of no return is the extinction of life,” he warned dramatically.
“Can the capitalism that we have known for the last 30 or 40 years overcome the climate crisis it has helped create?” asked the President after entering the main hall of the World Economic Forum (WEF, for its English acronym). ) a few minutes late. He was very skeptical of the most optimistic scenarios. “If capitalism cannot do this, either humanity will die out with capitalism, or humanity will overcome capitalism,” said Petro, who has dedicated himself to protecting the environment since his years in Brussels exile three decades ago. He spoke of a decarbonized capitalism – although he acknowledged that this could be “a simple illusion” – with a big role for public and bilateral planning that would require fundamental changes to bring coal and oil consumption to zero.
“Why not change the debts of the countries and the productive processes for climate protection in such a way that budget funds are free for adaptation and mitigation? Why isn’t the world debt devalued, which also means a change in the power system? “These issues, which a decarbonized capitalism would address today, are not up for discussion,” he lamented.
Petro launched his speech at the “Leading the charge through Earth’s new normal” session on climate action, oceans and biodiversity. With a map of the Amazon in the background, he shared a room with former United States Vice President Al Gore, who has spent two decades warning about the effects of climate change, which he now calls the “climate crisis.” Also in attendance were Marc Benioff, President of Salesforce, and Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians. Already at the climate summit in Egypt, the COP 27, Petro called on the heads of state and government of the world to put strong measures into action.
The President has been invoking this idea since his own inaugural address a semester ago. “Reduce foreign debt and we will spend the excess to save lives. If the IMF [Fondo Monetario Internacional] help swap debt for concrete action on the climate crisis, we will have a new prosperous economy and a new life for humanity,” he said on August 7 at the start of his government. “I propose to humanity to turn external debt into internal spending to save and restore our jungles, forests and wetlands,” he said at the time.
In September, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, his speech with the greatest international resonance to date, Petro outlined this idea in the middle of his speech to end the failed war on drugs once and for all. “I challenge you to save the Amazon jungle completely with the resources that can be used for a lifetime worldwide. If you are unable to finance the Jungle Revitalization Fund, if allocating the money to weapons outweighs life, then reduce foreign debt to free up our own budget spaces,” he said from the podium New York. “We can do that if you don’t want it from the north. Just exchange debt for life, for nature.”
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Petro, the first left-wing leader in Colombia’s recent history, has stepped onto the snow of Davos, an alpine ski resort that has become the epicenter of world capitalism, for the first time as President, to present his proposals for the big issues he advocates for ” existential for mankind” holds: hunger, climate crisis and war. His schedule, Tuesday through Friday, is packed with bilateral meetings with heads of government and heads of multinational companies investing in Colombia. In all of them, the President has emphasized the climate crisis, promoted the energy transition and achieved total peace.
As the second most biodiverse country in the world, with almost 10% of the Amazon rainforest, Colombia plays a key role in the global fight against climate change. This Wednesday, Petro met with the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Brazilian Ilan Goldfajn. After the meeting, Colombia announced that $70 million from the IDB will go toward strengthening energy transition policies, one of the government’s pillars, and that an additional $3.5 million will go toward designing and structuring financial mechanisms to create a regulatory framework for Implementation of payments for environmental services in the Amazon basin. The total amount ($73.5 million) is part of a plan to curb deforestation in the Amazon that the government presented as the first Petro-era support for multilateral banks. Colombia is also launching a summit of Amazon countries, and Goldfajn hinted that the IDB could help finance logistics.
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