7,500 due for alternate climate conference in Bolivia

AFP, LA PAZ — The alternative "people's conference" on climate change called by socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales is expecting 7,500 delegates from more than 100 countries, officials said Monday.

Among those set to attend the gathering in Cochabamba April 20-22 include Presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, according to Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

Named the People's World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights, the gathering is intended to "give a voice to the people" on climate change after the perceived failure of the United Nations-sponsored Copenhagen summit on the same issue, organizers say.

In addition to government leaders, those attending will include delegates from social movements and nongovernmental organizations.

Organizers say they expect in attendance anti-globalization activists Naomi Klein of Canada and Jose Bove of France, and James Hansen, a US researcher who was among the first to warn about climate change. Also invited to the event was James Cameron, the Canadian-born director of the blockbuster film "Avatar."

Government delegations who attendance has been confirmed are from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Dominica, Antigua and Barbudas as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines, officials say.

The conference will seek to refine proposals by Morales in Copenhagen including the creation of a world tribunal for climate issue and a global referendum on environmental choices.

Chavez and Morales were among the harshest critics of the December 2009 Copenhagen conference, arguing that developing countries were largely ignored in the UN climate debate that set an objective for limiting global warming.

Bolivia's Environment Minister Juan Pablo Ramos said the Cochabamba conference may be "a major mobilization to fundamentally influence the next climate summit in Mexico in December."

Other delegates said the conference may be constructive.

"The notion of more input from civil society is welcome," said Luis Alfonso de Alba, who will be Mexico's delegate to the Bolivia conference. "I believe that the meeting can produce positive results."

Brice Lalonde, the French delegate to the climate conference, added that "we have to talk with everyone."

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