By Charles McKelvey

December 6, 2023


Cuba says the Global South must assert its interests.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel convoked a Summit of Leaders of the G-77 and China on Climate Change, which was held on December 2, 2023, in the context of the UN COP28 conference on climate change in the United Arab Emirates.  Cuba is President pro tempore of the G-77 and China for 2023 (see “Cuba hosts G-77 + China: Seeking a pluripolar world order,” September 14, 2023).

It is the first time that a high-level G-77 summit has met in the context of a COP conference.  The one-day Summit was followed by the emission of a summary of principle themes and priorities of the Group by the Cuban Presidency, which is meant to serve as a guide for the members of the Group as they participate in the COP28 Conference, being held from November 30 to December 12.

Cuba is stressing the need for the countries of the Global South to agree on actions with respect to climate change.  Cuba maintains that the countries of the South must coordinate their positions and proposals in asserting their demands and claims in the climate negotiations.  This would constitute a change in the manner in which the Global South has approached the challenges of climate change.

Cuba is in a strong position to reorient the approach of the South to climate change, inasmuch as Cuba has a robust national program of confronting climate change, forged on the basis of a good relation between science and government.  Cuba’s climate change program integrates political, scientific, technological, and civil society institutions, enabling it to attain funding from the organizations of the UN system, which has enabled it to have concrete results in the adaptation of science to the local community and ecosystems.  Cuba has accomplished this in spite of the unjust blocking of Cuban financial transactions by the government of the United States.

The Cuban delegation, in addition to the President, consisted of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Minrex), Bruno Rodríguez; the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment; the Minister of Energy and Mines; the director of International Organizations of Multilateral Affairs and International Law of Minex; among others.  Representatives of the Cuban state sugar company Azcuba also were present to make a proposal concerning low-carbon production of a resilient sugar cane

In his address to the G-77 Summit, the Cuban President observed that the developed countries have ignored their obligations and have persisted in their irrational patterns of production and consumption, and they attempt to transfer to countries in development the costs of responding to environmental stress.  The commitments that they have made have not been fulfilled.  This is why the countries of the Global South need a different and more effective approach.

Díaz-Canel recalled an important idea on the relation between development and the environment, expressed by Fidel in 1992, when the historical leader of the Cuban revolution declared: “In the underdeveloped world, underdevelopment itself and poverty are the principal factors increasing pressure on the environment.  Whereas in the developed world, the patterns of life stimulate an irrational consumption and lead to the waste and destruction of non-renewable resources, multiplying on an unprecedented and previously unimaginable scale the strains to which the local and global physical environment is subjected.”

Díaz-Canel asserted that “more than three decades later, this relationship that is doubly harmful to the environment has deepened dramatically in both directions.  The gap between the irrationally opulent North and the increasingly impoverished South is widening at high human costs, while natural resources given to us are being squandered.”

It would be possible for environmental issues to be realistically addressed at COP28 and applied, Díaz-Canel declared, in accordance with the different circumstances and goals of nations, if a common sense of urgency and unity of purpose were to be attained without delay.  He expressed hope that the Summit of the Leaders of G-77 and China on Climate Change would function as an engine driving in this direction.

He declared that “the South cannot be obligated to choose between development and climate action, inasmuch as the two are indelibly linked.  It is our responsibility to assert the voice of our peoples and to defend their legitimate interests and aspirations.

COP28, the 28th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Climate Change, is being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12.  COP28 was called with the intention of creating international dialogue to evaluate the progress of the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change, with the hope of outlining a plan to reduce carbon emission and protect and sustain life.

In his address to COP28, Díaz-Canel asserted the 2015 agreement created hopes that have not been fulfilled.  “The principal reason has been the attitude of the developed countries, which intend to transfer the costs resulting from non-compliance to the countries in development and to erase their historic responsibilities in the deterioration of the environment.  At the same time, they resist committing themselves to providing support to the nations of the South for the necessary means for climatic action.”  He further noted that the evaluation of environmental objectives ought to take into account the different national circumstances and the needs and economic and social priorities of countries in development.  “We ought to recognize our mistakes and correct them, aligning our commitments with the urgency of the present climatic situation.” He observed that changing the current situation is the task of all, but only the developed nations have the conditions for a more ambitious reduction of carbon emission and for necessary support for the means of implementation of environmental action in the Global South.

Díaz-Canel is arguing, in essence, that the Western imperialist powers, having taken natural and human resources from the Global South, thus rendering them poor and with limited capacity to mobilize for development on their own account, now seek to transfer to the Global South the costs of mitigating environmental damage, for which their patterns of production and consumption are the principal cause.

Díaz-Canel declared, “The countries of the Third World, although they are the least contaminated of the planet, are those that are suffering the worst consequences of climate change, and at the same time, they lack the resources for confronting it, while the developed countries resist making their contribution toward mitigating these consequences.”


The Cuban President, who also is First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba,  took advantage of the international conference to hold formal meetings with various world leaders, including: António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations; Pushpa Kamal Dahal (known as Prachandra), Prime Minister of Nepal and leader of the Communist Party of Nepal; Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; and Ding Xuexiang, Executive Vice Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China and member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

In addition, on November 29, Díaz-Canel undertook an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, in which he was received by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.  The Cuban President’s tour of the Middle East included visits to Qatar on December 3 and the Islamic Republic of Iran on December 4.