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From The Socialist newspaper, 27 November 2013

Nothing achieved by UN climate talks

Contrary to the misleading upbeat media reports, the United Nations climate change conference in Warsaw, which was meant to agree binding reductions in CO2 emissions, effectively ended in failure. John Sharpe writes.

A study due to be published in the journal Climate Change details the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1751 and 2010 which amounts to 914 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions (see box below).

Climate change scientists and campaigners have welcomed the study and hope it will help the current round of talks make progress.

The UN climate change panel, the IPCC, calculated in September that at current rates the "carbon budget" would be exhausted in 30 years.

This is the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted without causing 2C of global warning.

Only weeks after Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines causing devastation, recent UN climate talks in Warsaw delivered a weak compromise agreement that has only put the main questions off until sometime in the future.

Grave doubts

Even the most optimistic commentators have been left with grave doubts that enough can be done. Several hundred environmental campaigners walked out in disgust at the lack of progress.

Al Gore, climate change campaigner and former US vice-president, believes the report shows that it is not just down to governments to act. "Those who are historically responsible for polluting our atmosphere have a clear obligation to be part of the solution", he told the Guardian.

This is, at best, nave and disingenuous. In his own words, it is trying to reallocate "the blame" by allowing governments to hold their hands in the air and claim "not us guv".

The whole point is that the governments wrangling over the UN talks are precisely beholden to the 'dirty 90', the 90 companies that produced two-thirds of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution. They act on behalf of and promote the interests of these massive multinationals and national elites.

There is no way forward under capitalism. The inability and unwillingness of delegates to reach a global agreement to avert catastrophic climate change, once again underscored the limitations of the nation state within the capitalist profit system.

It leaves private and state owned fossil fuel companies free to continue pumping damaging amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is a practice concomitant with capitalism since its inception.

Solving these problems means taking the economic and political power out of the hands of the dirty 90, the other major corporations, and the establishment political parties who do their bidding.

Replacing the chaotic capitalist system with a democratic socialist planned economy is also necessary.

This must involve the full participation of workers, service providers and consumers. Only then can the needs of the overwhelming majority of people and the environment be met.

Climate train to Warsaw: see

Climate change by numbers

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