Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/790/17825
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 2°C 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.
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, naïve 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 www.socialistworld.net/index.php/6566
Climate change by numbers
- 90 companies have produced two-thirds of greenhouse gases produced since the industrial revolution. Half of these emissions were produced during the last 25 years
- 83 are oil, gas and coal companies along with seven cement makers. 50 are giant multinationals, mainly oil firms like BP, Chevron, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell but also coal miners such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton
- 31 are state owned including Saudi Arabia's Saudi Aramco, Russia's Gazprom and Norway's Statoil. There are also nine state owned coal producers in Poland, China, the former Soviet Union and North Korea
- 30% of emissions were produced by 20 companies. Many of the firms have vast reserves of fossil fuels which, if used, would greatly increase the dangers of global warming
In The Socialist 27 November 2013:
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