Climate change conference – Imperialist hands irreversibly tied by the profit motive
World leaders and diplomats scrambled to a deal in Paris at the COP21 conference. Extra time was required to strike a deal, avoiding egg on the face of leaders. Hailed as historic, the deal ultimately amounts to very little.
If the deal is actually implemented, global temperatures are still set to rise by 3o Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The ambition was to keep this figure down to 1.5 o Celsius. Therefore, the deal fails on its own terms. This is also above the 2 o Celsius limit given by scientists who warn against going any higher (The Guardian, 14 December 2015).
Shamefully, “Under US insistence, the 31-page agreement was explicitly crafted to exclude emissions reductions targets” (The Guardian, 13 December 2015).
The agreement was also entirely anti-democratic. With the scramble for a deal came conveniently overlapping meetings. Such a state of affairs is fine for the imperialist countries and their small army of diplomats. For small countries this meant they were effectively barred from participation ( The Guardian, 14 December 2015).
Much maligned by the imperialist media, China has already made giant strides in tackling climate change. The research undertaken in connection with China’s recently-published Third National Assessment Report on Climate Change revealed that temperatures in the country had risen by 0.9-1.5 degrees over the past century. This trend threatens devastation for the heavily populated coast.
With that in mind the Chinese government has already taken a raft of measures. Last year alone saw $90 billion of government investment in renewable energies. It installed an unprecedented 23 gigawatts of wind power in 2014. Consequently, coal use dropped by 4.7% last year. Furthermore, ” Greenpeace says China has shut down 18GW of old coal plants, and is likely to shut another 60GW by 2020… The latest “high efficiency low emission” (HELE) facilities cut CO2 by 25pc-33pc. ” (The Telegraph, 16 December 2015).
Additionally, up to 8 new nuclear power plants are to be built each year. This will give a total of 110 by 2030. In the first quarter of 2015 the Chinese built more solar panels than exist in all of France – while in Britain, post-COP21, our own government has announced solar subsidies are to be cut by 65%! Our government further laughed in the face of the deal by investing £175 million in dirty diesel fuels (The Guardian, 17 December 2015).
With such measures the Chinese authorities are trailblazers with regards to tackling climate change, whilst the finger-waggers lag behind.
Any casual viewer of 24 hour news would probably hold China, ‘the world’s biggest polluter’, and as the main climate change culprit. However, given the size of its population, it requires an element of sleight of hand to make such a presentation. While China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, it also contains the largest number of people. Indeed when we compare to China to the imperialist and developed countries, the true culprits soon emerge. The Chinese government has correctly attacked imperialism’s “simplistic narrative” (The Telegraph, 2 December 2015). For instance, figures for 2014 from the European Commission’s Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research, show that China emits 7.6 tons per capita of carbon dioxide. The United States emits a whopping 16.5 tons per capita. This means for each US citizen more than double the emissions are made than for each Chinese citizen. Qatar is responsible for an unbelievable 39.13 tons per capita. The Saudi fiefdom emits 16.8, the United Arab Emirates 21.3, Australia 17.3, Canada 15.9, Japan 10.10 and South Korea 12.3. Clearly, China is not the problem here.
This becomes further evident by way of historical data. The Commission also lists figures dating back to 1990. In that year the same countries produced the following per capital emissions: the US 19.6, Qatar 34.8, Saudi Arabia 10.4, U.A.E 31.24, Australia 16.10, Canada 16.2, Japan 9.6 and South Korea 6.2. At this time, China emitted a tiny 2.1 tons per capita. Peak emissions for the other countries mentioned also occurred throughout the 2000-2010 period ( http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2ts_pc1990-2014).
The figures clearly show that China was very late to arrive at the carbon party. Quite simply, when China was emitting tiny amounts of carbon, other countries had long been pumping it into the environment. It does not take a genius to see the link between fossil fuel use and industrialisation. Any economy relies on labour power, but an industrialised economy needs labour power plus energy. Countries like our own have polluted heavily for over a century. If figures for the entire period were available, we can only imagine the astronomical aggregate pollution. Again, China was late to the party, therefore, aggregate emissions would be comparatively tiny.
By constantly attacking China over climate change, the imperialists seek to punish China for its success in raising over 600 million people out of poverty. This was done on the back of economic growth necessarily fuelled by fuel. The imperialists have long enjoyed the fruits of industrialisation and development. Now they wish to deny China (and others) access to these fruits. Holding back Chinese development is a long term strategic objective of imperialism. To hold back the tide would be more achievable. China will grow with or without fossil fuels, as its recent diversification of the power supply shows.
Other countries in the crosshairs
It is of course not only China which imperialism seeks to undermine. The imperialists use climate change as a weapon against the entire developing world, as well as anti-imperialist and progressive countries. The issue is used to create a cultural climate (for lack of a better term) where significant fossil fuel usage is politically untenable.
This cultural climate benefits imperialism by causing economic harm to many of the world’s forces of progress. Needless to say, if there is less demand for fossil fuels, producers of these fuels will be hurt. This means an attack on Russia’s economy, on Venezuela, on China and Iran. It is an attack on socialist Cuba which depends on Venezuelan oil.
Imperialisms historic abuse of our environment show they care not one bit for it, our planet or mankind. Evidently their motives are to be found elsewhere.
The countries most likely to be economically harmed, are in many cases, the most keen to slow down and even halt global warming. Such countries want to save our planet. But they want to do it in a fairer manner.
At the Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Cuban representative argued that global warming is a problem relating to production and human consumption. Pedro Luis Pedroso further stated that, therefore, a new economic order is required (Prensa Latina, 1 December 2015). This mirrors the position of the CPGB-ML, “you’ve got to be red to be green.”
G-77 countries, which include China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and Vietnam, argued in favour of a fairer share of the burden on climate change. They correctly state that it is primarily the developed countries which should foot the bill owing to their historical emissions. This was a response to the Paris draft agreement calling on countries other than developed countries to contribute. It is worth noting that China had already pledged $3 billion per annum in climate finance. This would go towards the global $100 billion to be raised by 2020.
“Climate finance money is used to combat the effects of global warming in two main ways. The first is to use it for mitigation purposes. Many developing countries are interested in investing in projects that will be both profitable and energy efficient in the long term, but they lack funds. A country may, for example, be unable to develop solar panels without outside investment. Such nations, therefore, look to wealthier, developed countries to invest in these initiatives, which have an environmental benefit.
“Climate finance money is also used for adaption. The countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are generally those with the least resources. A nation may want to build a dam to prevent floods or relocate residents away from coastal areas. It is an expense that many developing countries cannot afford and to adequately protect residents the government may have to divert money from vital services such as education and healthcare….
“Developed nations have greater capacity to fund research into new sustainable technologies, but the developing world wants to ensure that these advances are also beneficial and accessible to them.
“Small island states are pressing for compensation for climate change damage they have already suffered, so-called loss and damage. The United States and other countries are reluctant to introduce new legal liabilities into the text of the agreement that could open them up to a raft of legal and financial vulnerabilities.
“ActionAid’s Harjeet Singh warned that loss and damage was ‘not a bargaining chip.’ Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu was in no mood to compromise on the topic at a news conference last weekend.
“‘The world is dragging its feet,’ Sopoaga said. ‘We must have loss and damage included in the legal agreement out of Paris’ ” (LA Times 9 December 2015).
In contrast the United States wants (and what it wants it gets from the ‘international community’ of stooges) any money given to be on a voluntary basis. In other words, they will help who they want, when they want, and on their own terms. The US does not want to be duty bound to pay for the damage it has caused. It of course also wishes to move away from differentiation, whereby the historic polluters pay more than developing countries. “The idea of even discussing loss and damage now or in the future was off limits. The Americans told us it would kill the COP,” said Leisha Beardmore, chief negotiator for the Seychelles ” (The Guardian, 13 December 2015).
For the US, the Paris Agreement was an attempt to create a barrier to development. It looked to dodge the bullet of paying for the disasters it has caused. It looked to make rising countries pay for the environmental crimes of imperialism. It looked to make the countries who face devastation and potential Armageddon bear the responsibility. Essentially it blamed the victims.
Far from being willing to shoulder a fair burden, it regards the whole exercise as another opportunity for profiteering. Influenced by Goldman Sachs, for the US, “capital markets can and should play an important role in addressing environmental challenges”
In fact, “Financial institutions are already making large profits from financing many activities related to global warming. The most common funding is for clean energy solutions, underwriting green bonds and structuring catastrophe-linked securities to help clients to manage climate change risks.
“Trillions of dollars are available for climate and renewable energy projects. The US bank Goldman Sachs created an environmental funding framework in 2005 and has allocated $150bn to finance clean energy projects by 2025.
“Corporations were involved in just about every aspect of COP21, including helping to pay for the summit. Meanwhile, a few select non-governmental organisations were permitted only to look over the draft of the agreement at the end of each day. Organisers kept thousands of protesters away from the delegates.
“Largely because of the power corporations wield, the COP21 agreement includes mostly business-friendly market place solutions” (Al Jazeera, 18 December 2015).
Profiteering, however, can ultimately no more save the planet than it can feed the hungry. Just as the poor cannot afford food, they cannot afford renewable energy projects designed to produce billions in profits for imperialism.
In the aftermath of Paris, there is much scope for skepticism.