By Stephen Rigney
Held on the Indonesian island of Bali, December’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conference was yet another huge failure in a long line of conferences addressing the issues of climate change and global warming.
The conference, sponsored by the United Nations, was host to over 10,000 diplomats, scientists and lobbyists from 189 countries, yet was once again unable to offer any solutions or make any real decisions.
Typically, at a conference supposedly aimed at introducing cuts in carbon emissions, the two week long event was estimated to have been responsible for the release of nearly 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions, comparable with the annual emmissions of Chad. The IPCC’s own recommendation of cutting industrialised nations’ emissions by 25-40% by 2020 and international emissions by the same amount by 2050, was resolutely ignored as the United States threatened to withdraw from the conference if binding targets were established. The Bali statement remained incredibly vague as to what exactly the outcome of the conference was and what steps would actually be taken to challenge climate change, agreeing on “reduction objectives” and “quantified emission reduction” which are empty phrases without any concrete targets.
The Bali conference was another farce and a smokescreen to give the impression that capitalist governments are genuinely concerned about the environment. The lack of any concrete targets being established clearly shows that what’s at stake for them is not the environment, but economics and specifically, the effects that carbon emission reduction would have on the profits of industry at home.
The necessary research and development for creating low-emission industry and production techniques would cost billions, which capitalism is not willing to pay if it will damage its short-term profits. While some of the more far-sighted European governments and a number of European businesses have attempted to “lead” the way in demanding binding targets, this has been entirely done to support their own interests in enlarging the $60bn European Trading Scheme.
The ETS is the largest carbon trading market in the world and has become a highly lucrative business since the introduction of carbon trading schemes under the Kyoto Protocol, which allow less industrialised nations to sell their “excess” carbon credits to the more advanced nations, allowing them to avoid cutting emissions by buying more credits. The vultures of Shell Oil, British Airways and the European banks, amongst others, were present at the Bali conference for this reason alone.
While the spectre of depleting oil resources has forced the multinational energy companies into developing renewable forms of energy, the struggle has been to develop patents over this technology to corner a share of the market, rather than to offer an alternative to fossil fuels.
The production of bio-fuel crops, mainly in the developing world, has been heralded as big business’ committment to the environment, yet has had the gross effect of increasing food and milk prices for some of the world’s poorest people, as production switches from food production to bio-fuel.
The anarchic structure of capitalism and its drive for profits inherently creates these contradictions and offers no solutions to them. To really address the crisis that faces the planet, it isn’t enough to merely tamper with the current system. We need a co-ordinated socialist plan to deal not just with climate change, but also with the whole of industry, removing unnecessary wastage and investing in renewable technology for the benefit of ordinary working people and not for the interests of profit.