No way a ‘fair COP’!!

As the latest round of UN climate talks disappointingly fails to deliver the urgent action needed to halt the climate crisis, Allan Todd argues the entire COP process is less and less likely to prevent ecological catastrophe and calls for radical system change via an ecosocialist transformation to avert climate barbarism.

 

As COP28 comes to a predictably disappointing end, we have learned one thing: the entire COP process is now less and less likely to deliver a serious programme of action to halt the mounting climate and ecological crises.

Given that Sultan Al Jaber has been acting as COP President, this should come as no surprise. He’s the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Special Envoy for Climate Change, a role he has interpreted as two-fold:

(1) To act as a climate change denier—during this COP, he’s said that “there is no science” to support the phasing out of fossil fuels as a way of dealing with the climate crisis!

(2) As the CEO of an oil company, he saw COP28 as an ideal venue for making new agreements to max out on oil! Currently, the UAE is planning the third largest net-zero-busting expansion in the world of oil and gas production:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/04/revealed-uae-plans-huge-oil-and-gas-expansion-as-it-hosts-un-climate-summit

Clearly, Al Jaber thinks his role is to increase the rate of climate change! Thus, appointing him as COP28 President was like appointing a convicted arsonist to take charge of a meeting to reduce wildfires!

A “hellish future”

If the current level of the climate crisis were less serious, his appointment as COP President could be dismissed as a bad joke. But, given the current state, his appointment is a total disgrace.

In May this year, the UN reported that, between 1970 and 2021, extreme weather events—increasingly supercharged by global boiling – had caused over 2 million deaths, as well as costing over $4.3 trillion in economic losses:

https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/05/1136897

Fig. 1 - Climate policies too costly?!
Fig. 1 – Climate policies too costly?!

Since then, 2023 has already become the worst year for the number of such extreme weather events. Across the board, it has shattered climate records and is now officially the hottest year on record. As a result, the earlier “1.5C to Stay Alive!”  ‘target’ has already been passed, with the average global temperature up—for the first time since the Industrial Revolution—by just over 2C. This is why, with greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise, the UN recently warned we are now heading for a “hellish future” of 4C of global boiling:

https://wmo.int/news/media-centre/2023-shatters-climate-records-major-impacts

Fig. 2 - Passing 2C of global boiling in 2023
Fig. 2 – Passing 2C of global boiling in 2023

State of the Climate

On October 24, the latest ‘State of the Climate’ Report was issued by over 15,000 eminent climate scientists. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biad080/7319571?login=false

This highlighted the suffering caused across the globe by record-breaking climate extremes and raised alarms about the possibility of widespread societal and ecological collapse in the future, something David Attenborough had warned about at COP24 in 2018.

The report also criticised recent increases in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, which continues to be the primary driver of climate change, and stated that:

“the truth is that we are shocked by the ferocity of the extreme weather events in 2023. We are afraid of the uncharted territory that we have now entered.”

In particular, this new report warned that 2023 would be a particularly devastating year of extreme wildfires, floods, heatwaves, and other natural disasters that are amplified by climate change. The authors suggest that temperatures this past July may well have been the warmest on Earth over the past 100,000 years, which they called:

“a sign that we are pushing our planetary systems into dangerous instability.”

Additionally, the report revealed that:

“global daily mean temperatures never exceeded 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels prior to 2000 and have only occasionally exceeded that number since then. However, 2023 has already seen 38 days with global average temperatures above 1.5°C by September 12—more than any other year—and the total may continue to rise.”

Finally, the authors, who have spent years monitoring 35 of Earth’s ‘vital signs’ (e.g., global tree cover, greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean temperatures, and livestock populations), pointed out that 20 of those vital signs are now at record extremes, up from 16 in 2022. Their conclusion is a clear one for the entire global climate movement:

“As we will soon bear witness to failing to meet the Paris agreement’s aspirational 1.5°C goal, the significance of immediately curbing fossil fuel use and preventing every further 0.1°C increase in future global heating cannot be overstated.”

Fig. 3 - Heading to a “hellish future” of 4C
Fig. 3 – Heading to a “hellish future” of 4C

Five catastrophic climate tipping points

Much more recently, scientists have warned that the gravest threats to humanity are drawing closer, as rising CO2 levels are heating the planet to ever-more dangerous levels. These put Earth on the verge of five catastrophic climate tipping points, which will create “devastating domino effects,” including the mass displacement of millions of people as well as massive financial ruin.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/dec/06/earth-on-verge-of-five-catastrophic-tipping-points-scientists-warn?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Throwing oil on a planet already burning

And the Tories’ response? Well, quite simply, you couldn’t make it up! Not content with turning the UK into an “illiberal democracy” as regards human rights, the Tories have also opted for Orwellian ‘doublespeak’ as regards climate policies.

First, there’s Sunak: flying to and from the latest COP in a private jet!—yet claiming the Tories are “world climate leaders”! This is from the man who, just two weeks after his father-in-law’s company signed a $1.5 billion deal with BP, finally approved over 100 new oil and gas projects, saying they will “take every last drop” of dirty energy from the North Sea!

Fig. 4 - Where we’re headed
Fig. 4 – Where we’re headed

Then there’s Tory International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell, claiming their climate ‘policies’—which  will pump ever more CO2 into the atmosphere—are “protecting the poorest people” around the world!

All this despite the government’s own Climate Change Committee warning two years ago that the UK is not meeting its targets, that the world is heading for an average global heating of 4C by 2100, and that the UK was not even prepared for coping with the floods and extreme heatwaves a 2C of boiling will bring.

Hitting British citizens

But it’s not just the poor in the Global South that the Tories are throwing under the climate crisis bus. Instead of forcing the fossil fuel giants to reduce their prices and then undertaking a massive national programme of home insulation—both of which would take thousands of UK families out of fuel poverty—the Tories continue to give £millions in taxpayer subsidies to the very companies that are taking the world to the brink of climate collapse.

Plus, as extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, and wildfires, have shown time and time again, it’s mainly ordinary families, especially the poorest, who form the bulk of the victims of the climate crisis. This is true not just in the Global South but also, and increasingly, in the Global North.

The coming general election

Whenever the next election comes, those concerned about the threat of uncontrollable climate collapse should start looking now at how they can cast the most effective green vote.

Clearly, that will not be for any Tory candidate. But, as much as Starmer’s green policies are not as good as those offered by Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 and 2019, they are better than what the Tories are determined to push ahead with. Which means that in most seats, including those in North and West Cumbria, the ‘greenest’ vote will be to vote for the Labour candidate in order to get rid of this ecocidal Tory government. And I say this as a member of the newly formed Transform Politics a democratic radical-left ecosocialist party.

Some ecosocialist demands

For all the above reasons, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, at the bottom, we are now faced with an existential threat—and a clear choice:

‘Ecosocialism—or Capitalist Climate Barbarism!’

As an indication of some of the climate policies we need to see soon, here are some drawn up last year by the Ecosocialist Alliance:

  • All fossil fuels must stay in the ground; there can be no new gas, coal, or oil!
  • A rapid move to renewable energy for transport, infrastructure, industry, agriculture, and homes.
  • A massive global programme of public works is investing in green jobs and infrastructure and replacing employment in unsustainable industries.
  • A globally funded just transition for the Global South, enabling it to develop with the necessary sustainable technologies and infrastructure, and the end of the international debt
  • A major cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 70% by 2030, from a 1990 baseline. This must be comprehensive, including all military, aviation, and shipping emissions.
  • A major reduction in meat and dairy production and consumption through education and the provision and promotion of high-quality, affordable plant-based alternatives.
  • A just transition, re-skilling workers in environmentally damaging industries with properly paid alternative jobs in the new green economy
  • Mobilisation of global resources, with local direction and democratic oversight, for climate change mitigation and adaptation and to address climate catastrophes (e.g., wildfires, floods, droughts, famines, forced migration).
  • Recognition of the economic, cultural, political, and land rights of indigenous peoples and First Nations and an immediate end to the encroachment on and destruction of the territories of indigenous peoples through extractivism, deforestation, and appropriation of land.
Fig. 5 An affordable - & green! - introduction to ecosocialism
Fig. 5 An affordable – & green! – introduction to ecosocialism

The way forward

Ecosocialists put forward a vision of a just and sustainable world and fight for every change, however small, that makes such a world possible. Because every half-degree of global warming that can be avoided will matter, especially if the average global temperature continues to rise.

But, in order to build the forces necessary for those changes—and for a ‘System Change’ that will achieve a transition to ecosocialism—links to climate groups and campaigns with the trade union and labour movements are crucial. Ultimately, we are facing a clear and present danger: neoliberal capitalism. And, as the saying goes,

“United, we win! Divided, we fail!”


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Allan Todd is Acting Organiser for Transform Politics Cumbria, a member of ACR’s Council and of Left Unity’s National Council, and an ecosocialist/environmental and anti-fascist activist. He is the author of Revolutions 1789-1917 and Trotsky: The Passionate Revolutionary – and the forthcoming Che Guevara: The Romantic Revolutionary (out May 2024)


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