December 29, 2018 | 17 minutes read

COP24: International environmental negotiations, or imperialist dictatorship?

COP24: International environmental negotiations, or imperialist dictatorship?

COP24, the latest Conference Of the Parties (197 countries) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began on the 3rd of December 2018 in Poland, with the expectation of finalising the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change which was agreed in 2015. The Paris Agreement which, is little more than a farce, is an agreement that allows capitalist imperialism to keep on doing what it has been doing, destroying the earth. The agreement set a pathetic goal of preventing the worlds temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – which at the time gained heavy criticism, because even 1.5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise would have devastating effects. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) most recent report, we have 12 years before this amount of warming becomes reality, unleashing effects such as an increase in extreme climatic events; droughts, floods, hurricanes, decline of coral reefs by 70-90%, a near ice-free Arctic Ocean, a deluge of increasing diseases, smaller yields of major staple crops as well as a decline in their nutrient content, and threats to all recorded species (IPCC, 2018) – so much so that scientists are saying that a sixth mass extinction is underway; when the Earth loses more than 75% of its species in a short geological period; something that has happened only five times in the past 540 million years, and the sixth is occuring at a rate between 1000 and 10,000 times faster (Nguyen, 2017). All of these effects listed in the report will be considerably increased by 2°C of warming and will particularly effect places close to the equator and south of it, but namely those that are extremely poor (IPCC, 2018); those that are usually termed as 'developing' nations; a term used to denote both oppressed nations under the yoke of imperialist capital and those nations who have dared to retain their independence from this capital following the collapse of the USSR – notably Russia and China.

It stands to reason that the IPCC itself, a body which is supposed to support the UNFCCC and its conferences, isn't even being listened too by the 'developed' nations, imperialist nations. So is it any surprise that the Paris Agreement itself set its sights on no more than 2°C of warming? After all, many of the large sponsors of COP21 were corporate polluters themselves, Air France, Renault and EDF to name a few, and to add insult to injury there was not even one legally binding commitment of the agreement, it was all voluntary with no penalties for non-compliance, nations can simply leave after three years if they wish. Which seemed to fit the agenda of imperialist nations, not least the U.S; John Kerry Secretary of State for Obama said the US wouldn't be subject to any legally binding document (Nelsen, 2015), and US officials and Obama made sure any mention of liability, or compensation, for causing climate change that especially effects those places the US wants to remain under its boot, would be kept out of the agreement – or else it will 'kill the COP' (Goldenberg, 2015). From this starting position, it was easy for Trump to come in and signal to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, though this hasn't stopped the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia blocking the COP24 conference from adopting the latest IPCC report, even questioning its importance (Gabbatiss, 2018) and given the clearly oppositional stance of any US cabinet going back decades to the climate change it has a major part in creating, piecemeal policies or completely pulling out lead to the same thing: business as usual. Trump has touted the same argument as the Bush administration in 2001, when it refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol treaty; stating 'It would damage the U.S economy'. Four years later US State Department papers showed how Exxon executives and the Bush administration worked hand in hand on climate change policy and disinformation campaigns (Vidal, 2005).
Fast forward to the Trump administration and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was made a short lived Secretary of State, until Trump got the CIA director Mike Pompeo in his place, citing a 'more similar thought process' on various policies such as the Iran deal and Military spending (BBC, 2018). In laymens terms, 'governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class' (Connolly, 1914). The reality of the Paris Climate Agreement was laid bare, though being hailed as a landmark agreement by the liberal world, over 600,000 people took part in demonstrations around the world in opposition to such a weak agreement and leaders of nations facing the onslaught of imperialist induced climate change voiced concerns and offered sobering realities: 'Capitalism must be destroyed to solve climate change' said Socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales. Raul Castro, the Socialist President of Cuba in 2016 said the Paris Agreement was limited and the lack of political will of industrialised nations prevents effective commitments (Montoya, 2016) but the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba said Cuba has no alternative but to comply with the agreement, in order to survive the current century, and hopes it is enforced and its big challenges are met (Montoya, 2016). Whether or not they will be is another matter, COP24 offers an insight.

COP24 was set to end on the 14th of December 2018, 16 months after a report in Nature, an international weekly journal of science; stating that all major industrialised countries are failing to meet the pledges they made to cut emissions, the EU, Japan and the US say one thing and in policy enact something entirely different, their policies don't even reach half of the cuts they have pledged (Victor et al, 2017). It is being held in Poland, described by some as Europes climate denial capital, of the EU bloc it has the largest coal industry, which produces some 90% of its electricity. Its leaders have opposed piecemeal efforts by the EU bloc to pursue a different energy and climate policy – in turn the EU throw scorn, but they are bold to do so. Polands complicated position was hardly helped by the counter-revolution supported by Reagan, Thatcher, the Pope and a slew of funds from the CIA and Catholic Church to prop up the anti-working class programme of Solidarnosc. Poland went from a socialist state defending gains of the working class to a right-wing ruled bourgeois state in bed with the Catholic Church, that is heavily allied with the U.S. Secondly the EU is far from squeaky clean, beneath the shiny varnish is a woodworm ridden plank of emissions outsourcing policies and a flagship Emissions Trading System (ETS) which in its simple reality, is a system of tradeable pollution permits for capitalist industry, often granting permits in surplus allowances to meet emissions obligations on paper.. At COP24 the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), a cohort of corporations aiming for climate objectives with minimal economic harm, insisted of their right to be part of the climate negotiations, and directly intervene in negotiating texts (Farand, 2018). Groups like these are welcomed. Not even Germany, often the poster-boy for renewables, can escape the fact that it is the EUs worst polluter and in environmental negotiations seeks to ease demands on its powerful auto industry (Toplensky, 2018). It was only in 2015 that the Volkswagen emissions scandal revealed that company engineers were fitting cars with defeat devices designed to circumvent emissions tests, and this went to the top; they even admitted it was formulated in 2006 (Leggett, 2018), the audacity of the bourgeoisie is astounding, their rapacity for profits is stunning.

So really what do all of these high flung EU regulations and environmental negotiations amount to if the state and the capitalists, working hand in hand, can just subvert them. 2018 marks the first time in five years since CO2 emissions from 'advanced' economies has risen; America and the EU with a higher oil and gas use are off-setting declining coal consumption (IEA, 2018). As the negotiations went on in Poland, Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon seemed sympathetic to the climate crisis, but then met with the CEO of a Cement company and her party back home were pushing through tax relief for oil and gas companies (Rance, 2018). Britains minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth; Claire Perry, attended a 'PoweringPastCoal' event that spoke highly of moving towards gas, even fracking or biomass power stations; whose solution is to import wood from the US and burn it. (Farand, 2018). To say this was Green-washing would be letting them off lightly, Perry stating British citizens should be proud of what Britain has done, Britain being the oldest most parasitic imperialist power should convince us otherwise, there is little to be proud of what Britain has done, let alone its abysmal efforts on the environmental front, maybe Perry is proud of Britain being ranked 6th worst for granting fossil fuel subsidies in the millions (Staffell, 2018). It was literally only in October when Fracking begun again in Britain despite being banned in 2011; activity has subsequently been halted due to creating a 'seismic event' – an earthquake (Rawlinson, 2018). The United States was once again subverting the little available to subvert, obstructing talks at the COP24 summit by continuing to block any attempts at mentioning losses and damages caused by imperialist nations like theirs, the US even hosted an event with Australia to promote the use of fossil fuels , all while leaders of small island states the world over shout at the top of their lungs that the actions of the US and those like them, will literally submerge their islands under the ocean (Doherty, 2018).

Climate finance was a 'sticky' issue during COP24, it is basically a provision that has been agreed at all previous stages of international environmental negotiations, Kyoto, Paris and the Convention itself. It seeks to facilitate financial assistance from “parties with more resources, to those less endowed and more vulnerable” (UNFCC, 2018). These kind of 'financial mechanisms' aim to fund mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. Entities like the Green Climate Fund (GCF) operate as entities of the Financial Mechanisms of the Convention, it aimed to raise $100 billion annually until 2020, at the time of writing, December 2018, it has $10 billion. Of that $10 billion, the US has pledged $3 billion, Japan $1.5 billion, France $1 billion, Australia $187 million, Canada $277 million, Britain $1.2 billion, Germany $1 billion, Sweden $581 million, Norway $271 million (GCF, 2018). Not even these pledges have been fully met, the US is short by $2 billion, Germany $250 million, Britain around $200 million – the list goes on. Additionally Australia announced this year it would no longer provide funds to the GCF (Stefanini, 2018), actions like these coupled with Trumps aura of climate denial, and now Brazils new president elect, the fascist Bolsorano echoing the same, signal an extremely worrying period. The pledges made, partly capital, partly grants or loans, may seem considerable, but it is an incredibly insignificant amount of wealth, when the U.S, for example, holds a majority share of the world economy; roughly 40% across most financial indicators. Ultimately asking developed, namely imperialist nations, to provide financial resources to assist the nations it is maldeveloping, oppressing, looting, is not something happily received, it is not in their interests one iota. Personified by Trumps remarks about the GCF itself, a scheme to “redistribute wealth from rich to poor countries” (Sengupta, 2017). Interestingly enough, one of GCFs core guidelines is to have a strong focus on private-sector involvement, with respectable intentions such as 'guaranteeing long term support from developed countries' and 'securing a growing volume of private funding' but in reality this is legitimising Capitalism. “Private sector investments are not the appropriate way to support adaptation, as they are profit orientated” is how one Cuban delegate put it (Plaza, 2018). During COP24, the finance accounting section of the Paris Agreement text was in heated debate, after COP24 no concession was made and the text effectively allow the US to “give a $50m non-concessional loan to Malawi for a mitigation project. The loan would have to be paid back with interest, a net transfer of wealth from South to North. Yet the US could count $50m towards its climate finance obligation“ (Brandoncwu, 2018).

Contrast this with how China has been leading in the renewable energy sector and in its aid to developing nations being concessional and non-interfering (LSE, 2018). On the African continent, China provided almost $10 billion to finance hydropower projects and $1.5 billion to finance solar, wind and geothermal projects (Brautigam, 2018). Despite the majority energy production within China still being dependent on fossil fuels, Chinas strides toward renewable energy and a reduction in fossil fuel use is impressive. In 2017 China invested £126.6 billion alone in renewables (UNEP, 2018), it is currently a leader in this investment, an example of its implications is that despite PV solar panels being around for decades, only since this Chinese investment have they plummeted in cost (Roberts, 2018). Additionally China has put a cap on coal use, aiming for 58% by 2020, over 64% in 2015, as a mandatory measure (Lin, 2017) and in 2017 cancelled 104 new coal plants, of which 47 projects were already under construction and in total worth an estimated $30 billion (Plumer, 2017). This is just a glimpse into the complexity of China, and energy production, but its results are clear and they are notably different to the actions of imperialist nations. At the time of writing COP24 has ended, despite being set for two weeks, it ran over by a day, and the final plenary session was postponed more than 8 times over a 26 hour period. Many of the issues in this article were sticking points that forced it to over run, such as carbon markets, private-sector involvement, financing issues etc. The text that has been agreed has not moved any further forward on any of them either, a few items have been postponed for the next meeting. A mix of anger, frustration and disappointment is understandably being voiced by various non-government organisations, various campaigns and the majority of nations who are parties to the Conference.

The climate crisis is a colossal threat and efforts to rectify it are insufficient, but with the centrality of the class struggle, we see a solution - it doesn't have to be doomed to fail. Socialist revolution, will unleash a force to preserve humanity and transform the economy, from a one that thirsts for infinite profits at the expense of human need and planetary safety to a one that averts climate catastrophe and meets the basic needs of people. Climate Change was created by imperialism and its industry in the last three centuries, largely an issue of production, one example from the tip of the iceberg we are staring at today is that 100 companies alone are responsible for 71% of global emissions (Riley, 2017), and in the 28 years between 1988 and 2016 the fossil fuel industry doubled its contribution to global warming; emitting as much Green House Gases (GHGs) in that short period as the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution (CDP, 2017). “When individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results can be taken into account in the first place.” (Engels, 1883), I.e nature is not even an after-thought, it is not even considered. It is clear, what the means of production being commanded by the imperialist bourgeoisie; spells for humanity, and for the Earth. While such industry and its fossil fuel love lust is largely to blame for global emissions, it is ultimately tied to the militaries commanded by imperialists, which are among the worlds largest polluters, the US military being the largest, with an astonishing toxic legacy; the most nuclear weapons tests of any nation, depleted uranium, spillages of oil and jet fuels, chemical warfare through pesticides and defoliants, contamination of water supplies, dumping heavy metals and explosives into waters local and oceanic, the list goes on (Webb, 2017). If it is not climate change, it will be imperialisms necessity toward war that will destroy the Earth.

Therefore it can only be resolved through the workers, the revolutionary proletariat, wielding control, the class which is the natural successor to the ruling bourgeoisie and the solution to the class contradictions and the capitalist crises' that persist. Cuba is a perfect example of this, in Cuba lives on the legacy of the Bolshevik revolution, and Cuba is embarking on a 100-year plan to protect itself from climate change; their climate change policy is driven by science and their own scientists. According to former UN Food and Agriculture Organisations representative for Cuba, the island has become immune to bee die-offs due to its sustainable and organic agricultural practices – it is pesticide free (Reuters, 2016). Cuba is the only nation to have “very high human development” while maintaining a considerably low ecological footprint (GFN, 2015). Cuba has 25% of its marine waters protected, students receive mandatory environmental education in primary and secondary schools; education in Cuba is of course free also. Cuba has excellent environmental law, more importantly it enforces it. Cuba's reforesting programme saw the island go from 13.6% of national territory being forested, to 31.1% and it is growing (Xinhua, 2017). Cuba is also pursuing higher renewable energy development, with projects in solar, wind and biomass nearing completion. Cuba has sincere conservation efforts, “We do not need any more transferring to the Third World of lifestyles and consumption habits that ruin the environment” (Castro, 1992). Now, what is clear is that, despite imperialist blockade, isolation attempts, coup attempts, every type of covert and overt aggression toward it by mainly the US, Cuba was able to achieve all of these things listed above. Nicaragua's head of delegation, Dr. Paul Oquist said “Nicaragua is responsible for only 0.03% of global emissions, but we have gone from 25% of renewable energy in 2007 to 56% last year. Also, we are in the process of reforesting, afforesting and restoring 2.8 million hectares of degraded land..At the same time, Nicaragua has reduced extreme poverty from 17% in 2005 to 8% last year. If the second most impoverished country in America can achieve these achievements, why can not countries with more resources?” (TN8, 2018).

It is clear why – socialism is the only social system capable of tackling the environmental crisis.

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