The World Cup controversy is portrayed as a clash of cultures. But the real divide
On one level, COP27 was something of a success. After thirty years of lobbying, nations making up the Global South secured a 'breakthrough' agreement for the richest nations to provide a ‘loss and damage fund’. This means financial assistance to these underdeveloped and exploited nations, who have done little to contribute to climate change, but are already suffering and will continue to suffer its most severe impacts. The deal was forced through by the G77 + China, a coalition of 134 developing countries (plus China, which is not a member, but is a donor and political ally), and despite attempts by the EU to divide the coalition by insisting that China (a country that has contributed little to historical greenhouse gas emissions) should be included as a donor.
On another level, COP27 must also be seen as a resounding failure. Most of the Western world experienced extreme heat and drought this year—conditions we must expect much of Britain to remain in for the next decade. Many also felt the effects of fuel scarcity, when the Russia-Ukraine conflict impacted supply lines. However, these developments still could not motivate Western governments to try and slash emissions or limit warming to below 1.5C. Instead they view the 'loss and damage' deal as absolving them of responsibility for the ecological crisis they are producing—they pose as being magnanimous and philanthropic, while the deal itself remains vague and uncertain.
In the words of the World Wildlife Fund, capitalist leaders of Western nations have compromised with what could be a “fund for the end of the world”—an end they will continue to manufacture. We cannot accept the delusion that capitalism can solve climate change, or reverse ongoing catastrophes, such as the disastrous flooding in Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh, leaving thousands dead and millions more displaced and destitute. Capitalism, in its unplanned production, in its relentless consumption, and in its segregation of the globe, produces ecological devastation and exports it to the oppressed nations of the periphery. This economic basis underlying most of our world system requires the exploitation of our natural resources to sustain itself—the drive to maximise the rate of profit is essential. While it remains so profitable to clear forests for industrial agriculture, to drill the seabed for gas or oil, and to quarry for precious metals to be used in tech, that profit will be driven for. And so the biggest polluters, the countries who most profit from environmental destruction to maintain their hegemonic position in the world imperialist order, will not take the action required for the climate.
The changes needed cannot be put into place solely by emerging nations and the countries of the Global South, who after centuries of colonialism are beginning to break the grip of imperialist world powers. For many, such as Venezuela, a transition to green energy is made especially hard when it comes at the cost of being further indebted to the West. Adaptation for climate resilience is hardly an option for some, when European colonialism left no trace of infrastructure in its wake and still, to this day, robs them of their resources. Others, such as the petro-states of the Middle East, act as client states to warring imperialist world powers. This year’s host nation, Egypt, went so far as using the presidency and their alliances with the influential fossil fuel lobby to stifle any significant agreement. Next year's hosts, the United Arab Emirates, have already been warned that this cannot be repeated at COP28. But this warning will fall on deaf ears, so long as the US maintains the ruling dynasty and has 5,000 air force troops stationed 20 miles from their capital.
To keep global warming to no more than 1.5C—as called for in the Paris agreement (and to avoid total cataclysmic disaster)—emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030. Commitments towards this goal (unsurprisingly) fall well short. According to the UN, we’re on for an increase of almost 11% emissions compared to 2010 levels. Out of the top seven emitters (China, the USA, India, the EU, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, and Brazil), only one—China—is on track to peak CO2 emissions before 2030. Indeed, analysis by liberal environmental publication ClimateBrief suggests that this goal will be “significantly overachieved”—with China projected to peak CO2 emissions in 2025. This achievement cannot be understated, and runs contrary to the rhetoric and assertions of the Western ruling class, who claim that China threatens world security and prosperity due to its highly centralised political and economic system.
Can we believe this class, its claims and motivations? No—because what is more threatening to world security and prosperity than a blanket-bomb of emissions and an ecologically devastated future? Which is no future at all, but our currently deteriorating reality. Capitalism is unable to meaningfully respond to the challenge of the already changing climate—so the capitalists are forced to resist and mitigate any action, because it would expose them and lead to their overthrow. As such, it is totally inconceivable that any meaningful agreement can be reached at COP under the given conditions.
We must not look to COP any longer—the solution will not come as relief funds provided by imperialists, but as a part of the revolution against them.
Featured image: A secondary landslide near Attabad village in northern Pakistan on January 22, 2010, after the original massive landslide of January 4th blocked most of the Hunza Valley and dammed the Hunza River. Inayat Ali (Shimshal)/Pamir Times