Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Boycott the Paris Climate Change Talks

The final stages of preparation for the Paris climate change talks are still underway, but all is not well in the world of the national climate change management negotiators. Preliminary negotiations have made clear that there will be no legally binding agreement on CO2 emissions and it will be difficult to secure agreement on reparations for developing nations, who are seeking an annual fund of $100 billion to invest in energy projects to make affordable, low emissions technology available to them.

The EU will not support a deal that is not legally binding on all 200 nations participating in the talks. India and China will not accept a deal that inhibits their energy strategies, which depend largely on fossil fuels (especially coal in China). Most developing nations are focused on the creation of a global fund and, if this does not materialize at the funding level they expect, will object to other aspects of any climate change deal.  All of the offers of CO2 cuts made to date will also not “stop” climate change reaching more than 2C by 2100 – the arbitrary target chosen to guide these discussions. Things look bleak.

But then this is all a very silly idea. The idea that 10,000+ people who will gather in Paris in December can “stop climate change” is in itself a nonsense. The climate is a complex business with many different factors playing a role in shaping the way in which climate plays out in the regions of the world.  Yes, man-made CO2 is a part of the climate system, but it is a small part and many climate scientists remain unsure of the extent to which climate is sensitive to CO2 and what the contribution of this man-made proportion of CO2 (which also comes from other sources) plays in such a complex system. There is no simple correlation (i.e. increases in CO2 lead automatically to increases in global mean surface temperature) and a relentless focus on this one variable is now a part of the problem as well as part of the work that needs to be done.

It would be much better for these delegates to focus on the implications of inequality in the world and the way in which modern capitalism works – the issue that is really at the heart of these talks. What these talks are really all about is the right of all people to live a decent, secure life with access to affordable shelter, energy, food and economic security. These are all seen to be threatened by current modes of economic and social development as symbolized by CO2 emissions.

The secret negotiations between governments and representatives of the richest people in the world for so-called “free trade deals) like the TTP and the EU-US deal (TTIP) will have an impact on what we eat, how we travel, how we live our lives and how nations live together (or not). These negotiations – which many do not connect with climate change or energy development – will have more impact on the environment, climate, oceans and energy strategy than the meetings in Paris. Yet the details of these talks are secret – only the negotiators, a strictly limited number of Government Ministers and a legion of lobbyists know them. Maybe we should cancel the Paris climate change talks, which will go nowhere, and instead refuse to meet until the full details of the TTP and TTIP are released and their environmental impacts assessed.

As I mentioned before in my previous blog, the real issue under discussion in Paris is the future of capitalism for all. That is, equity is the real issue.

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