Climate summit didn’t, won’t stop capitalist rulers fouling the earth

By Terry Evans
December 30, 2019

No binding decisions to reduce greenhouse gases were produced at the Dec. 2-16 United Nations Madrid Climate Change Conference.

The representatives of the competing imperialist and capitalist powers there stuck with “voluntary” targets to reduce emissions and finagled over “carbon markets.” They assured that rival bosses seeking to exploit both labor and nature will continue to foul the earth, sea and air in the name of profits.

Emissions of CO2 and other heat-trapping gases contribute to the gradual rise in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. Four years after 197 governments signed the nonbinding Paris Climate Accord, claiming they would avert the impact of global warming, CO2 discharges have continued to rise. Everyone gathered in Madrid, whether opponent or fervent advocate of caps on CO2 emissions, talked endlessly of the need for “governments” to reach an agreement. But the root of the problem is class divisions — between capitalist exploiters seeking profits at all cost and the working people who suffer the consequences.

The rule of the capitalist class is incompatible with protecting the planet for future generations. When the capitalist economist John Maynard Keynes was asked what economics can teach us about the future, his answer was, “In the long run we are all dead.”

The stewardship of nature falls to the working class, whose labor produces all wealth and who have every interest in making industrial and agricultural production safe for ourselves, the communities we live in and for future generations.

As Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes says in the book Capitalism’s World Disorder, “If we translate everything commonly thought of as an environmental issue into how to advance the protection of the working class, and how the working class can extend that protection to all, then we can hardly ever go wrong.”

The Madrid summit was marked by conflicts among the main imperialist powers vying for business and trade advantage and their united efforts to suppress competition from “emerging nations” like China, India and Brazil.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the EU’s “green deal.” It would enshrine into EU law the cutting of carbon emissions to zero by 2050. She tried to hide the protectionist character of the commission’s measures by describing planned new EU tariffs as a “carbon border adjustment mechanism.” She wants to enforce levies on products from outside the EU that they claim do not comply with “climate targets.” They’ll start by slapping new duties on steel and cement imports.

Last year the EU banned the importation of palm oil, declaring its cultivation contributes to deforestation. But the measure actually targeted imports of palm oil by rival capitalist growers in Indonesia and Malaysia, to the benefit of European oilseed growers.

Competing capitalists have fought to boost profits at the expense of rivals in the growing market for so-called carbon credits. The Madrid conference ultimately foundered — after extending attempts at backroom “negotiations” — over failure to agree on a deal on “carbon credits,” also known as “pay to pollute.” Meanwhile, Washington is in the process of pulling out altogether from the Paris Accords.

Middle-class protesters outside the conference insisted “governments” had to do right by the planet. But their combination of panic and warnings of imminent destruction of the earth have nothing to do with advancing a working-class program that is necessary to fight capitalist exploitation, the source of the destruction of the environment.

Boom in ‘climate’ scams

The governments of France and the U.K. favor and use “net-zero” targets for carbon emissions by expanding the use of “carbon offsets.” Under these schemes bosses can avoid cutting their own pollution by funding “green” projects elsewhere that claim to slash CO2 emissions. Last month EasyJet airline bosses in the U.K. purchased offsets “calculated” to reduce 7.5 million tons of carbon dioxide elsewhere and now claim they’re a “zero emissions” airline.

A 2017 EU Commission report said that 85% of all offset programs are scams that failed to give “real, measurable and additional” emissions reductions.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged governments at the conference to agree to a moratorium on building new coal power plants after 2020. Such a move is aimed at the peoples of Africa and Asia and would perpetuate the crippling lack of electrification there, a precondition for economic and social advancement. Some 240 million people in India were estimated to lack access to a regular supply of electricity in 2017.

The Socialist Workers Party calls for extension of aid to expand nuclear power for economic and social development in the semicolonial world. But — even though this would deeply cut carbon emissions — this is opposed by the imperialist powers and many on the middle-class left.

The SWP’s candidates — presenting a working-class alternative to the Republicans and Democrats two-party system and their socialist hangers-on — urge a fight for workers control over production and safety, including control over CO2 emissions, to prevent the bosses from poisoning us all.