The COP26 represents the latest in a 25-year failure in the official approach to dealing with Climate Change. We are now in the midst of accelerating and self-promoting climate catastrophe.
Today you can look around the world and signal dozens of disasters that shouldn’t have happened. Extreme weather events, floods, fires and failed harvests leading to famine. Extreme changes to natural systems are also visible, dead-seas and increasing acidification, ice-melt at the poles and glacial melt on the mountains, record temperatures in inhabited areas stretching above 50 degrees celsius (C).
The COP26 Summit has been delayed by a year because of the COVID Pandemic. It will take place under the shadow of the 6th Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which the United General Secretary called “Code Red” for human societies. This is not opinion, it is peer-reviewed, double-and-triple-checked compilation of thousands of scientific papers detailing proven research from across 5 continents over periods of years and decades which, together, prove the terrible danger we face, as does most life on earth – the 6th Great Extinction.
At over 4,000 pages with appendices, I doubt many delegates to the COP26 Conference will bother to read the IPCC 6th Report, let alone digest the very real implications. But the whole world has access to the science, and the whole world will be watching them.
The UN Conference of Parties (COP) came out of the Earth Summit in 1992 held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The COP was supposed to discuss a collective response to the climate emergency. Those attending could be self-appointed and the process became dominated by the Non-Government Organisations, Corporations and politicians from the richest countries of the global North, quashing the voice of the less developed or powerful nations of the Global South.
The COP process has been a complete failure, and in fact made the situation by creating an illusion of action whilst emissions increase. Even when the so-called “Paris Agreement” offered a legally binding international treaty on climate change, adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016, Governments di little or nothing.
The Paris Agreement is much quoted in 2021, its stated goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels (1850).
COP26 in November will become a major issue far wider than the trade unions and environment movements. Extreme events are becoming worse day-by-day, but also the richest countries that organise as the G7 see COP as a political issue through which they can push a set of ideological, political and economic agendas.
UK Prime Minister Johnson will be hosting COP26, calling for a Summit of deeds not words, but actually pushing his flagship neoliberal offensive as recovery from COVID through new industry and maximising profits of major corporations.
Is COP26 the “last chance”? That was said for each COP in the last decade, with agreements leading to little or nothing. There have been key moments – Kyoto COP3 in 1997 as an agreement that became a battle ground; Copenhagen 2009 which was destroyed by Presdident Obama’s protectionism of the USA’s global interests; and the COP21 Paris 2015 had large demos which were heavily repressed by the French State…I was there.
All Agreements were based-upon the argument that free-market Capitalism can solve the threats from Climate Change. For example, Carbon trading will allow corporations to cap their emissions and lead to overall decline.
But COP has never been a meeting of informed scientists and politicians. 38,000 delegates to COP21 were either delegates of individual governments or lobbyists from “interested parties” including fuel companies, industrialists, and NGOs, all seeking to bargain there interests. A battle ground for economic and political interests, dominated by the most powerful interests.
The US were able to produce a large number of delegates driving forward their agendas, influencing through economic aid and outfits threats. For example, US delegates to the 2017 COP in Durban offered South Africa funding in return for collaboration. In Poland in COP24 was sponsored by the Polish coal company, and COP22 the main sponsors were the Spanish coal and gas corporations.
COP is also a battle-ground for internal national politics and between sections of their ruling classes. It may see complicated but in the end the tussles, in-fighting, self-interest and corporate greed produce compromises that achieve less than nothing. On current proposals to COP26, not current actions, global emissions will reduce by just 1% by 2030 and we will reach average temperature rise of 4C by 2080. More than half the world’s population will be forced from their sea-edge towns and cities (including London and New York) and the more internal areas will be uninhabitable.
It’s not all hopeless. The Paris Agreement in 2015 limited emissions to a target 1.5C, because the smaller countries formed a large alliance based-upon links with the huge protests outside and globally. Where there are hundreds of thousands of people demanding radical change, they do influence the debates inside Conference. That’s why there is so much concern that so many smaller countries may not be able to attend COP26 due to either the extreme costs or the pandemic threat of travel to Glasgow. Our protests are vital to ensure their voice.
The key focus is that currently the global emissions continue to rise. Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything” says if at the start of the COP process, all countries had agreed to reduce their emissions by 2% a year the crisis would be now have been averted. Instead, the politics of delay, rivalry, and off-setting has has won horrific pollution levels and models of climate collapse in the near future.
The IPCC 6th Report most certainly identifies that it will be impossible to halt climate heating to below a 2C average global increase over pre-industrial levels (1850) even if the 8% global reductions in global heating emissions happen every year from now. And there’s no evidence that the COP26 will agree to anything like those levels of reductions.
2C average means some areas experience periods of 0.5C increase whilst others – the Tropics and in-between, experience 4-5C. Afghanistan, for example, is predicted to be 5C hotter by the end of the Century. The 2C could be brought-down again by the century’s end, but at the expense of possibly more than a billion lives lost, and mass forced migration.
There is a recognition that these COP agreements don’t work, but the large countries don’t want legally-binding requirements forcing governments to act. The UN fails to enforce agreements in any case, just look at the way their declarations for Palestine or against nuclear weapons are completely ignored.
Nevertheless, we must recognise that international agreement does matter. COP26 offers an opportunity to raise the issues and demand better solutions. Especially our calls for just transition of industrial production (including industrial agriculture) away from reliance of carbon-fuels and plastics, and 1-4 Million Green Jobs Now! The call for Global Climate Justice is also identifies radical but plausible solutions. Even if the Corporate bosses and their tame politicians won’t listen or budge, our voices and protests will win greater public consciousness and increase the calls for system change.
In the trades unions, Unite, the UCU, NEU and PCS unions are already members of the COP26 Coalition, and we need to build anti-racist organisations, Palestine Solidarity, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi, etc. The organised working class has a key and leading role to play.
The demand for reparations for the Global South is an essential ingredient of our campaigning. The wealth of the global North has been created by the exploitation of the South and the overwhelming majority of the global heating emissions that are destroying whole swathes of the poorer regions of the world. We are going to experience a dramatic reduction in living standards and we should prepare ourselves for that rather than cling to the delusion that the western, middle-class lifestyle can be made sustainable. But, for the Global South, the catastrophe will be far worse.
There is a solution – a vision of the world where we organise the economy in the interests of the Ecology and the interests of the People. We recognise the power of ordinary people to change the world, and the power of workers as the producers at the point of production. These reforms must challenge the structures of fossil fuel capitalism, by taking on its exploitation and racism – and the fossil fuel interests at its heart.
We cannot plan for an ambitious, long-term program of energy conversion without challenging the power of the big oil companies or the nuclear industry, or without confronting the private lobbies of weapons manufacturers or the communications industry, which are more and more closely aligned into the transnational military-industrial-complex.
Politically, the Corporate class know they’re in the spotlight, and are funding a huge publicity and propaganda exercise to pretend that fossil-fuels can solve the climate emergency.
Just look into the greenwash of carbon-capture-and-storage, biofuels, carbon-trading, nuclear energy, blue-hydrogen and climate-engeneering and you quickly find they’re either unproven, in their infancy, comparatively expensive compared existing wind, wave and solar technologies, or too distant as projects that could possibly stop the catastrophe.
There is more than one “Green New Deal”, and many are promoted by the fossil-companies who want to preserve their profits first and foremost, whatever the cost to the Earth.
It’s equally important to note that the climate and environment movement is not intrinsically left-wing, socialist or autonomist. It is not necessarily on the side of workers. The working class has to ensure it has a strong voice inside the climate demands, and argues for collective organisation and mutual support.
There are far-right forces at work: a climate nationalism that argues for militarised borders against climate refugees; a return-to-the-land idealism that blames people not the methods of production for the crisis, and condemns technology. A Malthusian hatred of humanity that looks forward to seeing billions dead through the heat, the starvation and the floods, watching billions die on the news channels because humans are bad. And then there are the xenophobic imperialists who argue for invasion and climate colonialism in order to import resources and food from across the globe and leave “the indigenous” their local famines. White supremacy is being stoked-up for a reason.
The final, although not far away result of the right-wing agenda will be global war. War for Water, war for food, war against the desperate refugees, and potentially a range of civil wars. Such modelling of “possible scenarios” is well advanced in the military Capitals of the powerful nations. Society is carefully being militarised, and democracy – in structure and notion – debased.
But such a dystopian and totalitarian future can only happen if the mass of the people are won to such ideology, embrace nationalism and racism or are pacified and disempowered from protesting for people before profit. The collective power of the working classes of the world, united to defend our lives and our futures, is far greater than the power of Corporate executives.