We Need System Change to Tackle Climate Change
By Daniel Waldron
In late November and early December, world leaders are set to gather in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference. They will be discussing the most profound crisis facing humanity, a crisis which potentially threatens the very existence of our species. Yet the evidence suggests that the decisive and urgent action needed will not be forthcoming.
None of the previous conferences have agreed targets which would keep global temperatures from exceeding two degrees about pre-industrial levels, the widely accepted benchmark if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change. In any case, the agreements are largely meaningless. The 1992 Kyoto Protocol is the most formal agreement to date. Yet, when Canada realised in 2011 that its carbon emissions had increased by 30% rather than fallen by 6%, it simply withdrew from the protocol.
Kyoto’s efficacy was also limited as it did not cover major polluters like the US, China and India. The neo-conservative Bush administration – nakedly representing the interests of big oil – refused to even accept that man-made climate change is a reality. That, at least, has changed under Obama. Yet, while committing in words to tackling global warming, Obama’s administration has promoted a massive expansion of environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas to achieve ‘energy independence’.
The 2010 Copenhagen Conference broke up acrimoniously amidst rows about who should shoulder the burden for tackling climate change – the developed, Western nations who have profited massively through polluting industries historically or the emerging economies rapidly increasing their carbon emissions today. Capitalism is based upon competition between self-interested national ruling classes, each seeking to maximise their wealth and prestige. This is a fundamental barrier to dealing with the climate crisis.
The austerity agenda which dominates Western capitalism has undermined the development of renewable energy resources. Since 2011, global investment in renewables has collapse by 23%, contracting particularly sharply in Europe. This ideological drive to slash public spending is putting our very future in jeopardy. David Cameron has insisted that investment in renewable energy must come primarily from the private sector. Yet there are hundreds of billions to bail out banks or build nuclear weapons to destroy our planet!
The parasitic and rapacious system of capitalism is incapable of delivering the kind of international co-operation, planning and investment necessary to safeguard humanity’s future. To prevent climate change, we need system change! We need to fight to take society’s wealth and resources out of the hands of the profit-hungry fat cats and their political lackeys. That would allow the development of a democratic and rational plan for investment in renewable energy and sustainable production, tackling climate change and environmental destruction while simultaneously creating millions of jobs and improving the lives of billions.