Capitalism has led to poverty, deprivation, and wars. It has also caused a devastating impact on the global climate, putting at risk not only humanity, but all life on the planet.
Capitalist governments have become servitors to the system, and instead of protecting the lives of people and the survival and beauty of the planet, they serve as shields for corporate profits. Critics highlight the environmental crimes committed by transnational corporations that capitalistic rulers attempt to conceal for the sake of profit-making.
The recent international moot on climate, COP26, was a reminder of how governments don’t show sincerity in their commitment to stopping climate change. It also showed that they were unable to act seriously towards environmental issues due to the whims of capitalism as well as corporate interests.
It was held in Glasgow, Scotland and was attended by 120 heads-of-state. Environmental activists deemed it a failure, as COP26 failed offer a solid strategy that would address the urgent and most serious environmental threats facing our planet.
Meanwhile, around 100,000 protestors marched through Glasgow on November 5th and 6th to mark the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. This was to speak truth to power and give momentum to the struggle for environmental injustice and denounce capitalism.
A Pakistani trade unionist has shared his learnings from COP 26 with us.
No more Blah, blah, blah!
The official COP26 delegates were referred to by environmental activists as jargon. Blah, blah and blah was Greta Thunbergs response to the ineffectual, high profile climate summit. Representatives from different countries and diverse political, social, and environmental organisations marched in the rain and freezing winds to protest the capitalist attitude of governments regarding the environment.
Trade unions participating in the conference, especiallyIndustriALL Global Union (IGU), stressed the need for meeting the demands of social justice to cope with climate change. It was an honor for me to participate in the COP26 Rosa Luxemburg Foundation delegation. The RLS is a transnational lobby group for alternative policy that is affiliated with Die Linke, the German Left party. Its delegation at COP26 included international members, particularly women, who organized sessions on the economic and political effects of environmental changes on women.
A delegation of Indian Punjabi farmers participated in the protest against the Modi government’s anti-farmer and corporate-friendly policies. Citizens from Sudan protested against the military dictatorship that is rife in their country. Throughout the entire march, the Palestinian flag was prominent. Representatives representing indigenous rights demanded to save the Amazon jungles. Deforestation and controlled burning to make way for farmland have made the south-eastern Amazonia an exporter of greenhouse gases.
Some marchers also sought justice in the case of Sindhs Nazim Jokhio who was shot and killed while protesting against the hunting migratory bird. All the evidence that the concerned citizens of planet earth are seeking justice from those in power was evident, from a 100-year old man to an elderly man in a wheelchair to a woman with a baby one month old, was clear.
What was not discussed
Recent data shows that global emissions were two percent, or 60 million tonnes, higher in December 2020 than they were in the same month a year earlier.According to theWorld Meteorological OrganizationsStatement on the State of the Global Climate,the average global temperature has increased by 1.1C since the pre-industrial period and by 0.2C compared to 2011-2015.
Glasgow COP26 seemed reluctant to honor previous commitments. Additionally, two crucial issues remained unresolved: renewing 2030 targets that will limit global warming at 1.5 C and an agreement on accelerating coal phasing out.
The signatories to the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention had previously agreed that carbon emissions would be cut to zero. Zero carbon is the elimination of all fossil carbon from energy production. The new jargon of net zero describes the attainment of an overall balance of greenhouse gas (GHG), produced and removed from the atmosphere.
This is a dangerous and tricky term, designed to fool the masses. Net zero simply means that environmental crimes can be continued secretly.
Only 15 countries made voluntary promises at COP26. However, these were not tied to any deadlines. Many countries supported the draft regarding reducing coal consumption and ending subsidies on fossil fuels. But, India and China made last-minute objections and the draft was modified. The phrase phase out of colum was replaced by phase down. This means that all avenues for coal use and carbon emissions will remain open.
The marchers, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, demanded that the heads of state at COP26 make a difference by using alternative energy sources, repairing broken atmosphere balance and giving an aid of 100 billion dollars a years to countries most affected by climate change. The summit instead announced that this aid would come in 2025. The 100 billion dollar figure would also include international aid for other sectors.
The non-provisioning of the promised 100 million dollars per year to improve the environment is a cruel joke against humanity and the planet. These same states don’t feel ashamed spending 2,000 billion dollars per year on weapons and military expenditures. These same states also commit a crime in spreading environmental terrorism by providing a subsidy for the fossil fuel sector of 6,000 billion dollars per year.
With the aid of tax money, they have waged an environment war on people. We have seen how the 1.5 billion dollar international aid for Covid-19 was spent by the rulers of Pakistan.
Climate crisis in Pakistan
The Pakistani delegation to the Glasgow Conference seemed less serious than it should have been, and tended to be more concerned with entertainment than the environment crisis. The Pakistani pavilion was a display of the inaction of the bureaucracy. Further, the internal conflicts between the Minister for State for Environment (Minister of State for Environment) and the Environment Secretary further damaged Pakistan’s reputation.
It is shocking to see such a reckless attitude displayed at an international forum. This was the case of one of the most affected countries in terms of climate change. Large landsliding is causing rapid melting of the northern Pakistan glaciers. Old waterways are being shut down or altered. Weather patterns are changing quickly and unexpectedly. Droughts and untimely rains are affecting crops severely and making it difficult for the population to have food security.
Landslides are also being caused by the deforestation in jungles. Mangrove forests, which act as a natural barrier against storms, are being hacked in Pakistan’s coastal areas. The Indus river delta is rapidly deteriorating and three million acres have already been eroded due to non-release of water. This has led to hundreds of thousands of people losing their livelihoods, many villages being abandoned, and large numbers of families having to move to other areas.
Self-described environmental champion, Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged to convert coal-based power stations into hydro-electric plants and not to build new coal-based plants. He announced that by 2030, 60% of Pakistan’s energy will come from renewable sources and that 30% of its vehicles will be electric.
How is Pakistan able to raise such a large sum of money in such a short time? This question is not answered. How can a poor country, which has already pawned it to the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a loan of six hundred million dollars, make such a big promise?
Regardless of whether they are ruling developed or developing nations, rulers often make lofty claims but ultimately protect the capitalist greed interests. This was the most obvious take-away from COP26. To make matters worse, the Security Council of the United Nations passed a resolution to declare climate change a threat. India voted against the resolution, and China remained absent.
Climate change requires a shift in system. Climate degradation is directly caused by unchecked capitalism. It is therefore necessary to eliminate it in order to address the climate crisis. This can only be done if the vast majority of humans are involved in a coordinated and well-aware effort. Without this, fighting climate changes will be a hollow and meaningless campaign.
The writer is General Secretary, Pakistan National Trade Union Federation.
Published in Dawn EOS, January 16th 20, 2022