Capitalism’s path to economic growth has not only led to poverty, hunger, and wars but also has caused severe damage to the global climate, posing a grave threat to all life on this 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 how their seriousness towards environmental problems seemed to be limited to the whims of capitalism as well as corporate interests.
It was held in Glasgow in Scotland. It was attended by 120 heads state. It was criticized as a failure by environmentalists because COP26 did not offer a solid strategy to address the urgent and most serious environmental threats our planet faces.
On November 5, and November 6, around 100,000 protestors marched in Glasgow to commemorate the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. They wanted to speak truth and give momentum to the fight for environmental justice and denounce the capitalist system.
A Pakistani trade unionist has shared his learnings from COP 26 with us.
No more Blah, blah, blah!
Environmental activists called the flowery speeches of COP26 delegates jargon. Blah.blah.blah was Greta Thunbergs response. 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, a transnational alternative lobby group, is affiliated with the German Left party Die Linke. Its delegation at COP26 included international members, particularly women, who organized sessions on the economic and political effects of environmental changes on women.
Participating was also a delegation from Indian Punjabi farmers protesting against the Modi government’s corporate-friendly and antifarmer policies. Citizens from Sudan protested against military dictatorship in their country. Throughout the entire march, the Palestinian flag was prominent. Representatives of indigenous rights called for the preservation of 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 demanded justice for Sindhs Nazim Jokhio’s murder, who was killed protesting against hunting migratory birds. A 100-year-old man, a man in a wheelchair, and a woman carrying a baby for one month all proved that planet earth’s concerned inhabitants want more justice.
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 appeared to renege on previous commitments. Two crucial issues were not resolved: renewing targets for 2030 that will limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C and an agreement to accelerate the phasing-out of coal.
The UNFCCC signedatories had previously agreed to reduce carbon emissions 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, tricky terminology that is intended to fool the masses. Net zero, which simply means that environmental crimes may continue secretly, can be described as net zero.
Only 15 countries made voluntary promises at COP26. However, these were not tied to any deadlines. A number of 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. In addition, international aid to other sectors will be included in the 100-billion dollar.
It is a cruel joke to humanity and the environment that 100 billion dollars per year are not being allocated for the immediate improvement of the environment. These same states don’t feel ashamed spending 2,000 billion dollars per year on weapons and military expenditures. These same states are guilty of the criminal act of spreading environmental terror by providing a subsidy to the fossil fuel industry of 6,000 milliards dollars annually.
With tax money they have collected, they have waged an ecological war against people. We know that the rulers in countries like Pakistan are willing to accept the terms of the aid, just to keep a large portion of it in their pockets.
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 at the Glasgow Conference was a demonstration of the apathy of bureaucracy. Furthermore, the internal conflicts that erupted between the Minister of State of Environment and the Environment Secretary further hurt Pakistan’s reputation.
It is shocking that such a reckless attitude was displayed at an international forum by one the most climate-affected nations in the world. 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 threatening crops and making it difficult for people 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.
Premier Minister Imran Khan, who is a self-proclaimed champion for environmental issues, has pledged to convert existing coal-based power plants to hydro-electric plants, and to stop setting up new coal plants. He has declared that by 2030, 60 percent Pakistan’s energy would be generated from renewable sources. 30 percent of Pakistan’s 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 obvious take-away of COP26. To add insult to injury, a resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations to declare global warming a threat to peace was vetoed in the month that followed the failed summit. India voted against the resolution while China remained absent.
Climate change requires a system change. Climate change is directly linked to unchecked and voracious capitalism. To address it, it is necessary that we get rid of it. This can be achieved by a well-organized and coordinated struggle by the vast majority of human beings. Without this, fighting climate changes will remain a meaningless slogan.
The writer is General Secretary, Pakistan National Trade Union Federation.
Published in Dawn, EOS January 16th 2022