U.N. climate conference fails to agree to reduce pollution

More than 190 countries attended the 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this one in Warsaw, Poland, which on Nov. 23 again ended without firm commitments to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

Environmentalists condemned the event, declaring that the intransigence of the Western industrialized states prevented any substantial agreement. Since these meetings began in 1992, they have routinely been the scene of fierce debates over who should pay the price for reforming production policies in order to halt the planet’s degradation by global warming that increases disastrous storms and flooding.

On Nov. 21, environmental activists walked out of the gathering, frustrated that no real progress was being made. The imperialist states only agreed to a last-minute weak agreement after China and India backed away from demanding that specific goals related to the 1992 meeting be adhered to.

Moving further from Kyoto Protocol

Washington leads the way in rejecting concrete guidelines and objectives aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. Even the current Obama administration has rejected the notion that the developed capitalist countries should be held accountable for their past industrial crimes against the planet.

Todd Stern, the U.S. envoy for climate change, reiterated that there should be no categories with different emission standards for industrialized countries as for developing countries. Washington’s policy submissions to the U.N. oppose formulas based upon the economic capacity and character of various states.

At present the existing categories consist of Annex 1, the capitalist industrialized states largely in Europe and North America plus Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and non-Annex 1, the former colonial, semi-colonial and so-called developing or emerging economies.

Developing states over the last two decades have continued to demand that wealthy countries adopt legally binding, quantified-emission-reduction ­programs, while the oppressed and emerging economies will make changes “enabled by finance and technology transfer” based on how much various states have contributed to climate change. (E&E Climate Wire, Nov. 18)

India has maintained that formulas should exist based on the degree of industrialization and a state’s strictly measured carbon emissions, and there should be no “dilution” of the annex framework. China also wants the pollution history of various countries taken into consideration as a precursor for any binding agreement that may develop by 2015.

Both China and India ask the developed states to provide assistance to the developing countries in order to improve technological systems that limit greenhouse gases. India argues that Western industrial states should increase their funding and loosen intellectual property rights on environmental technology. Washington objects.

South Africa, one of the emerging economies that has recently joined the Brazil, Russia, China, India Summit, which held its last gathering in Durban, is involved in the debate around climate change. Lisa Friedman wrote in E&E Publishing that while “South Africa shares the language of its fellow emerging powers about the need for equity,” it “wants to see a single legally binding protocol for all parties, with a common global commitment” and that between 2020-2030 there should be a transition for lesser developed countries that will strictly limit CO2 emissions.

Brazil, which has mediated between developed and developing states, is now taking a view similar to that of India and China, basing guidelines upon the history of carbon emissions.

The U.S. and Canada have acted to prevent the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol treaty adopted by the U.N. climate change convention in 1997. The Kyoto document set the stage for the current positions adopted by developing states and environmentalists that places responsibility for climate change on the industrialized capitalist states.

Kyoto was slated to go into effect in 2005, but the U.S., which signed the agreement and is the world’s major polluter, has failed to ratify the treaty. Canada, which also signed the treaty, withdrew from it in 2011.

Although the European Union adopted the Kyoto Protocol, its alliance with the U.S. has prevented it from adopting views similar to those of the developing states.

Environmental debate
must have class character

It is in the interests of the majority of nations and peoples of the world to put firm regulations and guidelines in place for preserving the planet. The major impediment to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is the quest to maximize profits that has characterized the world capitalist system.

Climate scientists consider the increase in so-called natural disasters, including massive heatwaves, storms and floods to stem from climate change. Inside the U.S. the issue is highly politicized. The barons of Wall Street pressure government and academia to deny even the existence of a crisis in climate change.

Environmentalists must view the ideological and political struggles surrounding climate change as a manifestation of the modern-day global class struggle. Progressives, trade unionists, national liberation movements, socialist states and international solidarity activists must enter the debate in order to provide the necessary organizational direction to push back the U.S. and its allies in their continuing exploitation of peoples around the world.