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After Copenhagen debacle

U.S. China-bashing reaches a new low

Published Dec 23, 2009 2:54 PM

Ever since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which the United States never ratified, the capitalist political establishment in Washington has focused on one thing: trying to put the onus on China for the lack of any binding world agreement that could prevent catastrophic climate change.

The recent Copenhagen summit saw a repeat of this U.S. duplicity, despite the hopes of many environmentalists and poorer countries that the Obama administration would set a new course.

New Scientist, a British weekly, reported that the U.S. brokered a last-minute, nonbinding deal at Copenhagen that pushed aside the agreement, hammered out by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which would have set limits on emissions. Instead of signing a commitment to specific numbers, countries were pressured to be listed as “taking note” of the deal. U.N. sources told the magazine that only countries on the list would receive funds to cope with the impacts of climate change and reduce their carbon emissions.

“Western leaders,” said the Dec. 19 article, left the conference claiming to have secured “a global agreement to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. But the deal provoked immediate anger for failing to include concrete measures to reach that target, and scientists at the talks said it would set the world on a path to 3.5ºC of warming by 2100.

“The Western leaders responded to the accusations that the text was stripped of any concrete measures by blaming China and other developing nations for the failure of the Copenhagen conference to achieve more.”

For many years, Washington refused to acknowledge the impact of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) on climate change, totally ignoring the warnings of climate scientists. The Bush administration, especially, was preoccupied with protecting the profits of the energy companies that hold such power over the levers of government.

Greenpeace in 2005 made public State Department documents showing that the Bush administration actually sent letters of thanks to ExxonMobil for its “active involvement” in determining the government’s climate change policy.

During this whole period, the U.S. was spewing out more greenhouse gases than any other country. Yet it said again and again that it couldn’t ratify an agreement like Kyoto. Why? Because while it somewhat curbed the emissions of the rich developed countries that have been responsible for the lion’s share of GGE, it gave latitude to those formerly colonized countries trying to overcome decades and even centuries of underdevelopment. China, Brazil, India and Mexico are among the largest of these developing economies.

Because of this undeniable history, the peoples of the world rightly view the U.S. government as the main culprit for the probability that before the middle of this century, a “tipping point” will be reached that would make global warming irreversible and bring disaster to many nations.

Deflecting world anger with lies

At the Copenhagen summit, just as George W. Bush had done before him, President Barack Obama tried to deflect the anger of the world’s people by accusing China of being the stumbling block to a meaningful agreement. At the same time, he claimed “success” in pushing through the final deal.

What came out of Copenhagen, however, is nothing but a wish list. It is barely even a verbal concession to the 100,000-plus people who came to demonstrate outside, or to the 192 countries that sent representatives.

After two weeks of discussion and debates, the agenda was taken over by the imperialists, led by the U.S., and an agreement that scientists and economists had labored over for months was scrapped for a document that committed no one to anything. However, it dangled in front of the most impoverished nations the possibility of billions of dollars for green development — most of it beginning 10 years from now.

Oxfam, an anti-poverty organization based in Britain, warns that these offers are full of “caveats and loopholes.” It also estimated that even $100 billion a year would amount to less than half what poor countries need to obtain the technology for green development.

New Scientist also reported that climate consultants say loopholes in the document “could allow developed nations to carry on increasing their emissions until 2020.” The U.S. now emits 17 percent more greenhouse gases than it did in 1990 — the benchmark year of the Kyoto Protocol, which called for developed countries to reduce their emissions to 5 percent below that year’s level by 2012.

The fact is that the U.S. has done practically nothing toward reducing GGE. This is clear when one considers the state of the economy today. Because of a crisis of capitalist overproduction, many businesses have closed down or curtailed their rate of production. Tens of millions of workers are unemployed and are cutting back on heating, travel and other energy-consuming activities because they just don’t have the money. U.S. corporations have been moving factories and jobs overseas in search of higher profits through cheaper labor. Yet emissions here continue to rise — proof that the government has done nothing meaningful.

‘China’s investment in clean energy is extraordinary’

In China, on the other hand, a country that just a few decades ago was deeply impoverished, much has already been done to redirect economic development. In the Dec. 24 issue of WW we reported on how climate scientists in the U.S. are taking note of China’s broad commitment to increased energy efficiency and development of alternate, nonpolluting energy sources.

An extensive letter from China by Evan Osnos in the Dec. 21-28 New Yorker magazine confirms this. Entitled “Green Giant — Beijing’s crash program for clean energy,” it tells how, for years, the Chinese government has been pumping billions of dollars into labs, universities and enterprises so China could assimilate the new technological revolution into its development plans.

“In 2006,” says Osnos, “Chinese leaders redoubled their commitment to new energy technology; they boosted funding for research and set targets for installing wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectric dams and other renewable sources of energy that were higher than goals in the United States. China doubled its wind-power capacity that year, then doubled it again the next year, and the year after. The country had virtually no solar industry in 2003; five years later, it was manufacturing more solar cells than any other country.”

Osnos says that U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs David Sandalow, who had been to China five times in five months, told him, “China’s investment in clean energy is extraordinary.”

But the U.S. State Department and White House, who crafted Obama’s aggressive strategy in Copenhagen, don’t know this?

E-mail: [email protected]