By CHRISTINE FRANK
On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in Paris, some 785,000 people marched and rallied in 2300 locations around the world to demand concrete action to phase out fossil fuels and implement clean, renewable energy to prevent catastrophic warming of Earth’s atmosphere with a binding agreement to achieve that. Despite the ban on demonstrations in France due to the State of Emergency declared after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, 10,000 lined the streets and formed a human chain along the originally-designated route of a climate march that had been unjustly prohibited. The action was initiated by Indian activist Vandana Shiva.
Another 5000 demonstrators gathered in Place de la Republique in Paris on Nov. 29 to put pressure on the UN’s COP 21 climate talks. The peaceful protest was brutally attacked by police with clubs, beatings, and tear gas, followed by 289 arrests. The government slandered the action as violent, when clearly the onus was on the cops, not the protesters.
Actions defying the ban took place in other French cities as well. Some 2000 French environmental activists who oppose the attacks on their civil liberties have been placed under house arrest, and computers, documents, and personal effects have been confiscated in police raids. Clearly, the French authorities are applying a double standard toward climate crisis activists when enforcing their “special measures” since they are allowing remembrances for the 11/13 dead, sporting events, concerts, trade fairs, and Christmas markets but not peaceful actions to defend the climate from the onslaughts of the fossil fuel industry.
Unlike many reformist environmentalists and NGOs, who have passively accepted the suppression of the right to assemble and refused to speak out, more militant protesters are saying, “Stop Polluters, Not Demonstrators” and “Change the System, Not the Climate!” Civil disobedience is being called on Red Line Day, Dec. 12, the final day of conference.
The police-state tactics that define a demonstration as two-plus people with a shared political message and silence the voices of dissent now allow the giant transnationals to freely manipulate the delegates. It is no accident that some of France’s and the world’s biggest polluters—EDF, the state-owned electrical firm, BNP Paribas, one of the largest banks, Air France and GDF Suez—are major sponsors of the UN climate talks. No less than 20% of the conference’s proceedings are underwritten by corporations, allowing Energy Giants such as Shell and Chevron to influence the deliberations through pressure tactics and backroom deals.
We have known for years that the major obstacle to progress has been Big Oil, Gas and Coal along with Big Auto, who have financed climate denial to cast doubt on the science. Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times recently exposed the cover-up by Exxon/Mobil in which the company lied about fossil-fuel combustion causing global warming. Its own scientists already knew of the consequences of hydrocarbon burning back in the 1970s, but their findings were deliberately suppressed by Exxon executives. Consequently, the public was misled for decades.
As for the talks themselves, they began on Monday with heads of state making one statement after the other late into the night as to the dire situation in which the world finds itself and how COP 21 must mark a turning point in history. Yet, the 170 voluntary national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2020 and 2030 coming from countries responsible for 97% of global carbon pollution fall woefully short of what is actually needed to keep the global temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius.
In fact, according to a dozen different studies, current reduction goals are likely to cause a cataclysmic 2.7-3.7C rise instead! Low-lying, small island nations rightly insist on a much safer temperature ceiling of under 1C, and for good reason. The Marshall Islands, which are only six feet above sea level, are disappearing below rising seas, largely due to melting ice sheets. Many residents have already fled their homeland.
Their president delivered to the conference floor 350.org’s demand to keep at least 80% of fossil fuels underground and to finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Finance equity is especially important for poor nations so they can avoid a dirty path to the decent quality of life to which they are entitled and rich nations can bear their responsibility for the global warming they have directly caused over the last 265 years.
The series of climate talks that have taken place over more than two decades have done very little to stop the planet’s race toward runaway climate change. Annual global carbon dioxide emissions have risen steadily from 21 billion tons in 1992 to 32 billion in 2012. The wretched showing of every nation that has participated fails to inspire confidence that the next two weeks of dithering will accomplish anything.
Climate scientist James Hansen has criticized the talks as being “half-assed and half-baked” because the worthless, non-binding agreement they are working toward will actually allow emissions to increase until 2030! What is needed is an immediate, rapid, and drastic reduction in greenhouse gases from all sources—a deep decarbonization—while leaving fossil fuels in the ground and implementing a crash program of renewable wind and solar power along with clean mass transit, funded by eliminating the war budget.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which so many mainstream environmentalists tout, is a joke in comparison since it includes deadly nuclear-power plants, fracked natural gas, and the endless perpetuation of the destructive car-truck culture. In Paris, the president announced that he plans to allocate funds for more research and development on new energy technologies, increasing the budget from $5 billion to $10 billion and enlisting a coalition of high-tech entrepreneurs.
We already have clean technologies. They just need to be implemented ASAP, so he should be spending the money on producing them and providing green jobs. The call for more R&D has been used for years as a stalling tactic, and if by “clean technologies” he means risky carbon capture and sequestration methods, he can forget it. The chances are all too great for a massive belch of carbon dioxide suddenly being released from a geological formation and suffocating all life around at ground level.
Needless to say, the U.S. goal to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 is not impressive when one considers the administration’s “all of the above” strategy for providing energy.
The European Union—a bloc of 28 rich nations that emit one-tenth of global emissions, the third highest after China and the U.S.—still uses an absurd carbon-trading system, which amounts to licenses to pollute. Increased solar power and energy-efficiency measures became non-binding in the EU’s package due to relentless lobbying by Carbon Barons Shell, BP, Total, and Statoil, who wanted emissions cut by a single “technology-neutral” target that would encourage a fuel switch from coal to natural gas. This is because there is a fracking boom underway on the continent. Poland’s energy is 90% coal combustion, and it will not easily give that up, and Germany balked at car fuel-efficiency standards following the scandal over VW’s rigged emissions tests.
As for China, the world’s leading polluter, thanks to the success of industrial nations having off-shored production and thereby exported their carbon emissions, it has announced that it will launch a national carbon market in 2017 based on the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund’s design. Given the level of corruption in that super-growth, market economy, there will be plenty of profiteering from the scheme but not much of a decline in global-warming pollution.
Then there is India, which plans to build yet more coal-fired power plants to fuel its raging economy. Australia is a major coal exporter, and Canada is heavily invested in filthy tar sands, so it is not too likely they will meet whatever pathetic goals they have set since none have taken the pledge to overcome their addiction.
As the journal Science states, the world is at a “climate crossroads” and to limit warming to any level, carbon emissions must ultimately be brought to zero well before 2100, in fact the sooner, the better. That will require replacing the fossil-fuel based, growth economy with one that is sustainable, democratically planned, and guided by ecosocialist and climate-friendly principles. To accomplish that, it will take a powerful worldwide movement linked from country to country that mobilizes millions in the streets. It’s really the only option we have to save Mother Earth for human habitation.
Photo: YouTube screenshot.