Global climate talks in Madrid ended without agreement in December, demonstrating starkly that official politics has no answer to the climate crisis.
Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists said she had “never” seen anything like the almost “total disconnect” at COP25, “between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action.”
Even UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was disappointed and that, “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis”. Tragically this marked 25 years of failure of COP talks.
Australia played a major role in sabotaging the talks, along with countries such as the US, Brazil, China, India, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.
Scott Morrison has claimed Australia, with 1.3 per cent of global emissions, is too small to make a difference. But this didn’t stop Australia punching above its weight to politically sabotage the talks.
Australia pushed to be allowed to use the accounting trick of “carry-over credits” from exceeding its Kyoto Protocol target to count towards its 2030 target.
One of the architects of the Paris accord, Laurence Tubiana, told the Financial Review, “this carry-over it is just cheating. Australia was willing in a way to destroy the whole system, because that is the way to destroy the whole Paris agreement.”
Australia was only able to exceed to its Kyoto targets because they were a joke.
The government negotiated an initial 8 per cent increase in emissions for the period 2008 and 2012, and only a 0.5 per cent decrease from 2013 to 2020.
Australia was also allowed to use “land use change” in its emissions reduction calculations.
Another stumbling block was rich countries like the US rejecting help for poorer countries already suffering climate related disasters.
Instead of pushing for the deep emission cuts we need, world leaders debated how they could keep polluting using the scam of “carbon credits”, which allow polluters to buy emissions reductions and go on polluting regardless.
Brazil wanted to claim carbon credits for keeping its existing forests intact, and also pushed for an accounting process that would amount to double counting—that both the seller and purchaser of carbon credits would be able to count them towards emission reductions. But carbon credits are a sleight of hand in any form.
Why won’t they act?
Global emissions have risen by 4 per cent since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. But the COP25 conference saw rich polluting nations block attempts to deepen the inadequate Paris commitments.
The shift to the right in world politics has seen the US pull out of the Paris agreement, and there has been open climate denial from world leaders like Trump in the US and Bolsanaro in Brazil.
Scott Morrison is singing from the same hymn book, as Australia burns. But the fundamental reasons for failure go deeper.
Carbon in the form of coal, oil and gas is built into the modern economy. The world’s countries are locked by capitalism into global competition with each other, and none will give ground.
The same capitalist competition that leads to trade wars, and real wars, is the key obstacle to global climate action.
Australia, the US, Brazil, China, India, Japan, and Saudi Arabia are some of the countries that did most to sabotage the climate talks.
With the exception of Japan, they all have major fossil fuel reserves (Japan is reliant on coal-fired power as a result of moving away from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster).
A 500,000-strong protest led by Greta Thunberg marched through the streets of Madrid demanding climate justice. It was an important counter to the failure of the talks.
The climate movement is our real hope for action.
If our leaders won’t act, we will have to fight from below, country by country to make them.
A win for the climate movement in any country will be a win for all of us, and something that can be spread to other countries.
We need to build the climate protests and strikes, and organise for workers to take industrial action to demand climate jobs that will deliver real emission reductions.
By Chris Breen