Socialist Solidarity Home Features Events Theory Links About Donate Contact

January 5, 2011

Cancun: The Climate Inaction Conference

by LD Boromeo

Climate Inaction Conference

On December 13, reporting on the Cancun climate conference, UK's top daily newspaper, The Telegraph, wrote:

"Life is unexpectedly starting to surge back into the world's moribund bid to avert runaway global warming, after the surprising success of the latest climate summit in this Mexican seaside resort at the weekend. At the last minute, the conference, for which the highest hopes had been merely that it should avoid failure, produced the biggest breakthrough in over a decade.

The same report hinted coyly at what was at stake.

Many warned that failure here, following the deeply disappointing result of last year’s Copenhagen summit, would cause much of the world to give up on the process, casting doubt over the entire future of multilateral negotiations. Indeed, that very prospect – together with savvy, skilful chairmanship by the Mexican government – did more than anything to haul delegates back from the abyss and vindicate those, in Britain and abroad, who insisted that the international system could deliver after all.

With the conference occurring roughly at the same time as the student protests in London, the prospect of "much of the world" becoming disillusioned – disabused, rather – with the process of world leaders gathering in high-end resorts to discuss the fate of the earth must have seemed alarmingly real to The Torygraph.

Naturally, all is not as the bourgeois media makes it out to be. This so called 'breakthrough' has technically recognized that it will be necessary to prevent a temperature increase of 2°C by 2050 – a marvel of international diplomacy and cooperation that was only possible because the same indisputable scientific fact was written off at Copenhagen. But as the International Journal of Socialist Renewal's Patrick Bond noted
"Most specialists agree that even if the unambitious Copenhagen and Cancun promises are kept (a big if), the result will be a cataclysmic 4-5°C rise in world temperature over this century, and if they are not, 7°C is likely. Even with a rise of 2°C, scientists generally agree that small islands will sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas – such as much of Bangladesh and many port cities – will drown and Africa will dry out – or in some places flood – so much that nine of ten peasants will not survive."
Perhaps the most important 'achievement' of the conference was the inclusion of a framework to preserve tropical forests. According to the GlobalPost, this provision, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD+ for short, is a carbon offset program: developed countries with high emissions can pay to protect forests in developing, usually tropical, nations and count those drops in their overall carbon output.

After the abject failure of Cap and Trade, the insistence on including forest conservation under the same framework can only lead to two, not entirely exclusive, conclusions. One, our leaders are idiots. Or two, our leaders recognize that there are profits to be made from commodifying the environment. The inclusion of “Forest Degradation” in the acronym is also disingenuous: they have redefined 'forest' to include industrial tree plantations, effectively deleting the need to preserve natural forestry.

It seems that by the mainstream media's standards, a successful conference is one in which 193 out of 194 national delegates agree to sell the rest of us up the river. And the remaining nation – Bolivia in this case – is an obstructionist and a positive danger to people all over the world.

One highly successful strategy employed to mollify those outraged at the abuses faced by the Palestinian people is to hold 'Peace Talks' involving the leadership of Israel, Palestine, and the US; as these breakdown, the 'international community' talks about entering into talks – these smoke and mirrors are never about ending “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians, it is about restoring the faith of potential radicals in the official processes of bourgeois rule.

The Telegraph's elision is part of much the same strategy. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the consensus reached at Cancun is completely non-binding, but because – by the media's standards – the conference did not spectacularly fail (as Copenhagen did), we are now being asked to take comfort in the possibility that a useful and binding international treaty might – eventually – be reached through all expense paid visits to 5-star resorts, excuse me, I meant a UN conference in Durban in 2011. Or is that 2050?

The truth of the matter is this: our leaders are ethically – although not financially – bankrupt, if we want to survive – that is, if we want to avoid ecocide – we shall have to take the planet into our own hands.