COP27 Climate Talks...

Once Again, System Fails and Climate Crisis Rages On

In drought-striken Kenya, children fetch water from ground water well.

 

In drought-striken Kenya, children fetch water from ground water well.    Photo: AP

COP27—the 27th annual gathering of world governments to respond to global warming held this year in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt—ended on November 20 in a complete failure to respond to the climate crisis. This was not the first time for such failure. Look at the chart that dramatically shows how conference after conference has had no effect on the rising greenhouse gas emissions which drive climate change.

chart showing emissions continuing to rise despite climate conferences

 

Conference after conference has had no effect on the rising greenhouse gas emissions which drive climate change.   

But this was not the same old failure... this is not the failure of 30 years ago, or 10. The planet is on the edge of catastrophic change and urgent and immediate massive reductions to the burning of fossil fuels are required. The damage already done to natural life and to ecosystems that sustain and make possible human society is widely known throughout the world: the increasingly dire melting of polar ice and glaciers all over the planet; the warming and rising seas; the decimation of and threat to even the existence of the Amazon rain forest; the death of coral reefs around the planet; species extinction on land and sea; massive decline in insect populations and bird populations; devastating storms, droughts and floods…

Further, the effects on human society resulting from the changes in the natural world are well known, and greatly intensifying: storms forcing many millions from their homes around the planet—one-third of Pakistan was under water this year from floods driven by climate change; 150 million right now face extreme hunger in Africa because of drought. The flow of migrants from Central America and Mexico to the United States, driven significantly by climate change, has reached new heights.1

Yet COP 27 failed even the most minimal, basic measures needed to seriously address climate change, and instead committed to let the planet burn.

Pakistani flood victims wait in a long line for food distribution, August 27, 2022.

 

Pakistani flood victims wait for food distribution, August 27, 2022.    Photo: AP

A Track Record of Empty Pledges

The last COP, COP26, one year ago in Glasgow, Scotland, set goals which it admitted failed to prevent catastrophic warming. But countries made pledges to set further goals over the course of this past year so that warming would be held back. The governments agreed in Glasgow that climate change must be limited to warming of 1.5°C if even further terrible consequences were to be avoided. 

What happened is that while many countries did set goals, they were not close to what is required—and even these goals were overwhelmingly not met. Almost all countries, according to the UN Emissions Gap Report2 that came out a week before COP27 were “off track.” Confronting this failure, the report issued a call: “To get on track to limiting global warming to 1.5°C… a stepwise approach is no longer an option. We need system-wide transformation.”3

Nothing remotely close to this was even on the table at COP27. Indeed, in a sign of the complete bankruptcy of this system’s response to the climate crisis, there was widespread and open discussion that 1.5°C was impossible and efforts to work for it should be given up. And even more telling is this stunning fact: in 30 years of UN climate conferences and negotiations, eliminating the primary cause of global warming—the burning of fossil fuels—has never been mentioned in any of the agreements! True to form, COP27 ended with no call to phase out fossil fuels.

“Loss and Damage” Agreement Is a Despicable Sham

One issue being hailed as a “historic breakthrough” for COP27 is “loss and damage.” Loss and damage refers to monies to be paid by developed capitalist countries to countries of the “Global South” to rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure devastated by extreme weather.

On the one hand, this is a certain acknowledgment of the fact that the countries that have been dominated and exploited for centuries by imperialism, especially since WW 2, and by the U.S. above all, have contributed far less to global warming but are suffering the greatest from the climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels by the imperialist powers.4

The entire continent of Africa—with 1.2 billion people—is responsible for three percent of global emissions, and as we mentioned, is now hit hard by drought. South America is also three percent.

The demand for payments from the imperialist countries to the oppressed countries has been raised for decades, and now a proposal to set up a fund to make certain kinds of payments was approved at COP27. This is the “bright lights” story coming out of COP27. But it's an utter, despicable sham. There's no cash in this fund. There are no provisions for which countries will contribute how much money by when. There's no vehicle for distributing these funds. And to drive home that the agreement is neither binding nor enforceable, it explicitly says that countries (like the U.S. and other big carbon emitters) cannot be held legally liable for payments. Not to mention this pseudo-commitment would have to pass through a U.S. Congress in which the climate-denying Republi-fascists will hold a majority in the House. So, a lot of nothing with a lot of bullshit hallelujahs.

The United States, which has pumped more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country in history, has been a world-class leader in stalling and reneging on promises to make compensation payments to poor countries.

Loss and damage compensation is a just demand and money should be paid to assist the countries ripped apart by climate change. But the reality of this system is that NO amount of money can bring an end to the oppression and to the devastation from climate change. The system grinds on, exploiting the people of whole countries and injecting more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which will hit the oppressed countries hardest. This conference pledged to send money to recover from destructive storms—but did not do anything real to stop the intensifying impact of the climate changes driving these storms!

System Change Through Revolution Is the Only Solution

The most important conclusion we should draw from the failure of COP27 is that this capitalist-imperialist system cannot stop burning fossil fuels and has no answers in any way commensurate with the depth of the crisis humanity and the planet face.

This is a global planetary crisis, and it can only be meaningfully confronted and acted on with a global perspective and fundamentally requires a global solution. We need to get rid of the system. We need a revolution to overthrow it and establish a radically different economic, social, and political system: socialism moving towards a communist world—making it possible for humanity to become fit caretakers of the planet. 

This revolution is the only way to overcome the lopsided and unequal development which now strangles the oppressed countries of the Global South. This revolution is the only way to bring about the changes needed to STOP the destruction of the environment. This revolution makes it possible to coordinate and cooperate, and share resources and understanding, to address this planetary emergency.

This revolution cannot happen all at once throughout the world—it will take breakthroughs in key and major parts of the world, and a process of struggle and spreading this revolution. But a revolution in the U.S. would have immense and worldwide impact. Such a revolution would, from day one, begin immediate and massive phasing out of fossil fuels and radical restructuring of the society and economy. It would put the needs of humanity and the planet—to advance revolution to end all exploitation and oppression everywhere, and to work for a sustainable planet—above its own national economic development. (See the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development.) And we are now in a “rare situation,” analyzed in writings, talks and the new interview by Bob Avakian when this revolution becomes more possible.

Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

 

The two weeks at COP27 were a big failure at a time when time is running out, the impact of climate change is devastating the planet, and society is tearing apart in many ways. Conferences like these are in part an attempt by the big powers to deceive people—to make people think something is actually being done to address the emergency—as they maneuver for advantage and position in the world system.

By far the most positive result of this conference is if people come to see from its failure the reality: what is needed is not a better conference, but revolution to bring about a radically different and far better society and world.

To start, dig into the interview with Bob Avakian. Learn more about and become part of the revolution to change everything. 

_______________

FOOTNOTES:

1. And the Biden administration has utterly failed to meet even basic international law and humanitarian obligations to these people fleeing to the U.S. because of climate devastation and imperialist domination largely by the U.S. [back]

2. UN Emissions Gap Report 2022, October 27, 2022. [back]

3. UN Emissions Gap Report 2022, Forward, October 27, 2022. [back]

4. The United States, the European Union and Britain are responsible for nearly one-half of the emission of greenhouse gases since 1750. [back]

Your financial support for revcom.us makes a world of difference

The revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA) has analyzed that this is one of those rare times when revolution and getting to a whole different world becomes more possible—and revcom.us plays a crucial role in preparing the ground for revolution.

This is the only website that shines a light on the deeper reality behind what people confront and connects people with the revolutionary alternative; it is the only website that features the work and leadership of BA.

Your financial support makes that possible.