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Double dealing on climate change

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this week summonsed world leaders to attend an unprecedented second pre-meeting in New York in September to "galvanise political will" about "the defining issue of our time". He wants a deal on climate change on the table for the world summit in Copenhagen in December and his urgent intervention shows that prospects for an agreement remain weak.

No serious progress has been made in the negotiations up until now. This became clear at a meeting in Bonn this week called under the slogan “seal the deal”, where countries announced their “pledges” on reducing emissions. The European Union pledged a cut of 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. Australia pledged 5-20 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020 and Canada pledged 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020. China has made no commitment but says it might if the US agrees to a 40% cut. Japan’s pledge of a 15% reduction by 2020 is the lowest so far, and could probably be met from the collapse of its economy alone.

Confused by all these figures? Don’t worry. All they mean is that it’s “business as usual” at the climate talks. Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the total reductions pledged (even if all countries stuck to their commitments, which is not certain) is not anywhere near enough to meet what the science says is required.

A new report on the human cost of climate change reveals that global warming is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and that by 2030, worldwide deaths will reach almost 500,000 per year. The number of people affected by climate change annually will rise to over 600 million with a total annual economic cost of around $300 billion. But negotiators are as immune to these human tragedies as they are to the scientific evidence. They are engaged in the usual tricks and double dealing.

The newly-called UN meeting will follow a meeting of 17 key world leaders convened at the initiative of President Barack Obama, and that takes place immediately after the annual G8 summit in July. Never have so many capitalist political and business leaders come together so often, to achieve so little over such a long period of time. From Rio to Copenhagen by way of Kyoto, Johannesburg, the Stern Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and numerous other scientific discoveries along the way, nothing has changed.

If Copenhagen is, as scientists meeting earlier this year said, our last chance to act on climate change, then it’s all up with the human race. Fortunately, that is not the case. Climate change, caused by the totality of global economy and production for profit, requires a global solution of a revolutionary nature. Pressure groups, reports, marches and individual actions can’t do it. Having Greens inside the talks won’t do the trick.

There is still time – and limitless space – for a different kind of politics to be brought into being. That is why A World to Win calls on everybody to join us, to support our Action Plan for the Eco-Crisis (and make suggestions to improve it in light of the latest developments) and organise around the People’s Charter for Democracy to create the kinds of powerful, eco-focused democratic structures that can act on climate change in a serious way.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
11 June 2009

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