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Warm words - and global warming - from G8 leaders

Global warming more than 2 degrees higher than today’s temperatures was accepted as inevitable at the G8 summit meeting in Italy yesterday, as the world’s richest capitalist countries failed to agree any measures to reduce emissions.

A 2 degree rise will have serious consequences for many large population areas. This reality was hidden behind a fake target of an 80% cut in emissions by 2050 or sometime around then, depending on which baseline year a country works from. But no interim targets nor any specific measures to reduce emissions were agreed.

As a result, discussions taking place today between the G8 and emerging economies led by China, India and Brazil seem doomed. These countries want to see specific commitments, and cash to help them make the transition to a lower emissions economy, before they will agree to any significant cuts.

The absence of any real commitment results from the Obama administration’s inability to move forward. A Bill on reducing emissions is struggling through Congress. The forces of corporate darkness are recovering from the shock of the election result and are forming a determined opposition to attempts to limit emissions by law.

In any case, as the US government’s approach is to adopt the failed European/Kyoto “cap and trade” model, it is unlikely that any emissions reductions would be achieved. However, there would be lots of potential new profits.

A recent report from Friends of the Earth warns that carbon trading is fast becoming the new sub-prime and that “sub-prime carbon credits ... are already being securitized and resold in secondary markets”.

This is confirmed by Bart Chilton, head of the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission, who told the Financial Times that the market in greenhouse gas emissions could become the biggest traded commodity: "The potential size and scope of a structured carbon emissions market in the US is unequivocally vast. It is certainly possible that the emissions markets could overtake all other commodity markets."

Tipping points will soon be reached where runaway global warming cannot be halted; already some reports suggest that the coral reefs are damaged beyond recovery as a result of increased ocean acidity. This could start a cascade of extinctions that would not only sweep through the marine environment, but also human communities reliant on fishing for survival.

What is patently clear is that capitalism will always have the ability to create new markets and sources of profit. But it does not have the capacity to halt global warming. It is not too late to prevent the capitalist system – the corporations and their compliant governments and states – from wrecking the planet’s eco-system; but it soon will be.

What does it take for us to wake up to this reality and move towards mass action to deprive the capitalist system of its power to determine the future of the earth? It is, more than anything, a belief in the existence of a credible alternative.

The challenge for A World to Win and all those who want to show that “another world is possible”, is to convince people that working together, they can create a different system of governance, ownership and economy.

It’s a tall order, but the Fast Forward 2009 film festival held by A World to Win in London last Saturday was a significant step forward. It brought together a group of dedicated, creative people from across the generations. Working with them, we can find new ways to show how this concept of life beyond global capitalism can – and must – become our current reality.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
9 July 2009

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