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Capitalism on trial at COP 26 Part Two

Written by: Study Group on 14 November 2021


The G20 meeting in Rome immediately prior to COP26 in Glasgow brought together the top 20 countries that produce 80% of global economic output. They have the biggest stake in the survival of the global capitalist/imperialist economic system. They also contribute 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions on levels that threaten the future of humanity.

Countries involved were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. The leaders of China and Russia were not present, but participated remotely.

G20: a smokescreen for resisting change
Collectively they could not even embrace the distant target of net zero emissions in 2050, let alone more realistic commitments to keep global warming below 1.5 C and a target of 50 % reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. They settled for the vague and weak intention to achieve “net zero by mid-century”. This was a sop to countries heavily dependent on fossil fuels for power generation, mining and export industries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

Even though the powerful G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) had already committed to the net zero by 2050 target, they were unable or unwilling to win wider support.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison predictably opposed any deadline to phase out coal mining and exports and shut down coal-fired power stations. He pushed his fanciful theory of new and emerging “technology”. His Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, opposed any reduction of methane emissions – this was the pay-off for the National Party’s last minute secret pact with Morrison.

COP26: Capitalism/imperialism’s failure means more suffering for the people and the planet 
The COP26 Climate Conference has underlined the opening statement in the first part of this analysis which was released in the days prior to the Conference. “The global warming crisis is confronting capitalism/imperialism with enormous difficulties in moving from fossil fuel sources of energy to clean, renewable sources of energy. There are just too many competing political and corporate interests to guarantee the transition is fast enough to achieve a significant reduction in global emissions, and this poses a grave threat to humanity.”

Leaders’ speeches revealed totally inadequate commitments by the major industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the total of the promises and commitments made so far would ensure, at best, a global warming level of 2.4C (Climate Action Tracker) by the year 2050, nowhere near the proclaimed goal of <1.5C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030 to stay within 1.5C.

While many countries endorsed the target of net zero by 2050, major coal users had longer target dates. India and Poland looking at 2070, and China 2060. Interim targets for 2030 were very mixed and subject to financial aid from the UN and richer countries. The small island states threatened by rising sea levels could only plead.  

Some 46 countries agreed to phase out coal during the 2030’s and 2040’s, but not China and the US. This is too late to meet the 1.5C target. Developing countries said their commitments were subject to receiving billions of dollars from the richer developed countries to fund the transition to renewables. $100 billion annually had previously been agreed at the Paris meeting, not only grossly insufficient, but is now years behind schedule. 

20 countries agreed to stop funding fossil fuel developments in other countries. However, China , Japan and South Korea, as suppliers of investment capital, did not sign. 

108 countries agreed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, but not Australia, China, Russia and India.

A non-binding agreement to end deforestation by 2030 and promote regrowth was signed by 124 countries, including China, USA, Brazil and Australia. Brazil and Indonesia subsequently put conditions on their commitment, while Australia maintained that this has already been achieved! 

Morrison exposed as a puppet of the fossil fuel monopolies
Morrison shamelessly refused to agree to any 2030 target, instead boasting that Australia had exceeded its old commitment of 26-28% reduction (very much contested) and would “probably” meet 35% reduction by 2030, but would not commit to this as a target. This was in stark contrast to other developed countries such as the USA, UK, and European Union countries which all put forward various 2030 targets, realising that some progress had to be made. Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Saudi Arabia did not improve their 2030 targets.

Morrison refused to sign on to agreements to phase out coal-fired power and coal exports, and refused to sign an agreement on reducing methane emissions. He promoted the dubious technology of Carbon Capture and Storage, which was on display at an Australian Pavilion with a feature of the Santos Moomba Gas Field CCS project which is receiving government subsidy via carbon credits from the misnamed carbon reduction fund! His government sponsors a “gas-led recovery” and refers to gas as a “transition fuel” as coal is phased out on the never-never.

COP26 ends with a whimper
The biggest polluters, China and USA, revealed that they had been in discussion for six months prior to COP26 and had reached an agreement to cooperate on climate warming issues. Each wants to dominate global resources, trade and capitalist markets. Each wants to control the pace of transition to renewables, hoping to keep their fossil fuel corporations going a bit longer while also generating new profits from renewable technologies. 

Given the influence of the two superpowers and G20 countries, it was therefore no surprise that many of the earlier agreements and commitments made in the first week of COP26 have been retracted or replaced by “weasel words” in the Final Declaration from the conference. All intended to distract and delay the pace of change. (For example, “phase down coal” has replaced “phase out coal”).

As predicted by Lenin in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, when capitalism reaches its monopoly stage it can put a brake on new developments – as it clings to profits from old technology and stifles the new. “Certainly, the possibility of reducing the cost of production and increasing profits by introducing technical improvements operates in the direction of change. But the tendency to stagnation and decay, which is characteristic of monopoly, continues to operate, and in some branches of industry, in some countries, for certain periods of time, it gains the upper hand.”

Socialism is the only way to roll back climate warming before the tipping point
Socialism is a revolutionary change in the management of society where hands-on power is vested in the class of working people rather than the class of capitalists, monopoly owners, shareholders and finance speculators. Socialist democracy gives working people their say in the day-to-day operation of society.

Socialism means the major industrial enterprises and natural resources of the nation are owned collectively by the Australian people rather than being sources of profit for foreign multinationals and absentee landlords. Socialism can mobilise these resources on a massive scale to close down polluting fossil fuel operations in good time, while simultaneously accelerating the conversion to renewable sources of power and transport.

Socialism regards the unity of humanity and nature as a critical balance which must be understood, respected and safeguarded. An understanding and effective management of the Australian environment was developed over thousands of years by the First Australians. The involvement of the First Australians is essential to repairing the damaged lands, forests, seas, rivers and waterways.

Socialism recognises the need to develop and implement a plan that will ensure all people have the opportunity to engage in developing a sustainable environment. Socialism ensures that the items produced, the level and standards of clean, emissions-free production, and the distribution of products is planned and rational. Importantly, it means that no section of society is left behind, whether in the cities, regional towns, the countryside or outback.

Socialism guarantees all working people have rights to decent inexpensive housing, to free medical and hospital services, to free education, free childcare, free aged care and all other social services. There is already enough wealth in private pockets to achieve this now, but for the role and greed of the ruling class. See George Monbiot’s article, 

Capitalism/imperialism has proven incapable of dealing with the climate crisis. While COP26 has buried the hopes of the people of the world, at the same time it has ignited a growing wave of disgust and anger at the self-serving politicians, bureaucrats and corporate vandals that dominated the Conference and ignored and excluded the voices of people suffering the bitter consequences of climate warming. The global foundations of capitalism/imperialism are cracking, its institutions are rotten. It can’t last.


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