Sunday, November 15, 2009

Harper Fiddles While Planet Burns

THE WORLD’S LEADERS are floundering in the leadup to the UN climate change summit next month in Copenhagen. Leading the pack is Canada’s climate-criminal, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When the Pembina Institute released a study last week looking at how Canada could meet its commitments to reduce green-house gas emissions, Federal environment minister Jim Prentice responded by saying that the findings were “irresponsible and the economic costs unacceptable”.
But the costs of inaction on climate change don’t register with the Conservatives. They have a bottomless purse to fund war, or subsidize dirty energy like the tar sands. They have spent $18 billion on the war on Afghanistan, and much more on subsidizing the oil industry. This is a disgrace. Heading into Copenhagen, the main conflict is between the people of the world who are increasingly demanding solutions to the climate crisis, and the world leaders, business leaders and others who want “business as usual”. But they know they can’t continue to do that forever – so they talk a lot. World leaders say they want to reduce carbon emissions. But they don’t want to do it now. They want to set targets for 2050 – or 2020, if they’re non-binding.
The climate summit will not solve the problem. There will be an agreement of sorts but it will continue market based ‘solutions’ set out in Kyoto, which after 10 years have failed miserably in making real reductions where it matters: the countries of the Global north where the bulk of emissions have taken place.
The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Mining the tar sands uses up the same amount of water as a city of two million people, and toxic waste has contaminated the Athabasca River – leading to high levels of cancer for people living downstream. Tar sands GHG emissions will likely increase to 141 million tonnes by 2020, double the current emissions of all cars and trucks in Canada.
Yet Jim Prentice passes the buck, saying that Canada won’t sign an agreement that doesn’t force India, China and Brazil to meet negotiated targets for their own GHG emission reductions:
"These countries are responsible for 97% of the growth in emissions," Prentice says. "Canadians don't want us to sign on to something that obliges us to reduce emissions, but doesn't impose obligations on principal emitters."
Could there be a clearer example of the pot calling the kettle black? Forcing the Conservatives to act will require a movement that demands unilateral GHG emission cuts – regardless of what other countries decide. Every government is playing the same game: making their reductions conditional on other countries’ reductions. But the Global South did not create the climate change crisis – and we need to demand that Canada take responsibility and lead on creating solutions.
Two great crises confront the world today – the economic crisis and the ecological crisis. The fight for green jobs challenges the idea that ‘the money’s not there’. If there’s money for war, or to bail out banks, then it can be done. The fight for green jobs challenges neoliberalism, the idea that the state can’t intervene in society, which was shattered by last year’s giant bailouts.
Solving the economic and climate crises requires going to the root of the problem: capitalism. The yardstick capitalism uses when they talk about “costs” isn’t the cost in human lives, jobs lost or in destruction of the environment – it is the cost to their profits. There is a solution, but it means sweeping away capitalism and building a sustainable world based on human need, not profit – socialism.

*I've been too busy to write something substantial of my own, so I shamelessly stole this from a leaflet at the Green Jobs conference by Socialist Worker newspaper. I like what it says and it means I can be lazy for another few hours. That's what I call win-win!
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