In Proletarian Era (Vol 55 No 6 1 November 2021), we have dwelt at length on the various threatening aspects of increasing climate change following rising global warming and had also shown that one after another global summit has failed to arrive at a consensus over adopting requisite remedial measures because of contradiction within the imperialist-capitalist countries over their respective interests of profit maximization. We had categorically mentioned that though science has a clear prescription in regard to arresting man-made global warming, the vested interest of the imperialists-capitalists is posing obstacle before implementing the scientific solution. The latest Glasgow Conference (COP 26) which was held from 31 October to 12 November 2021 also ended inconclusively or rather dismally despite the warning brought home in the latest report of the ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC), a body comprising scientists from all over the world, that any delay in arresting global warming would be ‘code red’ for humanity.
As we explained in our aforesaid article, spike in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, mostly because of fossil fuel burning, reckless discharge of toxic gases from the industries and mindless deforestation needs to be curbed with due expediency based on the advice of the scientific community. In the last 70 years, global temperature has risen by 1.1 degree Celsius (C) and will further increase to 1.5 C during the next decade because of the accumulated emissions in the atmosphere. If this increase exceeds1.5 C, global climate would not be conducive to human habitation. In order to contain temperature rise to 1.5 C by 2100, the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) like CO2 should be restricted to 18.22 gigatons by 2030 which is half of the current rate of 37 gigatons. Emission of other greenhouse gases (GHGs) like methane, too, should be reduced. When Glasgow conference was in progress, about 1,00,000 people including environment activists marched there to demand more action on the climate crisis. Some displayed banners and posters asking for ‘Net Zero implementation. ‘‘Net Zero’ is a term which denotes that a country’s carbon emissions are offset by taking out equivalent carbon from the atmosphere, so that emissions in balance are zero. Other issues which were raised centred round the demand for climate justice. Many people who had assembled from different countries, including scientists, criticized the developed countries for hiding behind ‘Net-Zero’ pledges while evading their responsibility for immediate and deep reduction of fossil fuel emissions. Such demonstrations which took place in Glasgow, and throughout the UK, as well as in many other countries across the globe, bore testimony of public demand to the rulers of various imperialist-capitalist countries taking part in the summit for urgent action to contain climate change.
Outcome of Glasgow Conference
But did these just demands find due consideration in the summit? Leaders of the imperialist-capitalist countries who attended Glasgow summit had earlier made promises to curb deforestation, phase out use of coal as source of energy and cut methane (a toxic greenhouse gas causing global warming) emissions and made pledges to attain ‘‘Net-Zero’’ by 2050. The developed imperialist countries had also promised to provide financial assistance to the tune of $100 billion annually from 2020 to 2025 to the less developed and developing countries to curtail use of fossil fuels and produce energy from alternative eco-friendly green sources. But in last two years, the proportionate amount of the promised grants did not flow to the recipient countries.
US and China also announced a joint declaration to cooperate on climate change measures, a deal that reassured observers of Beijing’s apparent intention to accelerate its efforts to combat global warming after a long period of quiet. Yet other than mentioning such measures in general terms the declaration did not contain any concrete commitment, nor did China give any CO2 reduction target at Glasgow.
It is found that there is still a significant gap between the measures the countries had committed to and what is needed to avoid more than 1.5C of warming, beyond which recurrence of worst floods, scorching heatwaves leading to wild fires, droughts, melting ice-sheets, cyclonic storms and rising sea levels would go on fuelling climate change to the detriment of entire mankind. US, China and India are now the three principal emitters of CO2 emissions Though all three have pledged to apparently reach ‘‘Net Zero’’ emission target in the decades ahead, India and China pursued last-ditch interventions to soften language on coal usage. India which earlier agreed to ‘phase out’ coal, changed its stand in the last minute and insisted on watering down the language on use of coal by replacing the word ‘‘phase out’ by ‘phase down’ in the text of the climate pact so that it is not under pressure to curb coal burning within shortest possible time limit. That formulation made it into the final text endorsed by almost 200 nations. The US played a role in accepting that weaker position, calling into question their short-term commitment to curb coal usage. It is pertinent to mention that it was the US and China who first embraced the term ‘‘phase-down’’ in their bilateral climate agreement, which they adopted with great fanfare in the middle of the Glasgow conference. Before the dramatic final plenary, the US even signalled acceptance of the ‘‘phase-down’’ language that had been used in the joint statement with China, according to a media report. Clearly, the US that relies largely on their shale gas for energy production is clearly unwilling to commit to phase out other fossil fuels. England which banks on their gas resources, also toes the US line. China’s diplomats made it clear in private that it–the world’s top emitter–was reluctant to include more stringent formulations on ending coal. ‘‘To shout slogans could cause unnecessary negative impacts on the pace. It could be like, ‘pull up seedlings to help them grow,’ ’’ said Li Zheng reportedly, a member of China’s delegation at Glasgow, in an interview, using a Chinese maxim. ‘‘To demonize fossil fuel will only hurt ourselves.’’ It would not be unwise to say that the visible resistance from India on the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact helped conceal the role played by China and even the US in the outcome. There were a few notable side deals too. The US and the European Union spearheaded a global methane cutting initiative in which around 100 countries have promised to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. But China, Russia and India, contributing 35 % of global methane emissions, did not sign the pledge.
Along with about 100 countries agreeing to stop deforestation by 2030, Brazil, another ‘associate’ of US, which did not attend the Glasgow summit, has also pledged to stop mindless felling of trees by 2030 and preserve its forests. But facts reveal that in 2020-21 alone more than 13,000 square kilometres of forest from within the Amazon belt that had been a habitat of over 30 lakh species, both plants and animals and about 30 million of human beings belonging to over 350 ethnic communities, has perished from logging of trees. The rate of felling of trees has increased by 22% — the highest in last 15 years. The Glasgow deal or declaration to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation has been preceded by different like-minded initiatives and agreements, starting from 2008 when some 67 countries agreed to stop deforestation by 2020, all of which ended in failure. This is how the imperialist-capitalist rulers are giving priority to profit economy over human life.
What is most alarming and is worth taking note of is that even if the participating countries live up to their commitment made in the conference, the quantity of carbon emission by 2030 would be 37.71 gigatons. In that event, global warming would be at least 2.4 C by 2100, much above the desired limit. And if rate of emission continues to be what it is now, the rise in global temperature would touch 3 C by 2100 signalling the end of human civilization. But the imperialist powers having record highest per-capita carbon emission are not bothered at all. While China has indicated a 2060 net zero year, India has agreed to a net zero year of 2070.
Moreover, though the common people are the worst victims of climate change, particularly in the relatively less developed or poor countries, there is no commitment for compensating these homeless, displaced and hapless populace through any scheme earlier eulogized as ‘‘loss and damage’’ scheme. There is not even a word about lowering mining and use of fossil fuels.
Position of developed and developing countries in fuel consumption
Central to building trust is a commitment by wealthy nations to provide climate finance, to help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate change and to transition to low-emissions development. Because there is a marked difference between the developed imperialist countries and less developed capitalist countries in so far as nature of fuel consumption and quantum of each fuel is concerned.
Even a report of World Bank, financed and monitored by big imperialist countries, could not but admit that ‘‘Because low-income countries have so few other assets, proportionately, renewable natural assets such as land and ecosystems are crucial for them, comprising around 23 per cent of their total wealth. This is the highest fraction of total wealth coming from renewable natural capital among all income groups. Like GHG emission, poor and developing countries need to use these natural resources even if it reaches an ‘‘unsustainable’’ level. This is because these are the only resources available for sustenance. Many estimates have pointed out that nearly half of the world population eke out a living from degraded resources like land and forests. In future, these resources might not be able to sustain productive livelihoods. But, for this population there is no alternative as well.’’
So the poor and developing countries, or those whose survival and livelihood critically depend on natural resources, will be again put under pressure to bring down consumption and thus face added constrains and miseries if the developed imperialist countries turn away from not only helping them without any strings attached, but also refraining from curbing use of fossil fuels like gas and oil.
There is also another anomaly. If, say, Sweden outsources garment production in Bangladesh and then sells the stuff in its own market, the emission for producing that garment is attributed to Bangladesh, and not Sweden. This is how the rich countries insulate themselves from the allegation of increasing carbon emission and squarely pass on the brunt on the poorer countries.
In a research report published in 2017, it came out that just 100 big industries are responsible for 72% of GHG discharge in the atmosphere. Multinationals are the biggest culprits in this regard. Financing for liberal deforestation of invaluable tropical forest to harvest palm oil in Indonesia is provided by the multinational banks. Multinationals are also involved in Amazon deforestation spree. Who is, therefore, to shoulder the main responsibility of addressing the climate issue with due seriousness?
Imperialist powers are undeterred in unipolar world
After the sad implosion of the socialist camp, the major imperialist powers led by US chieftain, under the garb of globalization ‘reforms’, have been prying open the markets of the developing countries for unhindered loot and plunder and exploitation of their cheap labour power to the hilt, while outsourcing their polluting industries, pushing people even further into appalling poverty. In the process they have been impoverishing toiling people even in their own countries. And in this, Indian monopolists who had long before that attained imperialist character, acted as junior partner. Moreover, not only did imperialist Russia also jump into the fray later on, but in the last decade, imperialist-capitalist China too, having smoothly ‘accomplished’ counter-revolution, has emerged as a strong superpower challenging the supremacy of US imperialism. And in its trade war with USA it has, for example, already secured for itself a controlling share in different countries for mining and possession of certain rare earth minerals indispensable today for the production of green energy, for example, solar batteries. In respect of climate issue also, the big powers want to put the main burden of crisis on developing countries, by offering technology transfer and other devises to shift to non-fossil eco-friendly green energy sources like solar plants, windmills etc. only against hefty payment, to secure roaring profits for their big corporates. That means, market economy once again features even in adopting measures to save the earth from an inevitable doom.
Viewing climate change action from perspective of market economy
Clearly, the big powers are taking a stand as if so called capitalist market economy would settle the issue of climate. Nothing can be more incorrect and hypocritical than that. This is an issue of survival of human civilization. So it is foolish, if not devilish, to seek climate solution in economic prescripts or negotiations in capitalism. As we explained in our earlier article, science does have an answer to the question of containing global warming and halting climate change. But the insatiable greed for profit maximization by the monopolist giants and multinationals are posing obstacles before due scientific solution to this harrowing problem. To all the big imperialist powers, raising their corporates’ respective profit graph by using cheaper and abundant fossil fuel has primacy over the imperative task of helping the relatively less-developed and poor countries to reduce fossil fuel consumption and harness renewable energy sources. Thus, they view global warming problem merely from pure commercial angle and political hegemonism. They appear to be more keen to extend human habitation beyond the earth and establish regular communication with that, than to saving the earth from the impending danger of climate change!) Secondly, there is a tug-of-war among them in so far as snatching better benefits through hard bargaining is concerned. Everyone is trying to outwit the others by shrewd moves and diplomatic tactics. This imperialist-imperialist contradiction is the real deterrent to desired solution to climate change issue.
Moreover, if the imperialist-capitalist governments, following the ruinous prescripts of globalization-liberalization, assign the job of planting of trees and reforestation to the corporate houses and multinationals, they would, in turn, claim ownership of forest lands and mining rights to natural resources under the surface. If the corporate demands are to be acceded, a host of the tribals and other poorer communities would be evicted from their home and hearth. This has happened in America. This is happening in India also. And moreover, to view tree planting merely from profit motive would only exacerbate the already existing acute environmental problems and people’s distress. Can the profit-based capitalist market economy which has itself created this problem of global warming and attendant climate change resolve the same within its ambit? Will not such expectation be akin to driving a square peg in a round hole? But that is what the imperialist powers would advocate under this or that pretext.
In India, we should particularly look at the role its rulers are playing. Addressing the Glasgow Summit, the BJP Prime Minister (PM) of India had stressed on a five-point plan or ‘Panchamrit’ (Five elixirs) to fight the devastating effects of global warming and climate change. His “Panchamrit” were that India would increase its 2030 target for an installed capacity of ‘non-fossil energy’, mostly solar from 450 to 500 gigawatts, fulfil 50% of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030, reduce carbon emissions by 1 billion tons, bring down carbon intensity by 45% by 2030 and achieve “Net-Zero” by 2070. As usual like his other utterances, this too, t sounded so positive! But India, as stated above, pitched for extending time limit of carbon reduction and forced the term ‘phase down’ coal instead of ‘phase out’ coal, as it intends to go on increasing coal emissions. It has handed over many coal mining blocks to the private houses and gone for large-scale privatization of coal based thermal energy production. More privatization of these two sectors are in the offing. Then, being the third largest polluter what has it been doing to alleviate the problem? Rather, the Indian rulers are sitting tight, to all appearances, and going on blaming the developed imperialist countries for not doing enough themselves. It warrants mention that the ruling Indian monopolists have long ago attained imperialist character and are exporting capital abroad, occupying top slots in the list of global rich, and their unimaginable wealth, clout and power have been keeping to grow unabatedly. The BJP PM has gone to the extent of boasting d that India is going to be a $5trillion economy by 24-25 and close to $10 trillion by 2030. But while on the discussion table in global summit and the question of receiving financial aid from bigger imperialist powers arises, the spokespersons of India project themselves as representatives of a developing and poor country. This is ridiculous. It is true that considering the vastness of poverty and severe unemployment in our country, for which India is categorized as a poor country or emerging economy, not only is the enormity of social disparity — where 1% super rich own 75% of the country’s wealth – somewhat obscured but the role played by the Indian monopolists too gets shielded somewhat. But describing India as a poor or emerging economy by the ruling dispensation in terms of possession of wealth is far from truth. Moreover, India is scientifically so advanced as to feature among the foremost in space technology, electronics, missile production, (for which the government spends huge amounts from the public exchequer) and pharmaceuticals etc.. How can then the Indian government shun its responsibility of bringing down carbon emission with due expediency and swift enhancement of renewable energy production not only by employing latest technology but promoting, supporting and nurturing scientific research in every possible way to meet some still existing technological challenges? Instead, the BJP government, as political manager of the ruling monopolists, is lax in enforcement of environmental laws, allow the big industries (for example, Sterlite copper plant owned by monopolist Vedanta group which was forced to close in 2018 by the affected people’s movement in Tamil Nadu for unbriddled air pollution) to refrain from taking adequate measures to arrest environment pollution and evade fine.
Any destructive measures taken in the interest of the corporate, are often justified as strategic interest though it is shrouded in questionable secrecy, or may even go in the name of climate action. It is not for nothing that the EIA (draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020), has introduced suitable clauses while further watering down scrutiny over projects impacting the environment (and people’s life) ! India did not sign up to halt deforestation by 2030, apparently on the pretext of lack of infrastructure. Deforestation, however. runs rampant here with giant monopolists grabbing those lands rich in mineral deposits by mercilessly evicting immensely poor tribal people. India did not agree to cut methane gas emission either, knowing fully well that it is responsible for formation of ground-level ozone (smog) which is a harmful air pollutant, apart from being a very potent, though short-lived, GHG. Moreover, according to UNEP’s Global Methane Assessment, methane leaks from oil and gas operations and from coal mining–a major source of emission – can be fixed at virtually no extra cost. Further, methane emission from huge untreated garbage dumps, etc. is a serious pollutant and needs to be remedied anyway under the much trumpeted ‘Swatch Bharat’ (Clean India). India which itself aspire to be a $10 trillion economy by 2030, has also indicated that for achieving its 2030 goals, it needs a trillion dollars, by that year, from developed countries. This looks like an advance excuse for not fulfilling that target.
The most ludicrous argument advanced by the BJP leaders is that India cannot come out of coal because it provides livelihood to so many people. Great! The life and livelihood of people are going to be much more imperilled if climate continues to change menacingly because of man-made global warming. Secondly, as we have already stated, Indian government, if it so desires, can enhance green energy sources much faster if necessary funding is released from the exchequer. The oft-repeated plea of the government regarding fund crunch is a bunkum. Lakhs of crores of rupees of tax defaults by big corporates are being condoned. Corporate tax is slashed drastically to deprive the exchequer of substantial revenue income although the profit as well as wealth of the big industrial houses and top industrialists are soaring by leaps and bounds. Tax concessions to the corporates over last few years is reported to be hovering around Rs 35 lakh crores. Quantum of defence budget for 21-22 is Rs 4.72 lakh crores. €1.3 billion (Rs 10, 90,000crores) have been spent to buy 36 Rafael jets, Rs 8,400 crores were expended to buy two luxury jets for PM and President, Rs 3,000 odd crores have been the cost of a so called unity statue of Sardar Patel, Rs 20,000 crores are budgeted for constructing a new parliament building and its annexes, Rs 2,500 crore is earmarked for installing a Ram statue in Ayodhya. Is it known how much money is collected in the much-clamoured ‘PM CARES’ fund and what is it all being used for? Are all these spendings more important than securing people’s life being under serious threat due to climate change? And what prevents the government to absorb the workers, in coal mining and power generation, in the alternative green energy sector? Why should not the government take the responsibility of speedily developing technology to more and more harness green energy sources under its aegis? Why should this area be handed over to business tycoons like Adani and Ambani on a silver platter? We know that the BJP government, as bootlicker of the ruling monopolists, would not answer this question. No government subservient to ruling capitalism-imperialism can do that either.
Capitalism is inhuman, heartless, sees nothing beyond profit maximization
This is the murky face of capitalism now in its death throes all over the world including India. It is out and out reactionary, utterly corrupt, inhuman and heartless. It has nothing to offer but death and destruction. To it, profit maximization through maximum exploitation supersedes everything, even though it plunges into ever deeper market crisis thereby. Each and every issue-economic-political-social-cultural–is decided keeping scope for profit in mind. Every sphere of human activity-science-arts-sports-education-healthcare-entertainment, not to speak of production and ecology–all are in the thraldom of profit objective of the ruling monopolists. All policies are designed in keeping with that. Climate issue is also no exception. Lest the corporate monoliths and multinationals, should have shortfall in profit because of switching to renewable energy sources from cheap fossil fuel, there is so much of dilly dallying on the part of the Indian and other governments. This holds true all the more for the governments of Western imperialist countries, especially the USA that are beholden to the most powerful fossil fuel industries, even if it is a question of saving mankind by addressing the climate issue in right earnest.
After all, already one and a half century ago, Engels pointed out that governments are but managers of the capitalist class. So, the task of compelling the capitalists-imperialists to take appropriate and pro-people measures towards adaptation (of environmental measures) and mitigation of global warming with no further loss of time befalls the conscious toiling millions of the world. The suffering people need to build up a united organized mighty climate movement under proper leadership and along right track to assert pressure on the imperialist-capitalist states. And the historic truth is that this climate protection and social justice movement cannot achieve success unless it is conducive to anti-capitalist revolutionary movement since, because, as highlighted above, capitalism is the root of all evils, human-induced global warming included. Let us conclude by recalling what great Engels had said in the Preface of German Edition of Communist Manifesto in 1992: ‘‘…the manifold types of social quacks who wanted to eliminate social abuses through their various universal panaceas and all kinds of patchwork, without hurting capital and profit … outside the labour movement…were the adherents of the various utopian systems… ’’ (Source: The Guardian 28-09-21, current affairs 02-11-21, Times of India 03-11-21, 16-11-21, The Wire 05-11-21, Down to Earth-09-11-21,10-11-21, 11-11-21, 15-11-21, 30-11-21, The Hindu 13-11-21 and 17-11-21, Business Standard 14-11-21, scroll.in-20-11-21, ABP 17-11-21, 23-11-21, 25-11-21, 29-11-21, 30-11-21, 10-12-21, 30-12-21)