England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

COP25: Capitalist world leaders have no solutions to climate disaster

Expanse of dry, cracked mud

The United Nations’ climate talks in Madrid have ended in a ‘compromise’ agreement. Whilst deadly wildfires and temperatures of 50°C hit Australia, world leaders have been locked in a stalemate, squabbling over targets.

These talks were greeted by hundreds of thousands of protesters, including Greta Thunberg herself, when they opened at the beginning of December. For most people, including the millions of young people who have taken part in school strikes across the world, dealing with the climate crisis is of urgent importance.

The 2015 Paris Agreement laid out a target of a maximum 2°C rise in global temperatures. This is in line with the threshold set by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since 2015 though, world leaders have failed to respond to this challenge as the reality of reductions in global emissions falls behind where climate scientists have said they need to be. At their current rate, we are on track for 3°C of warming, which would have devastating effects on agriculture and coastal populations.

International cooperation

The failure of these talks highlights capitalism’s fundamental inability to seriously coordinate on an international scale. This system – capitalism – is riven by endless conflict between different capitalists, who constantly manoeuvre to displace one another in the search for endless profits. This is especially the case with the giant imperialist powers who dominate the global economy

The Paris Agreement calls for a ‘market based mechanism’ for fighting climate change. However, the role of ‘carbon markets’ proved to be one of the main stumbling blocks during COP25. Carbon markets allow the major capitalist countries to buy permits for carbon emission from poorer ones. Not only does this disadvantage poorer, less developed nations, in effect trade in permits and ‘offsets’ enables the countries with the largest emissions to avoid cuts. Trump’s strippped down US delegation was opposed to even these token measures.

As negotiations closed, leaders did little more than recognise that more work needs to be done to meet climate targets. Any real action has been pushed back until next year’s conference in Glasgow.

Glasgow 2020

The irony of Boris Johnson’s government hosting the international climate talks next year will not be lost on the workers and youth looking for a way to fight the climate crisis.

The Tory party is funded by big oil companies and climate denial organisations. It is failing miserably to meet its already insufficient target of net-zero emissions by 2050, yet still pushes through cuts and delays that hold progress back. Boris Johnson and the Tory government will not be able to solve the climate crisis because it is, at its core, a crisis of the capitalist system they support. That is why we have to get organised against them and their system.

On recent climate strikes, there have been strong steps toward building the climate movement beyond just young people. We have seen workers in trade unions joining the struggle, and this should be built on. Trade union activists should organise climate strike assemblies through their branches to strengthen links with student strikers, and to discuss a strategy for taking on this government.

Such a strategy could involve bringing more workers and trade unions into the struggle, but also fighting on the political field. We need to fight for a government that will put people and the planet before the profits of a tiny few. That would open the door for mass investment in green energy and technology, to take the big polluters into democratic public ownership, and to plan how things are produced on a sustainable basis.

Socialist Alternative fights for a government that can live up to this task. But we can’t stop there – the COP25 talks show that a much greater level of international planning is required to make a real difference. We are part of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), which works internationally in over 30 countries for the system change we need.


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