Climate Reparations? You and what army?
From December 7 through 18, 2009, the UN-sponsored 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. COP15 was a gathering where world powers came together to discuss the impending doom of climate change and what they will, or won't, do about it. This series of semi-annual COP talks began officially in November 1994, and in 1997 the group adopted a document called the Kyoto Protocol, which is a supposedly legally binding agreement that targets an average reduction of 5.2% from 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) by the year 2012. In 2009, the u.$. offered to lower GGEs by 4% of 1990 levels, while the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wants developed countries to curb emissions by 25-40% of 1990 levels.(1) The u.$. is the only imperialist country in the world that hasn't signed the Kyoto Protocol, while other imperialist countries have officially agreed to the document, but have not obeyed it, such as klanada who raised their GGEs by 26%(2).
According to the Kyoto Protocol, the primary way the polluters of the world are supposed to reduce their GGEs is through emissions trading, what is also called "cap and trade." Based on their current pollution levels, governments grant a certain amount of permission to companies to pollute, the "cap," in the form of emission reduction credits. Companies that want to pollute more than the amount of credits they have can buy them from companies who don't max out their own. Hypothetically, companies who pollute more are paying the price, and companies who pollute less are benefiting. In reality, there are so many loopholes in the "cap and trade" that a 15% reduction of GGEs on paper can actually equate to a 10% increase.(3) Before the Kyoto Protocol, global GGEs went up 1.5% per year. After the Kyoto Protocol, they went up 3% per year.(4) The only reason this backwards strategy is even on the table is because of attempts to submit to those who worship the capitalist market as a god that can solve all problems.
The system of carbon emissions trading is also limited by focusing on one form of pollution only. There is an incorrect assumption here that everyone has equal access to polluting and suffer from pollution equally. As many parties at COP15 pointed out, whole nations face extinction due to climate change they didn't contribute to creating. Twenty percent of the world population have emitted more than 2/3 of emissions, and caused more than 90% of the increase in temperatures.(5) Plus, pollution from factories doesn't just contaminate the air with greenhouse gases, it contaminates drinking water and soil and has more local affects on the atmosphere as well, as evidenced by increased occurrences of asthma. So companies who are higher-polluting and are on the buying end of the emission reduction credits scheme create "hot spots" with lots of pollution of all kinds. These "hot spots" have been largely exported to the Third World where production for the exploiter nations is now centered. Even in the united $tates it is disproportionately ghettos and reservations that are ravaged by environmental pollution.
In 2009 a new document came out of the COP talks, called the Copenhagen Accord. It was crafted by the u.$. in negotiation with other imperialist consumer nations and some major neo-colonial producer nations.(6) The Copenhagen Accord is pathetic in that it's not legally binding and is basically an outline of some generic judgments on climate change (essentially, "it's bad"), and a simple form where countries write in their emission goals for each other to examine. The u.$. is trying to legitimize the existence of the Accord by obtaining as many signatures on it as possible. Hillary Clinton's tactic to accomplish this goal is to withhold aid from countries who do not sign. Yet, the aid proposed, not even guaranteed, is just $100 billion from all developed countries combined. To compare, President Evo Morales of Bolivia released a document requesting developed countries pay a minimum of 1% of their annual GDP into a UN fund for underdeveloped countries.(5) For the u.$. alone, this would be a $144 billion annual contribution according to its 2008 GDP.(7)
Another solution being pushed at COP15, presented by the climate negotiator Miguel Lovera of Paraguay, is for more countries to give money to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). REDD is an international fund to pay poor nations for saving or replanting forests instead of cutting them down for timber or cash crops. Obama called REDD "cost effective" because instead of reducing u.$. emissions, they can buy their way out of public pressure by giving money to REDD. Yet, REDD is just a formula to give money to people who already have money, who can afford to clear cut a forest in the first place. In the words of Camila Moreno of Friends of the Earth in Brazil,
REDD is a mechanism designed to avoid deforestation but we know, and they say, indigenous people do not deforest because their life depends on the forest and they live with the forest. So the whole point is that REDD is designed [for] the guy that has the chainsaw, or the money to buy the chainsaw, or the big bulldozers and can say "Okay, I'm going to do this. How much you pay for me not doing?" (8)
The Copenhagen Accord and REDD are the two major deals that were discussed in the mainstream "left" press regarding COP15. Both serve the economic interests of the oppressor nations, and neither will significantly affect climate change.
Many speakers correctly recognized capitalism as the main cause of climate change, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accurately noted that to have true environmental protection, we need to go from a capitalist economy to a socialist economy. In oppressed nations where pollution is dumped and forests are destroyed, if the polluters are pushed out by national liberation struggles, eventually they will run out of places to pollute. Therefore environmentalists must build and support national liberation struggles in an internationalist effort to reduce greenhouse gases and defend natural resources of the oppressed.
Environmentalism as Mysticism
Many of the speakers and representatives at COP15 were referring to an inherent responsibility of humyns to protect "Mother Earth." As materialists, we know that all ideas and moralities are created by humyns, and MIM(Prisons) does not believe in or support mysticism. On the other hand, we are communists, and believe in ending power of people over people. So then, what is revolutionary environmentalism? To further explain, we will quote from page 32 of MIM Theory 12: Environment Society Revolution:
It is no more wrong for a human to dig up something useful from the earth than it is for a meteorite to strike a planet somewhere in space. The moral question is the question of human relations first. The idea that it is wrong to exploit, oppress and kill a human being is a human idea, and like all human ideas it occurs only on the basis of class and gender relations. From the oppression and exploitation of some humans by other humans, the oppressed and exploited have developed a morality that condemns this, and we develop a practice to end it... [W]e do not at present believe there is a basis for calling the "destruction" of the Earth as a planet itself immoral, apart from its relation to humanity and, possibly, other life.
Tuvalu is a small island nation in the Pacific ocean about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Along with most other islands and many coastal areas, it will be submerged under water by the end of the century if the global temperature exceeds a 1.5 degrees Celcius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, rise above pre-industrial temperatures. "Genocide" is defined by the United Nations as "the acts that lead to the disappearance of a people" and the u.$. plays a direct and leading role in this oppression. It is not so much the island of Tuvalu itself, as the Tuvaluan people whom we need to advocate for on this issue.
Reparations & Refugees
Although the official deal that came out of COP15 is a commitment to more of the same from the imperialist countries, the event was unique in that it was the first time that much of the Third World united demanding reparations, and the imperialists had to directly say "no" to these demands. The G77 is a group of over 130 underdeveloped countries, and was the largest united front to enter the talks. Although the G77 didn't ask for direct payment from imperialist nations, they called for a 60% reduction of current GGEs of the imperialist countries by 2020.(8) With a limit on global carbon emissions, such a reduction grants more "atmospheric space" for exploited countries to utilize to meet their own people's needs.
On the topic of direct transfer of wealth as reparations, the UN estimates that it will take at least $500 or $600 billion per year for underdeveloped countries to sustain their people without the development of outdated and heavy polluting industries. This number is backed by another study that came out of London. Even surpassing Evo Morales' call for 1%, Martin Khor, executive director of South Centre think tank, estimates that it will require at least 2% of the GNP from rich countries, which totals about $800 billion per year.(5) Stemming from our understanding of exploitation and the transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World, we support the demand for reparations in all forms.
However, the united $tates has explicitly stated that they will not pay their dues. As u.$. climate negotiator Todd Stearn clumsily explained,
We fully recognize that our historic role in putting emissions up in the atmosphere and we also fully recognize our responsibility to be part of an overall global effort to help poorer countries, both with the regard to the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and the need to help them develop on a sustainable path, which at this point in our collective history means low-carbon path. Reparations to me conveys of culpability, guilt, that kind of thing. And I don't think that's a legitimate way to look at it. (9)
Aside from the problem we have with Stearn's attempt to lump the rest of the world into amerikkka's "collective history" of exploitation and genocide, we ask, what the hell is "responsiblity" and "recognition of a historic role" if it isn't also an admission of guilt? We know we will never get a logical answer to this question, so instead we ask the Third World and revolutionaries everywhere, how will the u.$. pay for its past and continued contribution to climate genocide?
To show exactly how the imperialist settler nations see the rights of First Nations peoples to land and liberty, and by extension of all oppressed nations to the same, we will quote from part of a speech that Naomi Klein gave at COP15. Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This anecdote tells about when she accompanied First Nations representatives to discuss klanada's debt to them with a credit rating agency called Moody's:
I was with the very powerful First Nations spokesperson for the Haida, named Gujao, and Arthur Manuel, who is a former chief for the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation in British Columbia. And Arthur had decided that one way to get Canada to acknowledge the debts that it owed to First Nations people was to meet with the credit agencies that give Canada its triple-A credit rating, which is the highest possible credit rating, and explain to Moody’s that actually Canada carries a huge unpaid debt in the form of the lands that it stole, without treaties, from First Nations peoples.
...[A]rthur and Gujao presented all the documents, the writs, the legal rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, that proved their case that this land was stolen and that they were owed billions in unpaid debts. And they said, “Canada is not a great place to do investment, because what if we called in these debts?” And it was very interesting, because the guy from Moody’s nodded, and he said, “You’re right. We’ve been following these court rulings, but we have decided that you are not going to collect on these debts. So it is not affecting our credit rating.”
And that’s a very important thing for us to remember, because debt is political. Right? You can make your argument. And when we make these arguments, frankly, no one even bothers arguing with us, because it’s so obvious. The science is there. The legal treaties are there. But really what they’re saying is, “You and what army? How are you going to get this money out of us? You are not powerful enough to get the money out of us.” (2)
It is historically proven that any serious measures taken to acquire adequate repayment for destruction caused by imperialism, or even efforts to protect what few forests we have left, will be met with guns.(10) They are even willing to kill their own: in 2005 an amerikan-born nun was murdered by land grabbers who were connected with endangered hardwood trade with the u.$, Europe, and Asia.(11) Some groups have already recognized the need for armed resistance to protect their livelihoods, such as indigenous peoples in the Amazon who protect their forests with spears, and those in Kenya who use guns.(12, 13) The Communist Party of China proved through their liberation struggle the tactics necessary to win warfare against an enemy who has more numerous and powerful weapons. To catalyze the process, we encourage them to study the CPC's military guerilla theories and practices.
In addition to demanding reparations, some speakers are calling for an opening of borders, and permission for people who are refugees due to climate change to be allowed to relocate to territories that are less affected. It is yet to be seen if the imperialist countries will fulfill this request, but considering the fat wall that's being built through Aztlán, and how the wars in Darfur are portrayed as religious wars in the u.$. media, when in fact they are due to fighting over water shortages because of climate change, we doubt they will take a progressive stance on the issue.
While a majority of amerikans accept that global climate change is something that is occurring due to humyn activity, and most think the government should do something, with recession looming the majority said economic growth should be given priority over the environment. The Gallup Poll from March 2009 was the first time that amerikans favored economic growth over the environment in 15 surveys asking this question dating back to 1984. The trend showed a general decline in environmental popularity leading up to the final victory of economics this year.(14)
It is a simple fact that justice and amerikan consumption levels are mutually exclusive. To have justice everyone would have access to such consumption, which would require 6 Earths worth of resources. A decrease in consumption is a major fear of the capitalists right now as they struggle to keep financial markets from crashing, so TV personas have begun crying about the Third World trying to destroy the amerikan standard of living. While the desirability of amerikan lifestyles is a question of subjectivity, the need for its elimination is objective based on the question of climate change alone. For decades, imperialist overproduction has been backed by such overconsumption. In contrast, a socialist economy does not require overconsumption and does not face periodic crisis leading to humyn suffering.
As one example of this overconsumption, The New York Times reports that on average, amerikans consume eight ounces of meat per day, which is twice the global average.(15) At least eighteen percent of GGEs are associated with the livestock cycle, and at COP15 Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, advocated that if we stop eating meat once per week, it will reduce GGEs by 3, 4, or even 5%.(8) This is just one example of how amerikan lifestyles will necessarily change under the Socialist Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Meat will be rationed, and cars will (largely, if not completely) be replaced by public transportation and bicycles. While this may not sound like the ideal lifestyle for some, it is even more true that amerikans stand to lose life, not just luxury, by postponing the replacing of their culture with an ecologically sustainable one. On an individual level, MIM(Prisons) is opposed to lifestyle politics as a replacement for revolutionary work. Not only are the consumer nations unwilling to follow suit on a large scale, but the system of capitalism depends on ever-increasing production that must also be profitable. Organizing large scale
changes in culture and consumption patterns will require a system that puts humyn survival over profits and such changes will not be accepted voluntarily by the First World before it's too late.
(1) Democracy Now! 8 December 2009 http://democracynow.org
(2) DN! 11 December 2009
(3) "How to Cure the Copenhagen Hangover" by Links http://links.org.au/node/1426
(4) DN! 22 December 2009
(5) DN! 9 December 2009
(6) "5 common mistakes in the coverage of the Copenhagen Accord" http://www.grist.org/article/2009-12-22-5-fallacies-in-the-coverage-of-the-copenhagen-accord/
(7) Wikipedia page for "United States" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States
(8) DN! 18 December 2009
(9) DN! 16 December 2009
(10) "Peruvian police fire on unarmed indigenous tribes' oil and gas protest" http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/05/amazon-tribes-police-protest-deaths
(11) "Farming the Amazon" http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/last-of-amazon.html
(12) "The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation" Amazon Rainforest News http://www.amazonrainforestnews.com/2009/12/real-avatar-story-indigenous-people.html
(13) "Arm Sengwer Indigenous Peoples with guns to guard their lives and property" https://www.fpcn-global.org/node/118