By Paul Lewis
Today’s (7 March) Climate March marked the start of what needs to be a concerted push of popular protest in the run up to the critical inter-governmental climate talks in Paris this December.
For three decades capitalist governments around the world, in thrall to fossil fuel interests, have ignored the increasingly stark scientific warnings about the risks of run-away climate change. Each successive year of delay makes the task of moving to a low carbon economy harder and increases the number of people who are and will suffer from the effects of extreme weather, crop failure, and rising disease proliferation.
It seems likely that this year’s Paris talks will result in some sort of treaty to cut carbon emissions. This would be progress, from the dismal failure of the previous Kyoto Treaty, which was scuppered by US Republican opposition. What remains one of President Obama’s few positive achievements is his climate deal with China’s President Xi, and this is the main reason to be optimistic about a genuine deal being concluded in Paris.
The Treaty itself is not likely to amount to much, however. At best we can hope for an agreement that comes into force in 2020, and which includes short-term commitments from the world’s most polluting nations to cut their emissions enough to restrain average global temperature rises to three degrees. The overwhelming consensus of climate scientists is that any rise over two degrees will bring a high risk of run-away climate change that would be catastrophic for civilisation as we know it, within the lifetimes of people alive today.
That is not a reason to give up hope. Every incremental decrease in carbon emissions is worth fighting for as it will buy time and save lives.
China, being the workshop of the world, is now the largest polluter, but it is putting in place serious plans to decarbonise.
Elsewhere a number of significant non-state actors, particularly progressive city leaders, are ramping up climate action.
Moreover, there are some signs of awakening mass consciousness.
The thousands of people who protested in London today (7 March) were a welcome expression of the demand for action this year. The demonstration, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change under the Time to Act 2015 banner, was coordinated with similar events in cities around the world and followed on from the large climate protests last September that shocked global leaders.
All around the world communities are uniting to stop fracking, tar sands, pipelines, Arctic oil extraction, or new coal plants. In Britain, support for the Green Party has been surging, albeit from a very low base, and the Guardian newspaper has now announced major coverage of climate issues from now on.
Socialists everywhere will want to keep building this pressure, because it is important to get the best possible agreement in Paris this year.