The world faces the horrifying prospect of major climate change with its potential for catastrophic impact on food production and living conditions across the world. Yet, the political leaders of the major capitalist economies failed to agree on any meaningful action on this question at the recent G8 meeting in Japan.
Instead they issued a vague commitment to 50% cuts in global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions by 2050. Well thats something, you might say, but even this pledge is flawed. Firstly, there is no stated base year for the 50% cut.
Secondly, only the G8 countries have agreed to this latest proposal and they havent said how it is to be shared between developing and developed nations. Mexico, Brazil, China, India and South Africa have demanded that the G8 cut their own greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%, accusing them of not taking account of the needs of growing economies.
The U.S. is to convene a meeting including these countries and other major CO₂ emitters but a draft statement doesnt mention quantified targets, only that deep cuts in global emissions will be necessary.
However, the major capitalist countries cant even agree modest reductions amongst themselves – they want to protect their own national interests and not concede any economic advantage to their rivals. The EU countries already accuse Canada and Japan of fudging the targets as their emissions have risen considerably since the 1990s.
What is more, no interim targets have been announced. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes 2007 report, global emissions are supposed to peak and start reducing by 2015 to avoid runaway global warming, but this wasnt even mentioned.
In reality big business and the multi-national corporations are calling the shots. For them profit is the bottom line – Shell have already abandoned the majority of their alternative technology development projects because they are raking in record profits from the high price of oil.
The president of the European Commission calls the G8 announcement a strong signal to citizens around the world and a new shared vision. But their vision is shared with big business – its about how to maintain their profits and the future is for someone else to worry about.
However, for most people on the planet, for the billions of ordinary workers, poor farmers and unemployed – many of whom already suffer the effects of global warming – this isnt enough. To solve these problems, we need to begin building a socialist alternative to the big business policies associated with the G8. We need to change the system, not the climate.