The outcome of international climate summits has hardly changed in the last few decades. The task of reaching a global consensus on transformative mitigation strategies for climate change is always eluding the participating parties, and the result is to continue to stare at the road as if to say: “Let future generations take care of the problem . “
Unfortunately, the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, despite being touted as “our last best hope”, was just another big flop, thus confirming that people should not expect international climate summits or governments to resolve the climate crisis. .
Indeed, the only hope for resolving humanity’s greatest existential crisis lies in our ability to mobilize behind the global climate movement.
The outcome of COP26 – a major “compromise” between moderates and reactionaries – does little to slow us down to the abyss. The final document, called the Glasgow Climate Pact, showed no progress on existing national plans to reduce emissions by 2030, which is not enough to limit global warming to 1.5C (2.7F). In fact, as things stand, the planet is heading for a disastrous 2.4C (4.3F) of warming. Only very naive souls can be comforted by the fact that the pact obliges countries to return to next year’s COP with revised targets.
Fossil fuels, which supplied 84 percent of global energy by 2020, will continue to dominate global energy consumption. The power of the fossil fuel producers and the influence of the fossil fuel lobby are apparently too strong to counter in diplomatic negotiations on the future of the planet. In addition, rich countries have failed to live up to their promise of providing $ 100 billion annually by 2020 to help poor nations deal with the threats of global warming, and climate debt is growing exponentially.
In other words, large-scale decarbonisation remains a distant dream despite the urgent need to begin this process immediately to prevent temperatures rising well above 2C (3.6F), and COP26 has not least contributed to the move to move the world economy not. to a clean energy transition. “Surprisingly, even coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels and the single largest source of global temperature rises, received a mere slap in the face when India, with the support of China, managed to articulate an earlier concept of” phase “. from ”coal to“ phase off ”.
If COP26 participants were really serious about resolving the climate crisis, they should have made at least the following promises:
1. Eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies, which according to a recent IMF study amount to $ 5.9 trillion in 2020;
2. Ban banks from financing new fossil fuel projects, as they have pumped trillions of dollars into oil, gas and coal since the signing of the 2021 Paris Climate Agreement;
3. Make ecocide an international crime similar to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes;
4. Demand the cancellation of debt for lower-income countries, which are now spending several times more on servicing debt than dealing with the challenges of global warming;
5. Create large-scale funding sources to help with the transition to a green economy.
Instead, we mostly got a lot of “blah, blah, blah” and more inertia.
But why the persistent failure among governments to put the world on a sustainable climate path?
First, leaders sit at climate negotiating tables with the goal of advancing an agenda that, above all, serves their own national interests rather than the health of our planet. Their attitude is still guided by the principles of “political realism” and political short-termism. This is why their words do not match their actions.
Joe Biden can therefore make a moral statement to world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow that the US will lead the fight against the climate crisis “by example”, but less than two weeks later his administration is auctioning off oil and gas leases in the Gulf. of Mexico.
Second, the nation state remains the primary player in world affairs, so there are no international enforcement mechanisms regarding promises to reduce emissions. International co-operation, let alone solidarity, is extremely difficult to achieve under the existing political order, and as leading international affairs scholar Richard Falk has argued, “Only a transnational ethos of human solidarity based on the sincere search for victory- winning solutions at home and transnationally can respond effectively to the scale and diversity of growing climate change challenges. ”
Third, “the logic of capitalism” guides the world economy. With profit maximization as the ultimate motive, capitalism is toxic to the environment, especially in its neoliberal version, with a strong emphasis on deregulation and privatization. Under such a socio-economic system, it is highly unlikely that the political establishment will dare to embark on a climate action course that could be detrimental to powerful economic interests.
But, alas, it is not all that difficult or hopeless as the international climate summit makes it seem. Climate activism is now a global movement. Youth worldwide took to the streets to protest against lack of action against the climate threat.
We have made some progress in the fight against global warming. Cities worldwide are at the forefront of climate action, thanks to grassroots activism. More than 60 percent of European cities have already committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, with 12 of them by 2040. About 30 major cities in Latin America and the Caribbean have developed climate programs. In Asia and the Pacific, more than 100 climate projects have been launched to combat global warming.
In California, the state with the largest economy in the United States, is a project of building a clean energy infrastructure and reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving a zero-emission economy by 2045 endorsed by almost 20 major unions. the state. In the Ohio River Valley, Reimagine Appalachia, a broad coalition of individuals and organizations lays the foundation for a post-fossil fuel economy.
Activism is indeed the key ingredient behind the support for green transition programs, and even some major legal victories have been achieved in the fight against global warming. European courts have joined forces with activists in their attempt to end logging in an old protected forest in Poland, driving bans have been enforced in some of Germany’s city centers, and a Dutch court has ordered oil giant Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2045.
Climate litigation has also spread to In the Global South. Domestic courts have delivered favorable rulings in landmark climate cases in Colombia, Pakistan and South Africa.
Radical and legal activism is a trend that is likely to expand as time goes on and international climate councils and governments fail to take the drastic measures necessary for the planet to avoid a climate catastrophe.
Revolutionary activism is indeed our last best hope to stop humanity from returning to barbarism due to the potential collapse of civilized social order as a result of a climate apocalypse. We need to sharpen mass organization, especially among working-class communities, so that acts of civil disobedience can gain widespread legitimacy and support. The general strike, an instrument of working-class struggle since the middle of the 19th century, could become a very effective strategy to challenge the political establishment to take drastic steps to combat global warming.
In practice, revolutionary activism means turning every city and town in every major country around the world into a stronghold of the global climate movement. This is the only way the “general will” can be imposed on the powers.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial views.