Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said powerful business interests enjoyed easy access to the talks, and to behind-the-scenes meetings with national delegations. “They are inside government writing the rules, like the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “They can afford to run these big advertisements and have these meetings. Inside the conference, there is a sense of business-as-usual – that if we tweak things at the edges, we will be fine. But it’s not true. If we want system change, which is what we need, that is not going to come from inside the conference – it can only come from outside.”
Some climate campaigners see capitalism as an inescapable part of the climate crisis.
Al Gore, former US vice-president, rejected that view, and said the overthrow of current economics was not necessary to tackle the climate challenge.
He said: “We need reforms, there is no question about that. But alternatives to capitalism were characterised by environmental abuses in the 20th century. I think the answer is reform, and not the discarding of capitalism.”
Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme, said social justice and development were inseparable from the climate emergency, and that governments needed to regard both in forming plans to tackle the crisis.
“Climate change is causing new inequalities,” he said. “But by rebuilding the global economy in a low-carbon fashion, governments could also address issues such as jobs, skills, education, health and social development.” In putting forward their plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, scheduled for next year before a crunch climate conference in Glasgow in November, governments should address these issues explicitly, he said. “This is probably the greatest opportunity we have to get investment on the scale that is needed and deliver multiple development benefits at once,” Steiner said. “This is not sorcery – this is intelligent, smart systems planning.”
All smoke and mirrors, the Socialist Party would say. Those who insist that we can solve the climate emergency within the constraints of capitalism are as culpable and just as complicit as those climate change denialists.
Even David Attenborough is at fault. In his latest series, ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’, he has raised climate change in each episode, almost like a sermon, hand in hand with the devastation caused by over-exploitation of land. While laudably raising the issue (and being allowed to), he claims that it’s ‘humans’ who are responsible. By compensation he usually, rather forlornly, mentions some positive point, e.g. a local group who are succeeding in preserving a particular species from extinction. He obviously realises that such efforts go nowhere near to solving the problem.
In his next series, what a change it would be if he said that capitalism is the problem, not humans per se, and that to ‘do our bit’, the best we could do is to campaign to put an end to the system.
Africa’s failing agriculture and growing dependence on imports have led many to assume that simply too many people are vying for limited resources. Africa’s food crisis is real but Africa has enormous, still unexploited, potential to grow food.
Capitalism has created a food chain in which produce can be transported around the world. Specialisation in production has been beneficial and can be more efficient for many products. However, monoculture farming encourages the spread of disease, increases chemical costs and can result in lower yields. Any rational food production system would certainly lead to higher levels of localised production, certainly to greater diversity in the food we consume and certainly not a world in which millions starve while food is left to rot. Neither would a rational food production system see millions being made ill from the poor quality of the food produced or a world in which the food produced was determined by the needs of big business to maximise profits. But equally, with a world population of 10-12 billion, it would involve the continuation of some forms of large-scale agricultural production in food, but at a level which is sustainable, rational and aimed at satisfying the needs of all.