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We’ll always have Paris: The tragedy of global climate politics

By Tadzio Müller - Rosa Luxenbourg Stiftung , November 11, 2015

The UN climate summit in Paris is certainly important. But an agreement in Paris is unlikely to include a number of urgently needed policies, and may instead constitute a shift in a disastrous direction. What can we realistically expect from the Paris Agreement, and what would the Summit actually need to achieve?

On Saturday, 24 October 2015, two media reports were published that perfectly summarise the challenges we face from climate change:

The first report - "Yesterday, the final meeting in the run-up to the Paris Climate Change Conference took place in Bonn". After months of optimism ("This time we'll make it work - not like in Copenhagen", "We've learned from our mistakes", "This time it will be different"), our hopes were dashed when the report ended by stating, "Climate talks fail to break deadlock". But what is blocking the negotiations? The participants can't still be haggling over emission reductions, because this issue has already been settled (through voluntary commitments) and it's not even on the agenda. So what's the problem? As always, it's about the struggle over global resources. But it's not natural resources that are the focus here, because fossil fuels are not discussed at climate summits. The deadlock is not even about the climate as such. It's about the Northern states finally coughing up the agreed financial resources, despite numerous declarations of intent; financial resources that were to be made available to assist the South in adapting and mitigating the problems caused by climate change; financial resources that would help the North do justice to its historical responsibility for climate change.

The second report - This one reached us from Mexico; it's simple, clear and direct: "'Worst hurricane of all time' sweeps across Mexico". The President of Mexico, Peña Nieto, tweeted that this had been the most severe hurricane that had "ever occurred on the planet". More than 60,000 people had to be brought into safety. Fortunately, the hurricane weakened before striking the Mexican mainland, but it clearly demonstrates what we are up against. What would happen if the international community were to respond properly to the challenges demonstrated by these media reports? What would happen at the UN climate summit in December and what kind of resolutions would it pass?

Why climate action means challenging capitalism

By Erima Dall - Solidarity, November 7, 2015

The COP 21 summit in Paris is approaching, but while the situation is grim the planned social movement mobilizations offer hope and opportunities.

Tackling climate change through a rapid transition to renewable energy is perfectly feasible, but corporate interests are determined to frustrate action, writes Erima Dall.

The world is at a climate crossroads. For over 20 years, international meetings of world leaders have wrangled to avoid any meaningful climate action. The science is as clear as ever; the planet hotter.

In November over 190 world leaders will meet at the COP21 conference in Paris. But countries have already announced their emissions reduction targets, and they will not prevent a rise of 2°C in global temperature – a generous estimate of what is a “safe” temperature increase.

Global investment in renewable energy is growing, but nowhere near fast enough. We are operating in a battlefield. To stop a dangerous shift in our climate system we will have to challenge the economic greed of the capitalist system.

We need to build a mass radical movement capable of challenging the fossil fuel giants, and governments’ absolute commitment to the market; a movement to demand a just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and an expansion of green jobs.

COP 21: movements rally to Paris for climate justice

By Skye Bougsty-Marshall; image by Alberto Ñiquén - RoarMag, November 8, 2015

The COP 21 summit in Paris is approaching, but while the situation is grim the planned social movement mobilizations offer hope and opportunities.

We know how it all started — colonialism was the original metabolic rift in our history, which has been profoundly extended and deepened by industrial capitalism. Yet as we enter the 6th mass extinction, there is an ambient sense that there is no alternative to this way of life.

We collectively hallucinate that the present order of things will persist indefinitely, silently abiding the comfort and enslavement this disposition provides, all the while waiting for the apocalypse we are living through to blossom fully.

Many have been waiting for the totalizing revolution that appears as a vanishing point on a receding horizon, a perpetually deferred future. The intersecting ecological and climate crises stand as a refutation of more than a hundred years of left-wing teleology that ‘in the end we will win.’ Instead they reinforce the need for constant molecular struggles to open and expand cracks for resistance and new forms of life to flourish.

World governments acknowledge that catastrophic climate change is the defining crisis of our times, and simultaneously fossil fuel corporations continue to benefit from subsidies of $5.3 trillion in 2015, according to the IMF. This is more than all governments spend on health care combined and amounts to an astonishing $10 million every minute.

We have reached a point where we need to keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground, which would require emission reductions of at least 10% per year by 2025, even as Lord Stern counsels us that a mere 1% emissions reductions rate each year would be associated with economic recession and upheaval.

This requires radical global degrowth, which understandably is unacceptable to billions of people trying to lift themselves out of poverty wrought by colonial and neocolonial depredation and the enforced inequality of smoothly operating capitalism. Yet the overdeveloped states deny their historic responsibility, disregarding principles of equity by refusing to recognize their immeasurable ecological and social debts accrued through their ruinous development processes.

The landmark COP21 provides ecological justice struggles with an unparalleled opportunity to come together as a global movement to put into sharp relief the echoless chasm separating the minimal conditions for a just and livable planet and the political order’s capacity to secure these.

The system is exhausted. The UN COP process merely simulates its continued viability, thus performing the regeneration of its legitimacy. Its collapse is inevitable, in its orbit looms only the question whether it will take civilization with it in its violent, implosive heat death. Futurity dangles ridiculous.

Is the Paris Climate Conference Designed to Fail?

By Brian Tokar - Common Dreams, November 11, 2015

The last time this much public attention was focused on the climate talks was in the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. We should not forget how that turned out. (Image: via PabloSolon.com)

From the end of this month through early December, much of the world’s attention will be focused on Paris, the site of the upcoming round of UN climate negotiations. This is the twenty-first time diplomats and heads of state will gather under the umbrella of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a document first put forward at the landmark 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro – the same global conference where the elder George Bush told the world that the “American way of life is not negotiable.” The UNFCCC process has had its ups and downs over the years, including the approval of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the first international agreement to mandate specific reductions in climate-disrupting greenhouse gases.

As this year’s conference approaches, people around the world are suffering the consequences of some of the most extreme patterns of storms, droughts, wildfires and floods ever experienced. Western wildfires last summer reached as far north as the Olympic rainforest, and unprecedented mudslides earlier this fall in a corner of drought-baked southern California nearly buried vehicles caught on the route from Tehachapi to Bakersfield. Central Mexico recently experienced the most severe hurricane to ever reach landfall, and the role of persistent regional droughts in sparking the social upheaval that has brought nearly a million Middle Eastern refugees to central Europe is increasingly apparent. It is virtually certain that 2015 will be the warmest year ever recorded, with several months having surpassed previous records by a full degree or more. While we are always cautioned that it is difficult to blame the climate for specific incidents of extreme weather, scientists in fact are increasingly able to measure the climate contribution of various events, and rising temperatures also heighten the effects of phenomena such as the California drought, which may not have global warming as their primary underlying cause.

The last time this much public attention was focused on the climate talks was in the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. At that time, the first “commitment period” of the Kyoto Protocol was about to expire shortly, and Copenhagen was seen as a make-or-break opportunity to move the process forward. Even as close observers decried the increasing corporate influence over the preparations for the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN climate convention, most observers held onto a shred of hope that something meaningful and significant would emerge from the negotiations. There was a huge public lobbying effort by Greenpeace and other groups urging President Obama to attend, and China put forward its first public commitment to reduce the rate of increase in their greenhouse gas emissions. While the Kyoto Protocol’s primary implementation mechanisms – tradable emissions allowances and questionable “carbon offset” projects in remote areas of the world – had proven inadequate at best, the Copenhagen meeting was seen as the key to sustaining Kyoto’s legacy of legally binding emissions reductions. Perhaps, activists hoped, the negotiators would agree on a meaningful plan to prevent increasingly uncontrollable disruptions of the climate. It soon became clear, however, that Copenhagen instead set the stage for a massive derailment of the ongoing negotiation process, and unleashed a new set of elite strategies that now render the Paris talks as virtually designed to fail.

Officials in Copenhagen were determined to spin the conference as a success, no matter what the outcome. Still, even before the conference began, they began to proclaim the advantages of a non-binding “political” or “operational” agreement as an incremental step toward reducing worldwide emissions. As described in my book, Toward Climate Justice (New Compass Press, 2014), the assembled delegates from nearly all the world’s nations failed to accomplish even that. COP 15 produced only a five-page “Copenhagen Accord,” with no new binding obligations on countries, corporations, or any other actors, and the document was not even approved – only “taken note of” – by the conference as a whole. The accord essentially urged countries to put forward voluntary pledges to reduce their climate-disrupting emissions, and to informally “assess” their progress after five years. Every substantive issue was hedged with loopholes and contradictions, setting the stage for most of the global North outside of Europe to simply withdraw from their countries’ obligations under Kyoto as the 2012 renewal deadline approached. Still, all but three countries – Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua – went along with this scheme; one main reason was that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised skeptics that the US would raise $100 billion a year in funds to assist with climate stabilizing measures, a promise that is still to be realized in the halls of Paris.

What Became Of Occupy Wall Street?

By Arun Gupta - Telesurtv.net, November 5, 2015

Far from fizzling, the movement has a contested legacy that continues to shape the political landscape One of the more puzzling aspects about Occupy Wall Street is not that there was a moment when millions of people hoped or feared it might overthrow the rule of the banks, but that so little is said about it four years on.

Its anniversaries come and go without comment: Occupy’s founding on September 17, 2011, the high-water mark of the Oakland general strike on November 2, the eviction of of the New York camp on November 15, the creation of Occupy Sandy after the superstorm walloped the Northeast on October 29, 2012.

Occupy lost its luster because most people concluded it was a failure. It failed to articulate demands, failed to create a lasting impact, failed to spark a revolution. The haters dismiss Occupy as the “Frenzy that Fizzled.” True believers maintain Occupy triumphed for shifting the conversation from economic austerity to inequality, while ignoring the lack of infrastructure to carry its work and ideas forward. Many who joined or were inspired by it would up feeling confused, bitter, or disappointed at losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to upend the status quo. Others blame Occupy’s dissolution on police forces that aggressively swept out all the major encampments. But it’s defeatist to say Occupy was vanquished “by a concerted government effort to undo it.” State violence is a given, and some radical movements still succeed.

Occupiers tried repeatedly to resurrect the movement after the main bastions in Oakland and New York City were evicted in November 2011. But it never regained its footing despite the national May Day general strike, protests against a NATO summit in Chicago, the Occupy Our Homes anti-foreclosure movement, Occupy Sandy, and attempted re-occupations of parks, plazas, and buildings across the country.

No, Occupy Wall Street did not fizzle or fail. Its outsized ambitions were destined to crash as there are no left forces strong enough in the United States to keep a mass movement flying high. Occupy is as relevant as ever; the difficulty in coming to terms with it is because of its mixed legacy. When radicals lost the initiative against a bankrupt political system, liberals stepped in to divert energy back into the system.

Why NGOs and Leftish Nonprofits Suck (4 Reasons)

By Stephanie McMillan - Skewed News, October 15, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

About 20 years ago, in a conversation with a Bangladeshi organizer, the topic of NGOs* came up. He spat in disgust: “I hate NGOs.” At the time, I didn’t really get why he was so vehement about it. I knew NGOs had negative aspects, like siphoning off some revolutionary energy from the masses, but I also still half-believed their claims that their work was more helpful than not. Didn’t you have to be kind of a dogmatic asshole to denounce free health care and anti-poverty programs? But I didn’t yet fully appreciate how terrible they really are.

Since that conversation, NGOs have proliferated like mushrooms all over the world. First deployed in social formations dominated by imperialism, they’ve now taken over the political scene in capital’s base countries as well. They’ve become the hot new form of capital accumulation, with global reach and billions in revenue. So while ostensibly “non-profit,” they serve as a pretty sweet income stream for those at the top, while fattening up large layers of the petite bourgeoisie and draping them like a warm wet blanket over the working class, muffling their demands.

After much observation and experience both direct and indirect, I now understand and share that long-ago organizer’s hatred of NGOs. Just how terrible are they? Let us count the ways:

Confronted by the ecological emergency: project of society, programme, strategy

By Daniel Tanuro - International Viewpoint, October 12, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In April 2014, two different teams of American glaciologists, specialists in the Antarctic, reached - by different methods, based on observation - the same conclusion: because of global warming, a portion of the ice sheet has begun to dislocate, and this dislocation is irreversible.

Although scientists are reluctant to say that their projections are 100 per cent certain, these ones were categorical: "We have gone beyond the point of no return," they said at a joint press conference. According to them, nothing can prevent a rise in sea level of 1.2 metres in the coming 300-400 years. It is their opinion that the phenomenon will lead to accelerated destabilization of the adjacent area, which could subsequently lead to a further rise in sea level of more than three metres. [1]

Just Say “No” to the Paris COP: A Possible Way to Win Something for Climate Justice

By John Foran - Resilience, September 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For a Just Climate Future, We Must Have No Agreement in Paris.

A very simple argument makes the scale of our failure absolutely clear.... let’s just call it the Vicious Syllogism. It goes as follows:

Premise 1: If we do not keep average atmospheric temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we are in for dangerous, unpredictable and potentially catastrophic climate change.

Premise 2: If the world does not keep further anthropogenic emissions of CO2 equivalent to no more than (say) 1,300 billion tonnes, we shall not keep average atmospheric temperature rise below 2°C.

Premise 3: If [the UN FCCC is] not now even minimally embarked on a programme that might make limiting ourselves to such a carbon budget even remotely feasible, we shall not keep further anthropogenic emissions of CO2 equivalent to no more than 1,300 billion tonnes.

Premise 4: [The UN FCCC is] not now even minimally embarked on such a program.

So (by Premises 4 back through 1):

Conclusion: We are (already) in for dangerous, unpredictable and potentially catastrophic climate change.

-- John Foster, John Foster, After Sustainability: Denial, Hope, Retrieval (London: Earthscan, 2015), 2-3, with “the UNFCCC” replacing “we” in the original

In the long-running medieval soap opera Game of Thrones, they say that “when you play the game of thrones, you win … or you die. There is no middle ground” (season 1, episode 7 bears this title).

In the long-running contemporary soap opera At the COP, the same maxim holds true, it seems to me. “When you are dealing with the risks posed by climate change, you must play to win … or people will die.”

This is why the global climate justice movement and its allies everywhere must pay attention to the COP21 meetings coming in December to Paris. And we will need to be very imaginative indeed to defeat our enemies – the largest corporations in the world, the global political elite, and the systems whose levers they believe they control: capitalism, the world energy supply, the mass media, and a largely-rigged brand of democracy that systematically excludes radical challengers.

The global climate justice movement must inevitably confront the looming nightmare of COP21 in Paris in a few short months, and live with its outcome long after that. Paris will attract large numbers of climate activists, concerned citizens, good, bad, and indifferent NGOs, young people, old people, journalists and communicators of every stripe. While few in the climate justice movement expect much of the fatally flawed and compromised climate negotiations that are supposed to finalize a “treaty” of some kind in Paris, it is a place where a good part of the world’s attention will be turned, and thus presents opportunities for increasing the momentum and strength of our beautiful movements.

Paris will also likely be the site of intense narrative and political contention over the value and outcome of the negotiations, since world leaders, especially from the global North, will be seeking to declare a victory on the basis of some common text they will do everything in their power to get their counterparts all over the world to sign onto.

The whole world will be watching (and actually, we have to make sure that as much of the world as possible brings its attention to the spectacle). Meanwhile, we must summon all the creative powers we have to gather a force capable of pulling the emergency break on the out-of-control locomotive of the COP before it takes us over a cliff.

Capital Blight: Common Cause or a Neighborhood "Linch"-Mob?

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 19, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Recently, a member of the IWW EUC posted a link to a May 27, 2015 editorial by four anonymous members of the Common Cause anarchist-communist federation, titled, Active Corrosion: Building Working-class Opposition to Pipelines, and I must say, it's very thought provoking. They definitely raise some important issues and ask some pertinent questions, but ultimately their criticisms of the IWW EUC and the conclusions they draw based on that fall far off the mark. Furthermore, although I share many of their criticisms of the environmental movement across the spectrum from mainstream NGO to radical direct-action eco-radical, I find their proposed remedies, while well intentioned, to be insufficient and, quite frankly, formulaic.

Who Misquoted Judi Bari?

Perhaps it's best to begin with their rather shallow understanding of the current orientations within Earth First!. In section II of their piece, (The Lay of the Land), they declare:

There are the assertions of Earth First!-types, as expressed by the organization’s co-founder Dave Foreman that it is “the bumpkin proletariat so celebrated in Wobbly lore who holds the most violent and destructive attitudes towards the natural world (and toward those who would defend it).”

It's interesting that they would reference that particular statement of Foreman's, since it was made almost twenty-five years ago, in a debate with Murray Bookchin, conducted as Dave Foreman was dropping out of the Earth First! movement in response to the latter incorporating class struggle into its radical ecology perspective (due, in no small part, to the influence of Judi Bari whom they so quickly dismiss--but more about that later). Many of Foreman's supporters within Earth First! who held similar views would soon follow within the next few years, and for the most part, most of them never returned to the fold. These days, Earth First!, while far from consistent or perfect on matters of class struggle or workers issues, is significantly more inclusive of them. If one were to read, for example, any of the rather detailed articles by Alexander Reid Ross, and they would see that some Earth First!ers have a fairly deep and extensive understanding of workers' issues. While it is true that there is also a strong primitivist--as well as a persistent insurrectionist--streak within that movement (one that I am often willing to criticize when he deems it necessary), these leanings do not preclude social anarchist perspectives.

Moving on from there, the editorialists opine:

In contrast, there is the commitment of the Wobblies’, otherwise known as the Industrial Workers of the World, Environmental Unionism Caucus to strategize about, “how to organize workers in resource extraction industries with a high impacts [sic] on the environment”, which lacks a broader vision of addressing industries which cannot exist in their current form or at all, if we are to prevent crisis.

Perhaps before making this rather sneeringly dismissive comment, the authors might have--perhaps--read some of the texts and articles on our site, ecology.iww.org, such as the numerous texts arguing against extractivism, including this statement by the South African Mine and Metal Workers' Union (NUMSA), this article by Jess Grant, or this series of articles arguing against "socialist" apologies for Nuclear Power, including my own pieces (Part 1; Part 2), just to name a few. Better yet, would it have been asking too much for the writers to actually contact us and ask us our opinions on the matter? You'll please forgive us if we regard such lack of due diligence as mentally lazy.

How Do We 'Change Everything' without Pitting Workers against the Planet?

By Alexandra Bradbury; image by Sam Churchill - Labor Notes, September 8, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

As fights erupted in the Pacific Northwest this summer over fuel export terminals and Arctic drilling, the idea of a just transition has been on my mind.

The late Tony Mazzocchi of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers (now part of the Steelworkers) coined the term. A “just transition” away from fossil fuels wouldn’t pit workers against the planet. Those displaced should be able to count on decent new green jobs and retraining.

“There’s a Superfund for dirt,” Mazzocchi used to say. “There ought to be one for workers.”

SHELL NO?

As Shell Oil’s drilling rig and ice cutter churned toward the Arctic, activists in Seattle and Portland, paddling kayaks and dangling from cables, tried to block them. Some unions backed the protests, but not the usually progressive Longshore Workers (ILWU).

Servicing Shell’s fleet will provide “an awful lot of family-wage jobs,” said Justin Hirsch, an ILWU Local 19 executive board member—at a time when condo developers are eyeing the waterfront and longshore jobs are squeezed by shipping industry consolidation.

Don’t get him wrong. Hirsch also says “climate change is a massive issue, and it’s going to have to be dealt with by labor.”

But he’s worried the shift to a green economy offers employers an opportunity to destroy the pay, benefits, and workplace control it took generations of struggle to achieve. Will green jobs be lower-waged and nonunion?

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