«COP 26» demonstrates once again the inability of capitalism to prevent the disastrous consequences of its development

(«Proletarian»; Nr. 18; Winter 2021-2022)

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The “COP 26” that has just ended in Glasgow brought together representatives from no less than 195 countries and nearly 40,000 participants, many of whom were business delegates who came to lobby for their interests.

These international conferences are organized every year by the UN within the framework of a “convention” on climate change adopted in 1992 and signed to date by 197 countries.  The convention was based on 3 principles: the precautionary principle, the principle of collective (“but differentiated”) responsibility, and the principle of the “right to development”. Elaborated by bourgeois experts and signed by equally bourgeois states, this convention obviously could not question the role of the capitalist mode of production. On the contrary, it wanted to protect it from the harmful consequences and disruptions caused by global warming - something quite different from the bourgeois slogan “save the planet”, which only aims to camouflage this real objective behind a claim common to all, above social classes and their conflicts.

Over the course of successive COPs, participants have tried to move beyond general declarations of intent to set concrete goals. In Paris in 2015, at COP 21, an agreement was signed providing for various measures to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees, the IPCC experts having concluded that this was the minimum temperature increase that could be expected if nothing was done (1). Despite the vague and non-binding nature of this agreement (2), the Trump administration withdrew from it in 2020 before Joe Biden reinstated the United States at the beginning of his presidency. It is not surprising that its objectives were not achieved, especially after the failure of the COP 25 in 2019. This COP, whose slogan was “Time for Action” (!) should have been held in Chile, but because of the social unrest in this country it was transferred to Spain: social revolts are obviously not favorable to discussions between bourgeois states: they fear them much more than global warming!

The COP 26, which took place two years later because of the pandemic, was not a failure like the one in Madrid; and the British Prime Minister declared that a “big step forward” had been made with the agreement signed on November 13 at the end of the two weeks of negotiations of the Conference, while recognizing that there was “ a huge amount more to do in the coming years” But for environmental activists like Greta Thunberg, this agreement is only “blah-blah-blah”, an opinion shared by Antonio Gutterez, the UN Secretary General who denounced “the empty promises” of this conference. An example would suffice to demonstrate this: at the last minute India insisted that a phrase calling for a “phase out” from the use of coal be removed from the final agreement, and replaced by “phase-down”.

The European capitalist countries that made their industrial revolution with coal have almost all closed their unprofitable mines (3), so they have no difficulty in advocating the end of coal use in other countries - while India, China and others still use it massively. “We have become the voice of the developing world,” said India’s Minister of Climate and Environment, commenting on his country’s move. India is the most polluted country in the world (40% of the population, mainly urban, is subject to “extreme” levels of air pollution, notably because of the use of coal), but the Minister of the Environment is above all concerned about the health of capitalism: the children of Delhi (the most polluted city on the planet) (4) may well die from breathing poisoned air if Indian capitalists get rich by producing this pollution!

This attitude is not fundamentally due to the reactionary character of the Modi government; India’s approach to the COP is not exceptional (apart from the moment when it intervened, in full view of everyone, instead of the discreet atmosphere of the negotiating tables): for all the states, what takes precedence is the interest of national capitalism. One of the promises of the Paris Agreement was that the rich countries would finance the energy conversion of the poorest countries to the tune of 100 billion dollars per year from 2020 onwards; needless to say, this promise has not been kept, while thousands of billions of dollars have been released to revive the capitalist economy in the world... 

The general and long-term interests of capitalism may come into conflict with the immediate interests of particular capitalists; then the bourgeois state, defender of the general interest ... of capitalism, may be led to impose it on certain reluctant capitalists. There is nothing similar at the international level, where power relations reign and where each state defends its own economy: although the productive forces of capitalism have developed to the point of having planetary consequences and objectively calling for international action, if only to temper them, the capitalist organization into distinct and rival states prevents this. And this is even truer when it is not a question of the general interests of capitalism, but of those of the population in general and the proletariat in particular.

The ecologists who believe that the pressure of the “civil society” on the governments could force them to “act”, or who imagine that the “awareness” of the citizens, whatever their social affiliation since the climate change affects all the individuals, is the solution, are seriously mistaken. They refuse to see that it is the functioning of capitalism - the search for the profit that is indispensable to its life - that is responsible for all the problems, for all the environmental or other disasters, just as it is responsible for the exploitation, the oppression, the misery and the wars that affect a large part of humanity.

This mode of production cannot be reformed; if we want to put an end to its disastrous consequences on all levels, it will be necessary to destroy it and replace it by a communist economy, without money or market, without social classes or states, without wars or oppressions, where humanity will live in harmony with itself and with nature. The condition to achieve this is not the union of all, capitalists and proletarians; it is the merciless struggle of the proletarians and oppressed masses of all countries against the capitalist class in order to bring down its domination, its political and state organization, in order to erect on its ruins the totalitarian power of the exploited - the dictatorship of the proletariat - indispensable to extirpate capitalism by revolutionizing the whole social organization.

The emergency facing the proletarians is therefore not the climatic emergency, but the political and social emergency of resuming the struggle for the international communist revolution!



(1) We do not enter into discussions on the forecasts of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change, a UN committee), which are contested by the “climate skeptics”.

(2) The American delegation threatened at the last moment not to sign because it was written that the States “must” reduce their CO2 emissions instead of “should”. The conditional tense had to be reinstated for them to sign; however, this was the time of the Obama presidency and not of Trump!

(3) In the United States, coal production, which has been declining steadily for decades, is expected to rise sharply this year. And the US delegation has also been reluctant to make any firm statement against the use of coal, even though Joe Biden stated during his election campaign that he was against the use of fossil fuels...

(4) On 13/11 the schools of this metropolis of twenty million inhabitants were closed for a week, the air being unbreathable.



International Communist Party



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