International climate talks in Warsaw ended in disarray on Sunday 24 November. NGOs and trade union delegates walked out in disgust at the lack of ambition and progress.
After international unions, Greenpeace, WWF, ActionAid, FoE, Oxfam, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas and other NGOs had walked out, a statement said governments “cannot be trusted to do what the world needs”.
The tone of the event was set by right wing governments backtracking from even the modest commitments made previously to tackle climate change. David Cameron has promised to “get rid of the green crap”, while governments in Japan, Australia and Canada junked their carbon policies. The Polish hosts ran a coal and climate business-fest throughout the talks. In the short run no doubt the sceptics and the business lobbyists will crow and claim they have the upper hand. But the disgust many climate activists will feel after yet another setback may fuel a revival in climate campaigning.
Next spring the IPCC will issue its fifth report on climate causes, impacts and strategies. It was recently announced that the so-called surface temperature slowdown over the last 15 years may have been mis-estimated. Two Canadian climate scientists Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way added the difficult-to-obtain Arctic readings into the regular Met Office data set.
When these figures were put in, the rise in temperature is more than double that announced in September and more consistent with the rising pattern since in the 1990s (see Independent, 18 November).
A further exposé of the fossil fuels firms that are wrecking the planet has also been made (Guardian, 19 November). Richard Heede traced anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions from fossil fuel and cement producers from 1854 to 2010. He found that just 90 companies — 50 privately-owned, 31 state-owned and 9 nation-state producers of oil, natural gas, coal, and cement — produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age.
The list of 90 companies includes well-known names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton.
The state-owned companies include Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Gazprom and Norway’s Statoil. Government-run industries producing mainly coal in China, Russia, North Korea, and Poland also figure on the list.
The conclusion is very simple. To tackle the climate crisis, labour movements across the globe should campaign for these producers to taken into public ownership, but crucially under workers’ democratic control.
Take over these industries, convert their technologies to low-carbon alternatives and utilise the immense skills and capacities of their workforces for the global good.