2023 was the year when the effects of global warming became clear. The world witnessed terrible heat waves in the summer in the Northern Hemisphere and now in the Southern Hemisphere which have caused forest fires. In the Amazon, droughts have dried up rivers and landowners have taken advantage of this situation to set fire to the forest. Droughts have also caused crop losses, in addition to heavy rains and major floods, such as those that devastated Rio Grande do Sul.
The failure of all climate agreements shows that capitalism cannot solve the climate crisis it has created.
But the capitalists’ shamelessness was on display at the COP-28, the United Nations (UN) climate conference, which was held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, as it was a veritable business showcase for the big oil, mining, and other companies that destroy the environment.
Even Braskem (the company responsible for the largest ongoing urban disaster in the world in Maceió, Brazil where 55,000 residents have been forced from their homes because of the effects of mining) and Vale (the Brazilian mining company responsible for two catastrophic dam failures and the ensuing tragedies in Mariana in 2015 and Brumadinho in 2019) were present at COP-28 where they shared their “success” stories in socio-environmental and climate management.
In the Hands of Oil Companies
COP-28 was chaired by one of the world’s leading oil executives, Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of ADNOC, the national oil company of the United Arab Emirates. Prior to the opening of COP-28, the BBC and the UK’s Centre for Climate Reporting presented documents showing that Al-Jaber was using the climate negotiations to defend the interests of the ADNOC oil company and to make possible deals with other companies.
At the oil COP, Al-Jaber also revealed himself to be a climate-change denier. He said that “there is no science, no scenario that says that phasing out fossil fuels will get us to 1.5°C.” Instead, the COP president argued that phasing out fossil fuels would take the world “back to caves.”
Oil, like gas and coal, is a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change because, when burned for energy, they release planet-warming greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).
The Failure of the COPs
Putting the president of an oil company (and climate-change denier) in charge of a climate conference signifies the complete moral and political bankruptcy of climate agreements. The oil COP shows that the capitalists do not care about global warming. Since environmental conferences have been held – starting with Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – there has been no reduction in CO2 emissions. On the contrary, global warming has only increased, as has the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
What Does Science Say? The Planet Is on the Brink
Global warming is a reality, and it is making extreme weather events more frequent and intense, such as El Niño, a climatic phenomenon caused by the warming of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean.
Here are further indications of the dire climate situation we are facing:
→ According to the European Copernicus Observatory, 2023 is expected to be the warmest year in 125,000 years.
→ According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached a record high of 424 ppm, the highest concentration in 800,000 years. This is the highest concentration of CO2 ever experienced by the human species since we began walking the earth 200,000 years ago.
→ In 2023, for the first time, the world recorded a day when the global average temperature was 2°C higher than in the pre-industrial era. It was November 17 when the recorded temperature was 2.07°C.
→ The oil COP in Dubai blew up the targets of the Paris Agreement. According to the agreement to keep warming between 1.5°C and 2°C, the world would have to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 and have zero emissions by 2050. But the “Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter,” hailed by COP-28 as “a great first step,” only calls for an end to gas (methane) use by 2030. A maneuver that leaves CO2, the main greenhouse gas produced by oil and coal, untouched.
Who is Responsible? The Richest 1% had the same Carbon Emissions as the Poorest 66%.
→ According to Oxfam, in 2019, the richest 1% were responsible for the same carbon emissions as the poorest 66% of the world, or 5 billion people.
→ The carbon emissions of the richest 1% cancel out the benefits of 1 million wind turbines.
→ The super-rich are responsible for 16% of all carbon emissions on the planet since 1990.
Fossil Fuel Prices: At the Oil COP, Lula Negotiates to Join OPEC+.
Lula went to the COP and made many speeches blaming rich countries for the environmental disaster. However, it soon became clear that the government had another interest in the conference: joining OPEC+ (a kind of enlarged grouping of the bloc of major oil producers).
This move strengthens the oil producers’ bloc and goes against the urgent and necessary energy transition that Brazil and the world need to fight the climate crisis.
During the conference, Petrobras President Jean Paul Prates signed agreements with oil companies and even had time to try to sell Braskem to COP President Al-Jaber. He also declared that Petrobras will be one of the last to stop oil exploration in the world. Lula went in the same direction, saying “Petrobras will not stop looking for oil, we must remember that, because fossil fuels will continue to operate in the world economy for a long time.”
Oil in the Amazon
Lula does not hide his “dream” of exploring for oil in the Amazon, which in reality would be a nightmare for the peoples of the region and for a large part of humanity. A study by Agência Pública/Seeg concluded that if all the oil in the Equatorial Margin were to be explored, the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its combustion would cancel out the benefits to the planet of reducing deforestation in the Amazon. According to the study, “if all that oil were burned, between 4 and 13 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, would be emitted. That’s almost as much as the United States (5.3 billion tons) and China (12.3 billion tons) will emit in 2020.”
The study also shows that emissions from burning oil from the Equatorial Margin would be three times what Brazil has pledged to emit in 2030, the target presented in the Paris Agreement.
Meanwhile, Petrobras announced the reduction of investments earmarked for renewable energy sources. Of the $102 billion in investments planned by Petrobras until 2028, only $5.5 billion will go to wind and solar energy and $5.5 billion to hydrogen, which is a pittance. Little is being invested in order to further fatten the pockets of the company’s private shareholders, who received $215 billion in dividends last year.
It was no coincidence that Brazil ended up as the winner of the fossil trophy at COP-28, a far from honorable award for a country that supposedly wants to lead the world in climate action.
There is No Green Capitalism: Fossil Capitalism and the Energy Transition Farce
Introducing new sources of clean energy is the only way to keep temperatures below 2°C. But this requires an urgent, revolutionary, and unprecedented transformation of energy supply on a global scale.
In a socialist society, based on a planned economy and democratically controlled by workers, the development of these technologies would take a giant leap forward. But with the limitations of capitalism, the energy transition is nothing but a farce. In recent years, there have been concrete advances in the available technology that can replace the fossil matrix, but capitalism is an obstacle to its development and therefore only serves a few billionaires to obtain some monopoly income.
Governments give huge subsidies to fossil fuel production. It is estimated that by 2030, $570 billion a year will be spent on oil and gas exploration. At the same time, there is a race to explore the last great oil reserves, such as the Alaskan reserves that Joe Biden wants to exploit, the Equatorial Margin that Lula dreams of, the Russian Arctic oil that Putin covets, and the reserves off the coast of East Africa that China is exploring.
Capitalist logic makes a real transformation of the energy matrix impossible. In fact, the solutions presented (from electric cars to green hydrogen) only serve to open new frontiers for the big capitalists to profit from, not to prevent the destruction of the biosphere. At best, an energy “mix” will be created, a combination of renewable energy sources with fossil fuels, which is incapable of combating global warming.
“Green capitalism” only serves to create new market niches and to allow companies to incorporate the “sustainable” label of green marketing, so-called greenwashing, into their brands.
The energy transition requires a real revolution of the productive forces, which can only be achieved in a socialist society that liberates science and people from exploitation and oppression. Either capitalism is overcome by a new socialist society that revolutionizes the relations of production on a global scale, or climate barbarism will befall humanity.
Program: A Socialist Proposal to Fight the Climate Catastrophe
It is necessary to create a program in Brazil to combat global warming, which must include the reduction of carbon emissions and ensure a sovereign energy transition. To achieve this, we propose the following:
– No to exploration in the Equatorial Margin! Petrobras must invest heavily in renewable energy and use its oil revenues to transform itself into a sustainable energy company. This can only happen with an 100% state-owned Petrobras under workers’ control.
– Nationalize all energy resources, including oil and gas reserves. Nationalize companies that pollute and cause disasters.
– Defend the Amazon and Cerrado against agribusiness and mining (the main vectors of environmental destruction in the country), which must be nationalized and placed under workers’ control.
– For the interruption of coal-fired power plant projects and against the expansion of agro-toxins.
– We demand from Lula the veto of Bill 11.247/2018, approved by the Chamber of Deputies last November 29, which allows for the construction of more coal-fired power plants by the private sector. We also demand the veto of the Poison Bill (PL) (1.459/2022), which was approved by the Senate on November 28. The bill will expand the use of pesticides, which are already banned in other parts of the world, on an unprecedented scale.
Article first published on www.opiniaosocialista.com.br on 12/6/2023.