COP 28 – collapse in sight?

Image: Alena Koval


The ecological crisis continues, deeply, slowly and inexorably, to undermine late capitalism through growing waves of climate catastrophe, global warming and the destruction of natural resources.

“For the first time in history, we face the risk of global collapse” (Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose Failure or Success).

“Unfortunately, time is up.” Fifteen thousand scientists, from 161 countries, signed a report warning of environmental collapse. Published in the academic journal BioScience, the report states that “life on planet Earth is under siege as we continue to move ever more quickly toward environmental collapse” (One Planet, 1/11/2023).

Extreme weather events are already shaking Brazil: never-before-seen floods in the South, historic droughts in the North and Northeast, fires in the Amazon and Pantanal, cyclones and climate tsunamis on the coast of the South and Southeast. It is time for the federal government to draw up a national emergency plan to face the current climate chaos. And agriculture is already suffering billion-dollar losses. Climate instability has already generated losses of R$33,7 billion for the sector this year (Valor Econômico, 14/11/2023).

In a recent statement, climatologist Carlos Nobre stated that, “according to the IPCC, if the current rate of GHG emissions continues, we will reach the end of the century or even before with 4º C, which will make the world's tropical and subtropical cities uninhabitable. The drought in the Rio Negro basin is already the worst in history. In two decades, 40 to 70% of the Amazon rainforest could have been lost and turned into savannas. We will have a climate and biodiversity disaster, plants and animals will not be able to adapt. The result is mass extinction. Around 20% of the forest has already been deforested. In the South of the Amazon, the forest started to emit rather than absorb CO2” (The Globe, 26/11/2023).

In Africa, due to environmental degradation, the main river basins have become epicenters of conflicts, and agricultural incomes could fall by up to 50% in the near future due to the depletion of “traditional” water sources (IPS, 25/10/2023). In Asia, according to a UNICEF study, 347 million children are exposed to water scarcity in eight southern countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), covering more than a quarter of children of the world. The UNICEF study highlights that “drinking water is a fundamental human right” (Le Monde, 13/11/2023).

2023 is expected to be the hottest year in 125 years, according to the Climate Change Service Copernicus of the European Union. The heat is the result of an increase in greenhouse gases (GHG) and El Niño, which warms the waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean. For Luciana Gatti, from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), “despite knowing everything that is happening, gas emissions increase every year. Human beings are consciously heading towards catastrophe. It’s collective suicide” (G1, 8/11/2023).

But dependence on fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) continues, despite all the scientific denunciations annually released by the UN climate change body, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). A study on 20 fossil-producing countries, including Brazil, projects a production of 460% more coal, 82% more gas and 29% more oil than the limits stipulated to contain global warming. According to Inger Andersen, director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the expansion of fossil fuels is undermining the energy transition necessary to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions and putting the future of humanity at risk” (IPS, 9/11/2023).

COP 28, to be held in Dubai from 30/11 to 12/12, will probably produce more of the same, that is, almost nothing beyond the administrative agenda. The host country, the United Arab Emirates, is an oil state and will have weight at the Conference. No progress is expected in relation to the goal, currently threatened, of limiting warming to 1,5º C, as decided by the Paris Conference, COP 15.

An alliance of international Foundations, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GAFF), has assessed that the weight of food systems represents at least 15% of global fossil fuel consumption (Le Monde, 2/11/2023). The solution requires a transition in food systems, which represent more than a third of GHG emissions, and in agriculture itself, which is very dependent on fossils.

The main factors responsible for global warming are the burning of fossil fuels for energy generation, industrial activities and transport; Then comes deforestation and agriculture. In Brazil, the villain is deforestation, which makes the country one of the world leaders in GHG emissions. This is because forest areas and natural ecosystems are large carbon reservoirs and sinks. In the event of a forest fire or deforestation, carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

GHG emissions from other sectors, such as agriculture and energy, have increased considerably over the years. Furthermore, today it is known that standing forests are more profitable than felled forests. Açaí is a good example, but this is ignored by agribusiness, mining companies, livestock farmers, loggers, etc. But in the world in general, especially in developed countries, the big villain is the transport system (road, rail, air and sea), responsible for a quarter of CO2 emissions, that is, 25%.

At COP 28, for the first time, the cartel of oil producing countries will have a pavilion within the Conference. And the Brazil Pavilion will have panels from mining and petrochemical companies. The COPs have allowed absurd interference from lobbies of the fossil fuel industry. COP27, held in Egypt in November 2022, accredited 636 “explicit” lobbyists from this industry in its official delegations, surpassing COP 26, held a year earlier in Scotland, which had accredited 503 lobbyists. This explains why the COP 27 Final Report does not even mention fossil fuel pollution.

But there is no shortage of warnings: “COP28 will be a moment of truth for the oil and gas industry, which will have to show if it wants to be a serious partner in accelerating the response to climate change,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Climate Change Agency. Energy (Le Monde, 23/11/2023). On the other hand, global deforestation increased by 4% in 2022, despite international promises and commitments (Le Monde, 23/10/2023). The Brazilian government will propose at COP 28 the creation of a fund aimed at preserving tropical forests. It is a payment mechanism for standing forest, per hectare, to help protect tropical forests in 80 countries.

The COPs have so far produced disappointing results. And national states sign, but do not always execute, the approved resolutions. The 1,5º target approved at the Paris Conference, COP-15, is threatened. But many people are pinning their hopes on COP 30, to be held in Brazil, in the city of Belém, in 2025. Before that, the COPs take place in countries committed to fossil fuels: COP 28 in the United Arab Emirates (oil) and COP 29 in Australia (coal).

61 Brazilian civil society organizations released a note demanding that COP28 establish dates for the orderly and progressive elimination of fossil fuels, the exploitation of which must be reduced by 43% by 2030 in relation to 2019 levels, and 60% by 2035, including the suspension of new exploration fronts. The organizations also demand that oil companies and the coal sector stop receiving public money in the form of subsidies and project financing (Observatório do Clima (Climate Observatory), 16/11/2023).

Fossil fuel civilization threatens human survival on the planet. It produces lethal heat, hunger due to the reduction and increase in the cost of agricultural production, destruction of forests by fires, depletion of drinking water, death of the oceans, typhoons, floods, unbreathable air, plagues, droughts, economic collapse, climate conflicts, wars, refugee crisis . Renewable energy sources, despite being sabotaged by the market and the governments that control them, have been growing and becoming competitive.

But fossils will dominate the energy matrix until 2040 at the earliest. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there is no sign that the trend in GHG concentrations can be reversed in the coming years. According to the entity, 80% of emissions occur by the G20 economies, while the BRICS are responsible for a third.

It is important to highlight that the people who will suffer most from the effects of global warming live in the poorest countries with the lowest contribution to GHG emissions. According to Oxfam, the richest 10% of planet Earth are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, the richest are mainly responsible for pollution. Hence the importance of placing environmental justice at the center of the debate on climate change.

In addition to GHG emissions, the loss of biodiversity is a dramatic problem: it is a gigantic process of extinction that threatens more than one million of the approximately eight million plant and animal species known on the planet, with 75% of ecosystems having been altered by human activity. According to many scientists, we are on the way to a mass extinction of species. Man is the only animal that destroys its habitat, which calls into question its rationality of Homo sapiens. All in function of capitalist economic production based on the search for maximum profit.

Last year, feminist academic Nancy Fraser released a book talking about cannibalistic capitalism that devours democracy, care and the planet. But cannibal capitalism today is threatened by the ecological crisis that puts the survival of humanity at risk. Everything indicates that overcoming capitalism will not come from conflict in production relations, but from contradictions in productive forces. This is an old debate.

The “revolutionaries” bet that capitalism would be “destroyed” by the class struggle, while the “reformists” prioritized the productive forces as a factor in the “overcoming” of capitalism. But today few still believe that the proletariat will make a revolutionary break to destroy capitalism and implement socialism. O the lump The proletariat grew a lot and, along with a large part of the depoliticized youth, became easy prey for ultra-right populism, as we have now seen in Argentina.

For some, this is all heresy. But history is full of them. Today, with the world shaken by an intercapitalist war, such as the war in Ukraine, and mainly by a genocidal war by Israel against the national liberation of Palestine, the ecological crisis continues, deeply, slowly and inexorably, to undermine late capitalism in waves. increasing climate catastrophe, through global warming and the destruction of natural resources, thus threatening the survival of life on Earth.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). []

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