Environmental struggles and scientific production

Image: Tim Mossholder


Why are climate decisions not followed through?

The highest body at the United Nations to contain the emission of greenhouse gases and prevent climate change is the Convention of the Parties (COP), which will have its 29th. edition later this year. But this issue has been discussed since the Stockholm Convention (1972), the first major global discussion on climate.

Over these five decades, precious knowledge about the dynamics of climate change was produced – as well as increasingly detailed prognoses of its social, economic and environmental consequences. The occurrence of these extreme climate events on all continents shows the correctness of the models developed by researchers at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the largest collaborative knowledge production network today. The environmental struggles carried out by the most different social segments, in defense of natural resources, against soil, water and air pollution, against pesticides and all forms of CO² emissions into the atmosphere, have been fundamental in boosting the production of alternatives .

The interaction between environmental struggles and scientific production has been decisive in ensuring the main advances in COPs, such as the Kyoto Protocol (COP3/1997), which proposed targets for containing greenhouse gas emissions; the elaboration of national plans for adaptation and the Fund for its implementation in least developed countries (COP7/2001); the production of “Intentions for Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDC), to limit the increase in Earth's temperature to 1,5ºC above pre-industrial levels; the responsibility of developed countries to apply US$100 billion/year, from 2020, to the mitigation and adaptation of the countries most vulnerable to climate change (COP15/2019), are just a few examples.

However, the balance of its implementation is negative, as there is systematic action by the main CO² emitting countries to prevent these commitments from being mandatory. The United States, for example, abandoned the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, justifying that the established goals would compromise its economic development and were followed by Canada. Not even the Paris Agreement, which replaced it in 2015, has been fulfilled.

While countries like the United States are firmly against mandatory CO2 reduction targets,², act rigorously against any non-compliance with agreements made in other instances of the international system, such as the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, supporting the application of harsh sanctions. In the World Trade Organization (WTO), for example, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Law (TRIPS), have dispute settlement bodies that are resolutive on the signatories of these agreements.

It is, therefore, not strange to the system of international relations that signed agreements have binding power. The decision to protect economic and commercial interests and the payment of debts and not protect populations that are suffering from the occurrence of extreme climate events is strictly political.

The fracture produced by neoliberalism imposes, simultaneously, an unprecedented acceleration in the concentration of wealth and climate change. Both are built on daily actions to deregulate the rules for protecting the most vulnerable social sectors, the environment and the privatization of essential services, making social and environmental issues one and the same fight. This is made clear in Brazil's biggest climate tragedy, exacerbated by the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, who changed 500 items of the Rio Grande do Sul Environmental Code and committed to the privatization of essential services.

The mayor of Porto Alegre, aware of all the maintenance needs of the city's protection system, preferred to encourage the occupation of hitherto protected areas and waterproof the parks along the Guaíba riverfront, to the joy of civil construction. Not happy, he scrapped essential companies, making them ineffective in properly carrying out their tasks at the time of crisis. This is just one example of the harmful consequences of this daily work by neoliberal governments in favor of income concentration, the relaxation of environmental standards and the regulatory role of the State.

The naturalization of a society in which (2020/2023), five billion people (60% of the world's population), had their income diminish in the same period (Oxfam, Inequality SA report) and subjects people to the suffering of floods, to inclement droughts, or to raging fires? By combining obscene inequality with accelerated climate change, this model only serves the interests of the 1% who are benefiting and excludes the other 99%, for whom there is no space available.

Fighting for effective action against climate change is nothing other than defending civilization.

*Gerson Almeida, sociologist, former councilor and former secretary of the environment of Porto Alegre, he was national secretary of social articulation in the Lula 2 government.

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