Business as Usual

Nearly one hundred heads of state, 45,000 delegates from 200 countries took part in the climate summit–COP27–and enjoyed the Egyptian hospitality without really hitting the target. They came to deliver lectures with no seriousness to address the problem that is going out of control with every passing day. Tomorrow may be too late. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the all important meeting with warning that the world is “on the highway to climate hell–with our foot on the accelerator”. But for the world leaders, particularly big bosses from America and Europe, it was no more than business as usual.

The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels which was set at the 2015 world climate conference in Paris has long since been abandoned. America’s non-cooperation was the principal reason for its failure. The situation today is alarming.

The recent floods in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan and India, is a case in point. For Africa the scenario is bone-chilling. Disasters after disasters are occurring year after year and yet the global North ignores it; possibly they derive comfort from the fact that the crisis affects only the poor. Poor countries are victims of climate change for which they are not responsible in the first place.

How America in league with NATO has aggravated the climate crisis is hardly discussed in the mainstream media. The sanctions against Russian gas and oil have led to an explosion in energy prices throughout Europe and most third world countries. Forced into desperation many countries have decided to burn coal and other high emission energy sources again while shelving already adopted programmes to phase out coal. Poorer countries apart, even Germany is said to be reviving coal-fired thermal power plants.

They selected Sharmel-Sheik tourist resort, situated at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula for more than one reason. The Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the host of COP 27, created a special zone for environment protesters, far removed from the public and under the watchful eyes of his high alert armed forces. Also, this place is hard to reach except by plane. So the big polluters were free from any ‘nasty noise’ by environment activists! Immediately before the conference began, some 150 people were arrested for political dissent in several Egyptian cities. Sisi who came to power in a bloody coup in 2013 rules Egypt with iron fist. Sixty-thousand political dissenters are behind bars in his regime, many of them on death row.

According to a new study by Oxfam, 125 billionaires and their investments are responsible for more green house emissions than countries such as France, Egypt or Argentina. The Russia-Ukraine war- induced energy crisis and abnormal hike in prices of fuel all over the world has its logical impact on economies, major or minor.

With inflation soaring world-wide more and more workers are now on the streets. Britain, Australia, China, South Korea and other industrially advanced countries were recently rocked by a series of strikes. Workers everywhere were demanding pay hike and protection of job from lay-offs. They are fighting against low wages and the rising cost of living. The last month has seen a bunch of big technology companies, including Meta, Twitter, Lyft, Salesforce, Microsoft and Stripe announced lay-offs. The Silicon Valley is tightening its belt more than other industries.

In Germany people demonstrated against their government’s military support to Ukraine which is increasing inflationary pressure. In Britain more than 40,000 rail workers will go on strike on December 13-14, 16-17, January 3-4 and 6-7. In China hundreds of workers joined protests at Foxxconn’s flagship iPhone plant in a massive factory in Zhengzhou city, with some men smashing surveillance cameras and windows, footage uploaded on social media showed.

Elsewhere unionised truckers in South Korea kicked off their second major strike recently in less than six months, threatening to disrupt manufacturing and fuel supplies for industries from autos to petrochemicals in the world’s 10th largest economy. And over in Australia Qantas Airways domestic cabin crew voted in favour of industrial action that could include work stoppages of up to 24 hours.

Maybe, this is the only positive gain of Russia-Ukraine war though at a heavy price. In truth only workers can force the authorities in America and Europe to reverse the dangerous consequences of climate crisis. If the Ukraine war continues further, the possibility of which looks real at the moment, global warming will worsen further, no matter whether they convene another climate conclave in another resort, not in the distant future.

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Vol 55, No. 24, Dec 11 - 17, 2022