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Proletarian issue 3 (December 2004)
Environment: Kyoto finally brought into effect
Russia recently adopted the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which means that this treaty finally comes into effect, having now been ratified by countries accounting for over 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The most notable absentee, unsurprisingly, is the United States which, having signed the treaty in 1998, rapidly did a U-turn, announcing that it would not ratify the treaty as long as there was no requirement for non-industrialised countries to reduce their emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol demands that, by 2010, industrialised countries should have cut their greenhouse gas emissions to a mere five percent below 1990 levels. However, the treaty allows for ‘carbon trading’, whereby countries whose emissions are below target can sell the rest of their ‘allowance’ to countries that are not reducing their emissions effectively. Russia, whose industry has been in sharp decline since 1990 and the fall of the USSR, is likely to be in the position of having ‘spare capacity’ for sale.

So long as most ‘science’ is in the pocket of capital, it is difficult to assess the validity of the variety of hypotheses about the causes and effects of changes in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. However, it is clear that the motivating force behind treaties like Kyoto is not the saving of the environment but public relations. A treaty that offers so little in tangible terms is nothing but a measly sop to the masses of the world whose existence is increasingly threatened by the environmental destruction being wreaked by imperialism.

The questions ‘addressed’ by Kyoto – gas emissions and global warming – are issues that, in the interests of the continued existence of mankind, need to be fully investigated and solved without further delay. It certainly is not beyond the realms of human ability to find a solution to these pressing problems – such is the level of scientific and technical ability at our disposal.

However, the capitalist system cannot and will not mobilise the forces of science for such a purpose. To the imperialist, every penny not used for profit-generating capital is a penny wasted – a penny closer to being driven out of the market by the competition. Capitalism, by its very nature, is only capable of thinking in the immediate-term – it simply cannot afford to think about the future. Hence the startling rate of destruction of the environment that it is engaged in: the polluting of the atmosphere; the massacre of rainforests; the toxic waste; the dropping of depleted uranium; the guzzling of fossil fuels; many of which are already starting to affect the quality of life even of the ruling class.

While Blair makes loud claims about what his presidency of the G8 will do to address global warming, CO2 emissions in Britain are actually creeping back up after having been reduced slightly over the last few years. The hypocrisy of Blair’s new ‘environmentally-friendly’ façade is compounded by the Labour government’s despicable and cowardly use of depleted (and possibly enriched) uranium in Iraq and Yugoslavia. The terrible environmental consequences of these wars will continue to affect the people of Iraq and Yugoslavia for generations – all for the sake of cheap oil (with which we will no doubt increase our CO2 emissions …)

Humanity has the technological capability to provide a decent standard of living for every single individual on Earth without the need for destroying it. The real burning environmental issue is the social organisation of society. We need to use our understanding to advance society without destroying it in the process. Therefore, it is our responsibility to destroy capitalism before it destroys the planet and its people through war and/or pollution.

We have to campaign and make demands on environmental issues, but they will only be seriously addressed once we have done away with capitalism and society is organised on a socialist basis.

You have to be red to be green!
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