The recent UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Conference of Parties (COP) in Dubai reeks of monopoly capitalist control mainly through the global oil cartel represented by the US-backed United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosting the talks. In every annual COP, western imperialist countries including the US and Europe would make pledges to cut down on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to arrest runaway global warming, but at the same time shift the discussions away from any notions of historical responsibility and climate debt, instead focusing only on ‘current’ emissions levels while allowing big fossil fuel companies to continue operating unfettered.
The same is true for the 28th edition of COP. Ahead of the negotiations, allegations were made against the UAE for supposedly leveraging COP28 as a means to forge new business deals for the benefit of oil conglomerates. It is also not surprising to see that at least 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists (highest in record) were granted access to the climate negotiations demonstrating the scale of influence carved out by big oil and gas corporations such as Shell, Total and ExxonMobil.
The outcomes of the negotiations also point to a set of orchestrated “commitments” meant to create a profitable route for fossil fuel businesses to continue operating. For instance, the increased attention given to market-based solutions such as in the case of hydrogen, gas and ammonia co-firing, nuclear, and big hydropower projects attest to the corporate capture of the talks. Even the ‘just transition’ framework is effectively hijacked by US imperialist geopolitical maneuvering to funnel the profit from the renewables industry to the west away from China who has now become one of the world’s top manufacturers of renewable energy technology. This is increasingly becoming a characteristic of imperialist crisis today: with the further accumulation of profit remaining the motive behind so-called mitigation efforts to curb the impacts of climate change.
On the other hand, rich industrialized countries pledge underwhelming figures for loss and damage funds meant to pay for the impacts of the climate disaster on poor underdeveloped countries. The US committed just USD 17.5 million which is a mere 0.0035% of the USD 500 billion estimated annual cost of climate impacts on the Global South by 2030. While developed countries contributing over 75% of the world’s emissions have enough money to act, they expect the global south to adapt on their own and pay for the costs.
The fossil-fuel imperialist powers try to obscure their responsibility by misleading people of the real cause of global warming. They take cover under the phrase ‘human activity’ in an evident attempt to spread the blame on all of humanity for causing climate change. They often use ‘motherhood slogans’ such as biodiversity to pit environmentalists and poor communities against each other. In contrast, corporate landgrabbers, extractive profiteers, and polluters, the biggest culprits in biodiversity depletion worldwide, are left off the hook.
The relentless pursuit of monopoly capital for super profit has incentivized a continuing frenzy of fossil fuel-based energy operations. This in turn has resulted in destructive oil and gas drilling operations in many countries of the Global South. Despite the glaring fact that increasing global temperatures has been scientifically proven to be caused by an ever-increasing use of fossil fuel-based energy by the imperialist countries, US imperialism continues on the same path.
It is a well-known fact that over 80 percent of the energy used in the world is based on fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas, and methane). Until recently, the United States ranked the topmost emitter of GHG but because of China’s rapid industrialization, it has become the world’s top GHG producer at 30.7% followed by Europe at 17% and the US at 13.6%. The US however still remains the highest historical emitter responsible for 25% of emissions since the 1700s.
The economic powers belittle the already catastrophic consequences of climate disasters that have increased in frequency in the past 28 years. Drought, for example, is now becoming a frequent phenomenon, particularly in Africa. In Somalia, villagers witness how their livestock slowly starve to death due to a lack of food and water. The people had no choice but to migrate away from famine-affected regions and seek refuge in neighboring countries. Africa contributes the least to global warming yet suffers the most. Between 2010 and 2012, 260,000 Somalis died from famine – most of whom were children.
The Philippines will likely experience ‘moderate to severe drought conditions’ in 2024 comparable to the 1997-1998 El Niño drought, the country’s worst-ever dry spell. Ranked among the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, the Philippines is usually affected by around 20 major storms a year. So far this year, only ten have made landfall, the lowest number since 1998 when 11 were recorded.
Rising sea levels is also evident in almost every corner of the world. In the south of Bangladesh, villagers who live near the riverbanks are migrating to the cities as they lost their livelihood due to intense cyclones that are becoming frequent in the region. The island Tuvalu also faces extinction. This 26 square kilometers island country in the Pacific Ocean with over 10,000 inhabitants may soon disappear beneath the sea due to rising sea levels.
In Shishmaref, Alaska, an Eskimo village on a barrier reef island is slowly disappearing. Rising temperatures have reduced sea ice, which buffers the island from storm surges. At the same time, the permafrost that the village is built on has also begun to melt, making the shore even more vulnerable to erosion.
The effects of global warming are evident, and it is making the life of the global south more miserable on top of imperialist exploitation and plunder. Developing countries only emit a small fraction of the carbon developed countries emit. And yet, they suffer the most from the impacts of climate change.
The climate crisis is at the core of a broader global ecological crisis, and both are tightly intertwined with the recurring and worsening socio-economic crises, geopolitical crises and wars, which in turn are deeply rooted in the capitalist system. The rule of monopoly capital has further intensified all these crises.