KYOTO : OU R LAS T CHANC E
Apathy and greed However, while such a scheme could be agreed to i n principle, the task o f achieving an immediate global agreement to cut substantially greenhouse gas emissions at Kyoto is rendered almost impossible by the activities o f the $1 trillion-a-year fossil-fuel industry. The corporations that profit from the production and use of fossil fuels pursue their aim o f preventing governments adopting any reduction targets ruthlessly, so that they can pursue 'business-as-usual' for as long as possible to allow them to maximize profits.
The fossil-fuel lobby's most glorious triumph must surely be President Clinton's October commitment to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels by 2012, and even then on condition that action is also taken by developing countries. I t effectively maintains corporate business as usual, putting back by 13 years the pledge made i n Rio i n 1992 to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, and postponing for at least 16 years the cuts that are so urgently needed below 1990 levels. Were this target to be met, the date of CO2 doubling would only be postponed by less than five years. I f climate change results i n the way most scientists predict, millions o f people's lives could be ruined as a result o f the US government's failure to take adequate action. The American government, and the fossil-fuel
I n pursuit o f this goal, they have formed lobby groups, such as The Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which act as fronts for a host o f companies like Shell, Exxon, BHP, Chrysler, and Du Pont. They specialize i n intervening in , and systematically sabotaging, the climate change negotiations. Over the past two months, these lobbies have bombarded the US public with well over $13 million o f advertisements designed to prevent any progress at Kyoto, arguing that climate change is not a real threat and that capping greenhouse gas emissions would cripple the economy by inhibiting economic growth and negatively affecting trade, investment, competitiveness and employment. Al l of these positions are demonstrably false.
The facts are clear. If we accept the status quo, we are condemning ourselves to oblivion. What we need is action based on ecological limits, notwithstanding so-
called political or economic constraints.
lobby which controls it , are holding the world to ransom.
While the politicians involved are o f course fully culpable for their irresponsible failure to engage with the severity o f this global crisis, history wil l record with even greater disdain the sheer criminality of those business leaders whose greed, men
dacity, myopia and utter cynicism have corrupted the political process and, as a consequence, set the world on a path to cli matic upheaval and, ultimately, ruin.
The scientific consensus around climate change is now unshakeable, given the clear evidence o f the IPCC. Equally spurious are the economic arguments against combating cli mate change. As the 2,000 prominent US economists, including six Nobel Laureates, who recently signed the 'Economists' Statement on Climate Change' publicly asserted, "Policy options are available that would slow cli mate change without harming employment or US living standards, and these may be economically beneficial i n the long-run."20 The fossil-fuel lobby, however, grossly underestimates the capacity of America's economy to achieve the kind o f technical innovation that we have seen i n the past i n response to other major environmental problems. I t is also clear that the fossil-fuel lobby is all too willin g simply-to ignore the massive positive job implications o f developing renewable energy technologies and increasing energy efficiency, not to mention the improvement i n many companies' competitiveness i n global markets that a re-orientation towards renewable energy would bring. Even the isolated commitments to launch solar power programmes made i n the past two months by BP and Shell, represent less than a penny i n every £100 that these companies are spending on looking for yet more oil. 2 1 Most foolishly o f all perhaps, the fossil lobby consistently fails to take account o f the economic losses, amounting to billions o f US dollars, that would follow from inaction on climate change.
But we can refute the claims o f the fossil-fuel industry until hell freezes over, because when big business starts waving money under our politicians' noses, reason is mysteriously set aside. Without fundamental reform o f the way politics operates, and i n particular the way i t is financed, there can be little hope o f achieving a rapid solution to the problem o f climate change.
The most important governing system to have been bought by the fossil-fuel lobby is o f course that o f the United States, where many Congressmen are deeply indebted to Global Climate Coalition companies who fund election campaigns i n return for promises to block progress on curbs to pollutants.
Al l is not lost, however. The political representatives of most countries can and must still act at Kyoto. The facts before them are clear. I f we accept the status quo, we are condemning ourselves to oblivion. What we need is action based on ecological limits, notwithstanding so-called political or economic constraints. Ultimately, the governments of the world must decide whether to allow the suicidally short-term interests of the coal, oi l and gas lobby to prevail, or whether a sustainable future based on renewable energy and greater harmony with nature is something worth working for. Our future is i n their hands.
l.IPCC's Second Assessment Report (1995), Cambridge University Press. 2. Ibid. 3. Climate Change Information Sheets 2, 3 and 4 published by the U N on http://www.unep.ch 4. Ibid. 5. Dr David King, meteorologist, i n J. Leggett (Ed), Climate Change and the
Financial Sector, Munich, 1996, p.36. 6. References i n the Climate Time Bomb, Greenpeace International, 1994, p.77. 7. J.Leggett (Ed), Climate Change and the Financial Sector, Munich, 1996, p.42. Z.Ibid, p.42. 9. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) - Climatic Feedback i n the Global
Carbon Cycle. 10. J. F. B . Mitchell, "The Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change", Reviews of
Geophysics, Vol. 27, 1989, pp.115-139. II.Ibid. 12. Source: UNEP. 13.Ibid. 14. Greenpeace: Energy Subsidies i n Europe, Amsterdam: Greenpeace
International, 1997. 15. Greenpeace, Stop Stoking The Fire, Wil l Labour End Subsidies to Fossil
Fuels, http://www.greenpeace.org 16. New Scientist, 25 May 1996. 17. Ekins, P., Rethinking the Costs Related to Global Warming: a Survey of the
Issues. Discussion Paper No. 8, University of Cambridge, 1994. 18. FOE Special Briefing Sheet: 'C0 2 CUTS = 226,000 NEW JOBS' based on modelling work by the independent consultancy, Energy for Sustainable Development. 19. Governments: The Puppets of Industry?, http://www.greenpeace.org 20. 'Who killed Kyoto', The Guardian, 4.10.1997. 21 . Climate Change Information Sheets 2, 3 and 4 published by the U N on http://www.unep.ch
The Ecologist, Vol . 27, No . 6, November/December 1997