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COP 24: a bad joke from Katowice

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Before we consider the results of last December's climate summit, we need to look briefly at the history of UN climate conferences.

UN Climate Change Conference
The UN Climate Change Conference is the annual Conference of the Parties, COP, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since 2005, it has been supplemented by Meetings of the Parties to the Protocol, CMP/MOP.

This almost annual ritual began in June, 1992, with the Environment Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which recognised climate change as a serious problem and committed the international community to action. Its Framework Convention on Climate Change came into force in 1994.

For a long time, the climate conferences focused on a follow-up protocol to the Kyoto Protocol, the only one to be binding under international law, which was due to expire in 2012. Only minor commitments by the industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions were laid down there. In 2011, the Durban conference, COP 17, CMP 7, decided to extend this from 1 January 2013. After the failure of the Copenhagen summit in 2009, COP 15, CMP 5, few expected there to be any further global regulation.

However, the Paris Accords were adopted in 2015, COP 21, CMP 1, and came into force on 4 November 2016.

So much for prehistory. After the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in 2017, which did nothing more regarding the climate question than establish the diverging views between Western Europe on the one hand and China and the USA on the other and that, apart from the USA, no other states were excluded from the international agreements, few observers expected a great deal from Katowice.

First of all, the most important thing about the whole procedure: each country is allowed to decide for itself how much greenhouse gas reduction ("climate protection", "climate targets") it is prepared to achieve. The rule book, which was to be adopted in Katowice, had the task of clarifying the details of how they should measure their progress and make it transparent.

Secondly, the foundations were to be laid for the national climate targets to be increased in two years' time, because the existing targets are far from sufficient to comply with the Paris Agreement. These were to be agreed through a consensual dialogue.

Thirdly, there was the promise by the industrialised countries to allocate $100 billion a year from 2020 to the fight against global warming in poor countries. Before that expires in 2025, a new financing target is to be set and specified. The aim is to negotiate who will pay for this and how much of it will come from state or private funds.

Fourthly, the host country, Poland, wanted to make structural change in its coal-producing areas, and its social consequences, a priority topic of the conference. The major event was finally sponsored by the gas and coal companies PGE, Tauron, JSW and PGNiG.

Fifth, the withdrawal of other countries from the Paris Agreement hovered like a sword of Damocles over the conference. Brazil's President Bolsonaro had already cancelled COP 25 for 2019 in his country. Countries such as Iran, Russia and Turkey have signed, but not ratified, the climate protection agreement.

These five points alone show that the entire conference was conceived under a bad star, which reflects the increasing differences over the questions who should pay, and how much, to achieve the climate goals. Not only those countries that have said goodbye to the conference, but also all the others want to pass on the costs of "climate protection" to others or keep all agreements and arrangements so non-binding that they commit them to as little concrete action as possible.

Results: lean is still too fat
The circus lasted a whole day longer than planned. As always, when a mountain laboured, it brought forth a mouse. Here, we will limit ourselves to the essentials:

In Paris, there had already been talk of going beyond the agreed 2-degree target to more ambitious reductions in order to achieve the 1.5-degree target. Nothing more was heard of this.

The "Katowice Climate Package" lays down the rules for how voluntary (!) climate plans should be presented, how individual countries should report their achievements and how the "world community" could check this. This will apply from 2024, except for micro-states such as Tuvalu and the 47 poorest countries in the world.

The monitoring body may act on its own initiative.

The industrialised countries undertake to report on their aid plans for the poor countries (!). Furthermore, a "process" is to be established to consider (!) what resources their economies will need after 2025 in order to align themselves with the Paris goals. This is not just about public money.

The rules for trading in emission certificates at least did not lead directly to relief for CO2 (carbon dioxide) emitters. There will be further negotiations next year in Chile. The aviation industry has a great interest in being able to buy cheap certificates from 2020 once its emissions have been exceeded.

For the first time, the rules on global stocktaking will also take into account the losses and damage caused by climate change; but there is no talk of compensation and aid here!

No wonder environmental groups were dissatisfied and called for more "climate protection" and solidarity with poor countries. Sabine Minninger of "Bread for the World", a Catholic NGO, scourged the latter in particular. Rather more analytically, Dagmar Enkelmann, chairman of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, said that Katowice was "an indicator of how doggedly the global elites defend their profitable fossil business models". In reality, the problem goes far beyond "fossil business models".

The World Climate Conference is no longer safe from the increasingly harsh exchanges between the imperialist superpowers who have been fighting for some time to redivide the world, degrading it to an ineffective gossip shop. Even non-binding declarations are becoming more and more difficult, which is reflected in the unplanned extension of the summit and the postponement of some issues. In the bourgeois world climate circus, result and effort are inversely proportional. The climate change caused by capitalism actually requires purposeful, rapid action.

Climate facts
Here are some facts. Worldwide CO2 emissions and CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are continuously increasing. The former have more than doubled since 1970, and have increased more than fifteenfold since 1900. The concentration has risen from 280 ppm in1860 to 405.5 now. Almost two thirds of global emissions come from just 10 countries, almost a quarter from China and almost a sixth from the USA (as of 2015). In 2018, global CO2 emissions will be higher than ever before, + 2.7 percent compared to 2017. After a brief slowdown between 2014 and 2016, greenhouse gas emissions are now expected to increase again: in 2017 they were up 1.6 percent compared to 2016.

20 of the last 22 years have broken records for high temperatures. The main cause is largely unchecked growth in the fossil fuels, oil and natural gas. The use of coal has also increased again worldwide. Since 2005, coal consumption in the USA and Canada has declined by 40 percent each, but in many emerging countries in Southeast Asia and Central and South America, coal consumption has risen by 3 percent per year in some cases. China now wants to build some of the planned coal-fired power plants that were shelved just a few years ago. In the EU, renewable energy has led to a slight decline in coal and gas use, but aviation in particular is consuming more oil.

The new emissions figures show that the capitalist world is far from meeting its own climate targets. Capitalism is increasingly proving to be a mode of production that destroys mankind's natural resources. Even for future workers' states, climate change will pose an enormous challenge, for example, to reconcile the world's growing hunger for energy with the organised and systematic phasing-out of fossil fuels.

A New Cold War - over energy resources
Until now, the Russian district of Kaliningrad, which is located between Poland and Lithuania and separated from the rest of Russia, has received its natural gas via the Minsk-Vilnius-Kaunas-Kaliningrad pipeline. On 8 January, Russia's first import facility for liquefied natural gas (LNG) went into operation in Kaliningrad, although pipeline transport is cheaper. This is due to the increasing confrontation between NATO in the Baltic states and Poland with Putin's empire. The latter therefore wants to make the energy supply independent of transit through those countries. Kaliningrad is the headquarters of the Russian Baltic naval fleet, its only ice-free Baltic port all year round and the location of nuclear capable Iskander M missiles. Poland and Lithuania have signed an agreement with the USA on the import of LNG, twice as expensive as natural gas via the above pipeline. Poland intends to discontinue LNG production from 2022.

Since 2001, the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been purchasing electricity in accordance with the BRELL agreement with Belarus and Russia (Belarus, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). According to the "Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan" of the EU, they want to say goodbye to this by 2025 and synchronise with the EU grid via a single access from Poland. Brussels is providing billions in subsidies as part of the Connecting Europe programme. But the EU power grid has its own problems thanks to the "energy turnaround" without storage capacities for the fluctuating green electricity. The complex installation of phase-shifting transformers is intended to better regulate the inflow from Germany. Electricity disruptions in the Baltic States are to be expected. But Russia and Belarus will also have to re-configure their networks. This applies in particular to Kaliningrad. The connection between it and Lithuania is to be shut down as a trial in 2019.

Nothing is too expensive in the new Cold War. We're just waiting for the day when the EU Commission and the German government will give the new confrontation course a "green" seal of approval.

For a real energy revolution!
In view of the ecological disaster and the complete inability of the ruling classes, including so-called "green" capitalism to combat it, the demand for a genuine, and worldwide, energy turnaround is becoming more and more urgent.

A programme of immediate and transitional demands can of course only be implemented in the struggle against the interests of profit by the workers' movement in alliance with the peasantry. Ultimately, an ecologically sustainable planned economy geared to the needs of man and nature requires a global, socialist revolution. This does not mean, however, that struggles for improvements and measures at the national level are pointless. On the contrary, these can and must be understood as a step towards a change in the overall system. The axes of such a programme should be:

Expropriation without compensation and nationalisation of the energy companies and their networks!

Workers' control over operations, planning and research with the help of experts who enjoy the confidence of the class!

Disclosure of trade secrets, not only economic, but also technical (patents...) and thus the elimination of competition!

Away with the recipes of "green" capitalism and the EEG patchwork (certificates, eco-tax, EEG levy, electricity tax)! Planned economy and collective ownership instead of neoliberal and Keynesian "control"!

Financing the "green" plan through progressive taxes on income, wealth and profits instead of indirect mass taxes such as value-added tax and fuel tax!

For an organised phase-out of electricity generation by means of traditional nuclear fission and the burning of fossil fuels!

Energy turnaround means: an integrated plan that also includes transport, agriculture and industry, not just the electricity sector!
For a research programme paid for from company profits to solve the renewable energy storage problem in the form of electricity and/or heat, mechanical energy, for example, by pressurised storage or combustible energy sources, such as synthetic hydrogen, methane, methanol...)!

Opening and standardisation of the existing storage facilities and pipelines for these synthetic gases or liquids and/or hot water storage tanks or compressed air storage power plants or similar!

No competition between bioenergy and food production: Biogas synthesis only from biomass waste! Away with the cultivation of "energy crops" (maize, rapeseed oil)!

For a rational transport plan! Expansion of public transport instead of the dead end of the electric car! Make rail the first option for transport of goods and people! Prohibition of air traffic for journeys of less than 1000 km! Research and testing for alternative means of transport (suspension railway, Transrapid...)! For the remaining traffic on the road: tram and trolleybuses instead of diesel stinkers! Where possible, replace passenger cars by taxis with access to charging stations or continuous battery charging from lines in/on the road network!

Continental and worldwide unified power grids!

For research into new energy sources such as nuclear fusion and elimination or reduction of the radioactivity of existing atomic waste or its safest possible until then.

For a worldwide plan for the repair of environmental damage and adjustment of living conditions to a higher standard level within the framework of an international federation of workers' states!