I went to the 1992 Earth Summit. I was there amidst a bunch of tents, wandering through a swarm of NGO brainiacs, walking my bicycle around, my purple dance tights making me an obvious outlier in the field of khaki pants. It was a depressing spectacle, an exercise designed to fail. Sure, there was hope for a treaty — the Montreal Protocol was entering full effect and the oil companies feared they would face the same fate as the makers of Freon. They needed someone, anyone, to stop any treaty that really reduced the consumption of fossil fuels. And it quickly became clear that there were plenty of volunteers for that dirty role.
The US, under George HW Bush, was the obvious saboteur. Bush said the US way of life was not up for negotiation. But when, for just a moment, it looked like the US would go along with the treaty, Japan popped up to say it would block the efforts. That put the US, and (briefly) Japan on the side of OPEC, that group of oil companies with UN seats. This is how things work: people think big oil has to try and pay people off to be heard. The fact is, there is a queue of leaders eager to do the bidding of big oil, just waiting for big-oil’s current favourite to screw up and do something environmental.
Now, the big oil companies and OPEC states have spent years slowing any progress on climate change. They have thrown smoke for literally a generation. But if you want creativity in the anti-climate-treaty game, you need to look to PDVSA and Venezuela.
Rather than oppose the process, Venezuela has taken to the “no no, this isn’t nearly enough!” game. It is like the hard-core Marxists who show up at, say, the local puppy rescue league, arguing about how many more dogs we could all save if we just END CAPITALISM. Down with the half-measures! Revolution or nothing. You get these people in every movement. They show up eager to let the(ir version of) perfect serve as enemy of the good.
So you got Hugo Chávez at Copenhagen, taking over a small auditorium for more than his allotted time, ranting to the assembled crowd about the structural problems of capitalism and daring the shy security guards to kick him out. Was there another (maybe productive?) meeting that would have taken place there? I don’t know. I do know that grandstanding to European crunchies is not going to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
What will? Well, high fossil fuel prices, leaving oil in the ground, not doing energy-intensive secondary oil recovery, shifting cargo from truck to rail, rail to ship, and ship to pipeline wherever possible, reducing use of jet planes…well, hey, Venezuela is certainly living up to the last one.
But as Gustavo at Caracas Chronicles wrote yesterday, Venezuela is now at a new extreme in concern trolling. The country with the world’s cheapest gasoline, one of the biggest producers of dirty heavy crude, with its extra carbon impact from secondary recovery and double refining, the country that in every way incentivizes the waste of electricity, gas and motor fuel, this country is going to host a pre-summit for the new climate talks. As ever, the country is pushing for “revolution” rather than change.
Last year, Peru and Venezuela asked to host the COP20 (it was Latin America’s turn). In the end, a compromise was reached: Peru would host the main summit, while Venezuela would take care of the preparatory meeting or Pre-COP.
But a boring preparatory meeting is the last thing the government would want. Back in 2009, the late comandante eterno used the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen to preach its message in a big way: “It’s all Capitalism’s fault”.
And boy, they’re following that mantra to the letter. Don’t believe me? Just look at the Pre-COP’s slogan up above.
The meeting is no longer about middle- and low-ranking bureaucrats prepping the paperwork for the heads of State who will travel to Lima. Hell no, it’s a SOCIAL summit now! Social movements! Consulting! Down with the Empire!
Sadly, the UN Climate Summit will also do that. But that doesn’t bother them. Two months ago, the main framework for the summit was discussed and by reading the conclusions, it’s pretty obvious this ain’t about climate change at all.
Who cares about cap-and-trade emissions when “The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system…”.
Go over there and read. Snark, at least, is a renewable resource.