FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Climate: Sobriety, Not Austerity

Paris.

The UN’s Paris climate change conference in November doesn’t hold out much promise. Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, fossil fuel consumption has gone on growing. The Green Climate Fund launched by the UN in 2011 has attracted only €10bn to date. In 2013 subsidies for fuels responsible for greenhouse gases totalled €400bn worldwide — four times the amount allocated to renewable energy sources.

Any international agreement will fail to keep global warming within 2ºC if governments insist on protecting a production system based on accumulation, pillage and waste. We can’t meet the challenge of climate change without popular involvement; but individual and local initiatives won’t be effective without global political will. If we are to agree to consume less energy and become more frugal — changing well-established habits — we need the prospect of an improved quality of life. There can be no real energy transition without economic and social change, and without proper redistribution of income, globally and nationally. India, where 300 million people have no access to electricity, reports hundreds of thousands of deaths from air pollution each year.

In the West, sobriety stands in direct opposition to austerity, which looks like a trick for bringing about a still more inequitable distribution of wealth. Reducing carbon emissions will require massive investment in housing, public transport and renewable energy — as much as was spent on rescuing the banks in 2008. Improving energy efficiency and living conditions could create jobs, make life easier and generate substantial economies for every household.

Sobriety means a new definition of wellbeing: using less resources and more labour, fewer machines and more human intelligence; taxing fuel to discourage unnecessary air travel; making sea freight more expensive to curb the worst excesses of free trade and encourage the use of shorter shipping routes; deciding not to exploit certain mineral resources.

The industrialised countries, with only a quarter of the world’s population, have run up a hefty environmental bill. Their cumulative emissions have already raised the global temperature by 0.8ºC, and will soon double that (1). Yet they refuse to set targets that take account of past emissions or do more than talk about cooperation, though that will be indispensable. It is time to give the countries of the South the funding and technologies they need to move to development based on energy sobriety. That means quality rather than quantity.

Philippe Descamps is editor of Le Monde diplomatique.

Notes.

(1) Sunita Narain, “Climat: Injustice faite au Sud” (Climate: Injustice for the South), Politique Etrangère, vol 80, no 2, Paris, summer 2015.

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail