Symptom of Climate Change? The fact that the richest people obstinately refuse to question their privileges.
Saturday 29 August 2009
Hervé Kempf’s recipe for the success of climate change negotiations: "Proclaim that we must redistribute wealth and put a ceiling on income by establishing a maximum allowable income."
Nice summer, countryside, seaside, love affairs, all is going well? Heat wave, full airplanes, highway traffic jams. The summer routine. Factories have closed? Hmm. We got a good rest. And … now everyone is back.
For ecology, the comeback takes the form of a countdown: In less than 100 days the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change will open. A historical, magical, civilizational, vital rendezvous (prepare yourself for grandiloquence). Cohorts of diplomats are going to converge on Denmark in December, and, no doubt, a plethora of activists, militants, citizens – they’re expecting 100,000 people!
The goal of the hubbub: to develop the treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in order to organize the international struggle against climate change. At stake: Will the industrialized countries commit to drastically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for emerging countries’ commitment to limit their own? Report card: The negotiation is blocked. Barack Obama, tangled up in his health care reform, is unlikely to get his proposed climate law voted on before December. Suddenly, US diplomats are putting on the brakes. China and India respond: As long as you don’t budge, we’re not budging.
Will this logjam be broken? We’ll see. But basically, the key is not to be found in the great powers’ game. Or rather, the geostrategic reading has no meaning if it neglects the division of social forces in the wealthy countries. Thus is the lock that must be opened situated at the heart of the operation of contemporary capitalism. Of course, you’ve heard people talk about the bonus issue. Of what is it the symptom? Of the fact that the richest people obstinately refuse to question their privileges.
Now, if we seriously want to battle climate change, it’s necessary that all of society put itself to the task. Whether we like it or not, that means a reduction in material consumption. But it’s impossible for the middle classes to agree to move towards sobriety as long as the ruling classes don’t agree to seriously reduce their lifestyle.
Breaking with decades of the culture of consumption is already very difficult; it becomes unbearable if the transformation is not equitably shared. Consequently, preventing climate change presupposes a profound reconsideration of the social system. Precisely that against which the United States oligarchy is uniting – by blocking health care reform before trying to derail the climate law – but also Europe’s, as the whole bonus comedy illustrates. The result: a weak diplomatic position and the stalemate of the climate negotiation.
You want to succeed in Copenhagen? Proclaim that we must redistribute wealth and put a ceiling on income by establishing a maximum allowable income.
Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.