G20: Nature Doesn't Do Bailouts
Climate Camp in the City allows us to come together and learn about the problems of global warming, so we can take action
There is a broad consensus across the political spectrum that we need to reduce carbon emissions. We finally agreed on this basic first step. Now, if we could only get past the next big hurdle soon enough, we might just have a chance of stopping the current trajectory: business as usual, which is driving full steam ahead into climate disaster. While the need to reduce emissions is accepted in mainstream opinion, we still lack the momentum and the political will to take action and make the necessary changes.
Part of this inability to act is caused by the fact that our economic system is based on infinite growth yet reliant on a planet with finite resources. We are hitting the geophysical limits of the earth's ability to provide us with stable conditions. The economic system drives climate change because it is dependent on using huge amounts of energy from the burning of fossil fuels. Green products cannot solve our problems due to fundamental problems with the system itself. This economic model is unsustainable and will collapse. And while financial collapse is painful, ecological collapse is terminal.
Action on climate change is also delayed because of an ideological commitment to solving every problem through the market. The financial crisis demonstrates how markets are subject to corruption and speculation that creates instability for the system as a whole. Meanwhile, this faith in markets has lead to the perverse policy of carbon trading as a means of dealing with climate change. Carbon trading has not only failed to reduce net emissions, but has given polluting industry the ability to make enormous profits from selling these emissions' "rights". Traders speculate on future price of the "right" to put emission in our atmosphere. Carbon trading is yet another financial bubble waiting to pop over our heads - but nature doesn't do bailouts. Furthermore, carbon trading is a distraction from real solutions to climate change, which will leave fossil fuels in the ground. We won't reduce emissions by trading in theoretical savings; we will reduce emissions by not emitting.
If those with political and economic power were serious about climate change they would be planning for energy descent. We would be exploring options for dramatically lowering our energy use and building the capacity for communities to thrive in a post-fossil-fuel era. There are credible strategies to make this happen, but they get virtually no political or financial support. Both grassroots efforts such as transition towns and larger-scale measures such as wind farms are thwarted by a lack of political will to move forward in a systemic manner.
We need to learn from the financial crisis. I am involved with Climate Camp because we create space to investigate possibilities for structural change on the level that could plausibly reduce emissions enough to get us out of this crisis. I am going to Climate Camp in the City on 1 April because I want to demonstrate that the solution lies in people coming together, learning about the problems, and taking action.
We know what we needs to be done: no new runways, no new coal-fired power stations, a real deal in Copenhagen: so let's start to make it happen. I am going to the 24-hour "flash-camp" to take part in the workshops, attend the ceilidh and have some fun with a committed group of people. The stakes could not be higher: we need to delegitimise political and economic systems that are destroying the climate, and build a movement that can offer something better.
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited