So states Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo in the foreword to the environmental rights organization’s “Who’s holding us back? How carbon-intensive industry is preventing effective climate change legislation?”
In the report, Greenpeace lays out how “a handful of carbon-intensive companies who stand to benefit from inaction have been holding us back, and the politicians who choose to act on their behalf,” documenting the means and methods they’re using to do so.
With climate change treaty negotiators from 194 nations around the world about to meet in Durban, South Africa for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17), the report’s release is timely to say the least.
It comes at the tail end of a year in which record-breaking damages have been suffered by communities and countries around the world due to extreme weather events and a ‘business as usual’ approach to energy and economic development.
A Conspiracy of Dunces
Adding insult to injury, a second release of stolen emails from climate researchers by parties unknown and still at large – the so-called ‘Climategate 2′ – comes just as COP 17 is about to begin, an eerie, somewhat disturbing coincidence, as the first batch was released in 2009 to coincide with COP 15 in Copenhagen. The smear campaign continues.
The leaders of some large US corporations and multinationals, particularly in the energy, mining and power industries, adamantly oppose governmental efforts to cap greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and implement consistent, proactive and long-term climate change and renewable energy action plans. They’ve displayed a great amount of creativity and have been more than willing to dig into their deep pockets to disparage, denigrate and derail any such thing from happening.
It’s become increasingly clear just how shrewd and devious these organizations and their media minions can be when it comes to influencing and manipulating public opinion, not to mention co-opt political leaders in the US and around the world. That’s not surprising; they’re the best money can buy.
These are ‘investments’ that have generated returns far, far higher than investing in their businesses. Down through the years, their spending on lobbying, financing campaigns of political candidates and influencing local elections has been returned many, many times over.
Nonetheless, the broad public refuses to be swayed. The results of public opinion polls in the US have consistently shown broad public support for renewable energy and clean technology, yet our political leadership at the federal level is unable to act.
It’s in this area that the issues of energy, the economy, the environment, and the overall health and sustainability of democratic societies overlap with trends in US politics and government. The Occupy Wall Street and associated movements that have sprung up and persist around the country are clear testimony to the increasingly strong disconnect many, particularly the younger generation, feel when it comes to politics, government and economic opportunity.
A Glimmer of Hope
Nonetheless, there is “a glimmer of hope on the horizon,” Naidoo writes. The best scientists around the world continue work individually and in collaboration to further our understanding of the human effects on climate change and how we may best mitigate and adapt to it. The renewable energy and clean technology industries continue to develop and grow. “Despite the massive odds against it, renewable energy has doubled each year over the past decade,” he notes.
More than 2 million people worldwide are employed in renewable energy jobs. In the US, more people are employed in the sector than in the coal industry. Renewable energy investment reached a record $243 billion in 2010 despite all the economic and financial system turmoil that’s occurred. That’s expected to exceed $3 trillion in the next decade, Greenpeace points out.
As Naidoo states, it’s not a question of lacking the technology, or the money. It’s certainly not a lack of pressing need and urgency. It’s a question of political will. And broad swathes of people in countries around the world are increasingly being spurred to action, to participate and have their voices heard at the highest levels of government, industry and commerce. That certainly is cause for hope, not only economically, not only for life in all its profusion on this planet, but in terms of keeping broad-based democratic systems of government alive and well
“We have the technology today to ensure a transition to a greener, safer and more equitable economy. However, we won’t be able to ensure we make the global transition soon enough to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts and much human suffering unless national governments take strong measures at home and we are able to reach a fair, ambitious and legally binding international agreement.
“Our governments must work with and learn from the business sector but we will not avoid irreversible climate change impacts unless they listen to and act on the behalf of their citizens. In Durban, it’s time for governments to listen to the people, not the polluting corporations.”
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.