Paris COP21 has fared better than Copenhagen in 2009, but as the answer to climate chaos it was weak on growth, and what countries, not corporations could do.
Growth? The original Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972 closely followed the publication of the MIT study ‘Limits to Growth’, which effectively launched the environmental movement. It was taken for granted that exponential economic growth was unsustainable. That recognition has been lost. Without it global environmental plans are doomed to failure.
Meanwhile, the notion that nation states are in charge of their own destinies has become largely fictitious. Even if that were not true, and some corporations are merely larger than many nation states, but do not control them, there are enough corporations with economic power to have more relevance than countries to the successful implementation of COP21.
Of course the decisions of the USA, China, and even India are important. It maybe that Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was a factor in the dramatic change of tack by the USA. Smog is an obvious motivation in China, and deaths from extreme weather events ought to worry the Indian government, though they were reported at a late stage in the Paris negotiations as seeing their prosperity as dependent on coal. Carlisle is a long way from Westminster, but Storm Desmond has delivered a once in a lifetime flood for a second time in six years. Will Storm Desmond have any effect on our own British government? George Monbiot catalogues its preposterous policies, but lunatic as they are, unfortunately one does not have far to seek for an explanation: short term business interests.
Without a Basic, Citizens’ Income it is difficult for anyone to contemplate even a brief hiccup in economic growth, but for mega corporations who have invested megabucks, and have plans to expand, such a notion must be suppressed for as long as possible. This applies even if they know it to be true, as the ongoing case against Exxonmobil demonstrates.
But there are hopeful signs, even within the business community, or at least their investors. But the Tragedy of the Commons dictates that until there is consensus, if the majority do whatever is necessary to save the planet, all they actually achieve is a short term advantage for the few remaining madmen among them. So we are not out of the wood yet.