It is becoming a cliché to blame the Danish government and the way the talks have been structured for the lack of progress at the Copenhagen climate change conference. Climate Change minister Ed Miliband, for example, warned that the conference may descend into farce, adding: “People will find it extraordinary that this conference ... is at the moment being stalled on points of order."
But all this is a smokescreen. It is not points of order that are stalling the talks. The reality is that the only agreement now on the table is an empty political stitch-up that represents not a step forward from Kyoto, but a step backwards.
With all its weaknesses, the Kyoto Protocol at least provided a legally-binding framework under the auspices of the UN, and there is no way the talks can now deliver that.
In fact, there is a powerful reactionary backlash against any action on climate change, reflected in the actions of some major states over recent months. In Australia, the Liberal Party has replaced its former leader with Tony Abbott, a climate change denier whose party has blocked the minority Labour government’s plans to introduce an emissions trading scheme.
In Canada, the “filthy lucre” from extracting oil from tar sands proved irresistible to the government and this dirty business is now full steam ahead. Documents leaked by climate activists show the Canadian government will not to try to meet the already weak emissions reductions targets it set in 2008.
US officials have made absolutely clear that when President Obama arrives in Denmark he won't bring anything to the talks beyond Washington's already stated goals to commit to reducing greenhouse gases by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and to pay a "fair share" into a $10 billion fund to help developing countries deal with climate change.
China, which unbelievably continues to squat in the conference alongside the G77 group of the world’s poorest nations, has made clear that it has no plans for emissions reductions. It has invented a new weasel phrase to cover its shame – the meaningless commitment to a reduction in the “carbon intensity” of their economy.
This is the real face of capitalism in crisis – the cornered rat that will fight for survival at any cost. We also saw it in action in the beatings, tear gassing and brutal arrest of protesters who were simply trying to bring the needs of humanity as a whole from the outside to the inside of the conference.
The poor countries walked out on Monday in protest at the abandonment of Kyoto, but walked back in again after just five hours. Five hours was all they could manage in support of their own people in Africa, Bangladesh, the Small Island States and across the world, whose lives are already being destroyed by climate change. They should have walked out and stayed out!
There was just one moment of truth in the talks, when Bolivian President Evo Morales stated bluntly: "The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It's time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated."
Morales’ demanded that targets be set to keep warming below 1 degree and his delegation are also fighting for an enforceable agreement to put the whole of nature under statutory protection.
He may not have much support inside the conference, but there is plenty of support for him outside. From the day the talks end, we must mobilise globally to put this revolutionary perspective into practice, finding ways to end, and transcend global capitalism to start to tackle global warning and conserve and restore nature.