Climate Summit scapegoats India and China ignoring “the U.S. military as the largest climate polluters in history”

30.11.2021

The recent COP26 Summit was viewed by climate activists and even by some western media as a ‘farce’ and political circus, where the world’s wealthiest and most powerful gathered to control and manipulate the climate narrative; ensuring their relentless drive to expand the fossil fuel industry is not hindered and questions regarding the Pentagon’s role as the “planet’s largest polluter” which several studies have highlighted, is not brought into the fore

The Climate Summit in Glasgow was attended by representatives of around 200 countries and territories, which included Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and independent mass groupings. However, from the 40,000 delegates attending only a small number of selected few were allowed into private discussions held amongst key government representatives. A delegate from Mexico expressed concern felt by representatives from developing nations about the direction the summit was taking when she states: “we have been side-lined in a non- transparent and non- inclusive process.”

According to organisers of the anti- poverty charity ‘War on Want’ who were attending, it was “decades of empty promises from those in power to end extreme poverty, tackle global hunger” and “the policies of extraction and exploitation of people and resources by the world’s wealthiest and most powerful continue to fuel the global economy and destroy the foundations of life on our planet”.

Asad Rehman, Executive Director of War and Want, and co-founder of the COP26 Coalition speaking at the  ‘People’s Summit for Climate Justice’ slated the outcome of the conference, where “a deliberate reframing of the climate debate,” took place. He argues that western leaders with their colonial mindset took no responsibility for the historical footprint of polices that benefitted the West and caused devastation and poverty, but “instead used the Summit to put the burden of blame on the developing economies of the global South”.

According to critics it appeared the delegates from the global North had already decided that their main focus would be to push for a “phase out” of coal, highlighted as the main polluter, in the hope of taking attention away from western economies obsession with oil, gas and fossil fuel exploration.

Pointing out coal as the main polluter was convenient since most western economies had finished the phase of development through coal and made the transition to fossil fuels. In the process they also scapegoated India and China as being the main polluters since their economies were still developing, using coal. It is not feasible particularly for India to use anything else as coal is a cheaper option and especially as Rehman pointed out “800 million people are still trapped in a cycle of poverty and can barely afford gas or electricity”.

He also pointed out that at the Climate Change Conference in 2009 US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton pledged a 100 billion dollars to developing nations to help reduce emissions, however developed countries failed to honour their commitment and, in many cases, if any money was given it was given as debt creating loans.

Rehman argues that “18 trillion was handed out to banks after the 2008 financial crises, showing there is no shortage of money when it comes to saving large conglomerates or the banks but there is no money to save the planet?”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that China “attaches high importance to energy transition.” However, no energy transition can take place without awareness that “not everyone has access to electricity and energy supply is not adequate,” and cutting coal tomorrow will condemn billions of people to a life without electricity. Secondly, Zhao said, “We encourage developed countries to take the lead in stopping the use of coal by providing ample funding, technological and capacity-building support for developing countries energy transition.”

This did not hinder western media splashing news headlines of India and China as being the main obstacle in the Climate agreement to cut emissions, nor was there much mention that once again the rich North side-stepped the issue of financial assistance for developing countries.

In between falling asleep and making noble speeches Biden projected the US as a world leader that is “leading by the power of our example.” However, US climate activists have questioned these “examples” calling Biden a hypocrite. According to Collin Rees, senior campaigner at Oil Change International the Biden Administration is “Leasing hundreds of thousands of acres to be drilled by the oil and gas industry in the midst of climate emergency and is an unfathomable betrayal”.

Research has shown that fossil fuel production on public lands causes a quarter of US greenhouse emissions and if banned would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million a year. According to research by International Energy Agency, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects.

If we examine the almost three decades of climate conferences, the pattern is the same of impressive gestures and broken promises resulting in carbon emissions increasing at a startling rate, a result of irresponsible business practices.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had already predicted that it will be "very difficult" for COP26 to secure deals to limit global temperature increases to 1.5C, because there was a "serious problem of trust" between developed and developing countries.

Speaking at the People’s Summit famous historian Vijay Prasad argued the Summit cannot succeed because of the “colonial mentality” and “colonial structures and institutions” that protect the powerful in the global north.

In a video that went viral he berated the West for lecturing to developing nations. He said: “US makes up 4 to 5 % of the world’s population and uses 25% of the world’s resources. It outsources all production to China and blames it for being a carbon polluter. China produces your buckets, your nuts and bolts, your phones. Why don’t you produce your own nuts and bolts? And then we can talk about carbon emissions."

Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire points out that the biggest polluter of the planet, the Pentagon was conveniently kept away from the Summit.

Azikiwe points out that Science Daily reported in 2019 that “The U.S. military’s carbon footprint is enormous and must be confronted in order to have a substantial effect on battling global warming”. Research by Durham University and Lancaster University shows “the U.S. military is one of the largest climate polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more CO2e than most countries…. In 2017 alone, the U.S. military purchased about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted more than 25,000 kt- CO2e by burning those fuels. In 2017 alone, the Air Force purchased $4.9 billion worth of fuel and the Navy $2.8 billion, followed by the Army at $947 million and Marines at $36 million.”

It was no surprise that China and Russia did not attend the Summit, considering the past insincerity of world leaders to work towards reducing carbon emissions. Plus, the continual demonization of china and Russia by western media outlets continues unabated. It was only a few months earlier the 47th G-7 Summit had taken place in the UK where western leaders led by Biden and Boris Johnson pushed for an aggressive agenda against the two nations, while arming hundreds of military bases with nuclear weapons, encircling the two countries. It is no secret the US is preparing for conflict to confront China and Russia.

Include into the equation the unrelentless wars led by the US and NATO while the world’s body the UN remains silent; the bombings of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Palestine, where white phosphorous and chemical weapons have and are being used. Isn’t it any wonder that there is global warming, that the earth’s atmosphere is being damaged beyond repair? Raising the question what use a debate on “coal” is or “fossil fuel” until these incessant wars cease and there is “radical departure from the imperialist projects dominating Washington’s foreign policy”.

War on Wants Director Rehman aptly reiterated George Orwell’s immortal words at the ‘People’s Summit for Climate Justice’ when he stated: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”