The Great Big Bali Beano Ding-Dong Roadmap to Nowhere

What is there to say about Bali?

There have been rumours of punch-ups, singing and drinking and dancing, weeping delegates, and Mea Culpa’s from failed US presidential candidates on behalf of the entire USA. It was, in this sense, like any other industry’s Christmas party – an expenses-paid event, which went on too late, at which the tired staff, drunk on their own self importance, became emotional, and fell out with each other. Office politics, writ really bloody large. So much ado about nothing.

The media lapped up the hysteria nonetheless, and gave it ‘meaning’. What has emerged are unsatisfied eco-activists, disgruntled at the failure of the world’s politicians to achieve a “legally binding framework” to reduce green house gases in the atmosphere. These responses tell us more than Bali itself.

First, George Bush is once again vilified as the “climate criminal” second to none, for his undoubted links to the oil industry. According to some, he’s almost single-handedly managed to ruin the party for everyone else. We at Climate Resistance are no fans of the Bush administration, but it seems to us that, if the US were to tie themselves to the framework – whatever it turns out to be – it would be against the interests of Americans. (We believe that the same is true of any other country, too, incidentally – it’s not really in anyone’s interests). In this respect, we find ourselves curiously aligned with GWB, if indeed it is he who is wrecking the Bali Roadmap. For he is one of the few who appears to be representing people’s actual interests – err, you know, like, in a democratic kind of a way.

It’s all well and good sitting around in conferences, pretending to be sorting out the world’s problems, but actually, beating up the USA for the failure of Kyoto (and the future failure of the Bali roadmap) smacks of a deep contempt for democracy – Kyoto simply wasn’t wanted in the USA. And what is stopping every country that wants to sign up to a legally binding framework which guarantees their populations a lower standard of living from going right ahead, and making laws which will reduce CO2 emissions? It’s happened here in the UK without an international law. Might it be because people aren’t trusted to make sensible decisions at the ballot box, so international frameworks are needed to make sure that no democracy gets out of hand?

Second, a sign of just how shallow and desperate the vilification of world-leaders and industrialists who do not genuflect to climate orthodoxy is the language that is used to diminish them. “Climate criminal”, for example, is one such cartoonish pejorative. And now, Dr Gideon Polya gives us “climate racism”:

“Climate racism” refers to the extraordinary, “might is right”, entrenched disparity in “per capita greenhouse gas pollution” between the “colonial” Anglo-Celtic countries of the US, Canada and Australia and the countries of the developing world. … The worst offenders (the US, Canada and Australia) successfully blocked Scientist and EU demands at Bali for definite “25-40% reductions by 2020” targets and argued for constraints on developing countries. The de facto position of these climate racist countries is that they somehow have a “right” to pollute with annual per capita CO2 pollution up to 160 times that of Third world countries such as Bangladesh but that developing countries must be constrained. 

The irony of Polya’s singling out the Anglo-Celts as the polluting race, while complaining about “climate racism” may be lost on him. We’ve pointed out before how feminists and Marxists struggle to frame their agendas in today’s world, and so seek to clothe themselves in contemporary anxieties to make themselves look radical. (You have to worry when communists and conservatives are bleating the same thing about “the dangers of uncontrolled growth”.) Now, inequality is not a matter of actual substance – ie, cash – but how much you pollute. Racism is no longer defined in terms of attitudes towards racial groups, but how much pollution one group does, compared to another. In other words, Polya has lost the plot, and the only way he can express his moral calculations is by referring to absolutes like ‘racist’, just as others make equivalents between climate sceptics and holocaust deniers. If there were any real substance to the moral claims made by environmentalists, it wouldn’t be necessary to do this.

Inequality is, no doubt, a great wrong. But Polya misses the point. He doesn’t seem to want to solve inequality by creating more for those at the bottom, but by demonising those at the top. “Stabilising” atmospheric gases will do nothing to stop racism, nor will it create a world free of inequality.