Socialist Worker

Poznan talks offer little hope on climate change

by Martin Empson
Issue No. 2132

Anyone who hoped that the recent international climate treaty meeting in Poznan, Poland, would come up with a solution to climate change will be severely disappointed.

Although representatives of 190 countries attended, they did so with limited expectations of concrete proposals.

The world may be in great danger, but politicians seem happy to delay further action until US president-elect Barack Obama takes power next month and makes his plans clear.

And it is certainly possible that, despite Obama’s rhetoric, the US Congress may refuse to sign up to sizable emissions reductions.

The heads of state meeting in Brussels last week came to an agreement to reduce European emissions by 20 percent within the next 12 years.

But we really need cuts three or four times larger than this.


The Brussels plan commits the signatory countries to very little. The agreement states that two-thirds of emissions can be “offset”.

Carbon offsetting is an environmental accounting trick which allows polluters to pay others to reduce emissions on their behalf.

As George Monbiot has written, this is little more than “carbon colonialism” – with developing countries doing the work while the wealthier nations do not change their behaviour.

The offset programmes have been shown to be failures at reducing emissions – their only “benefit” is in allowing polluters to claim they have done their environmental duty.

And there is worse news. In their desire to make sure that big business is comfortable with their plans, the politicians have decided that the biggest polluters – the industrial sector – are effectively exempt from paying for the permits to pollute.

If a company can show it has competitors outside Europe it won’t have to pay anything for the required permits – in reality this will mean most companies are exempt.

The Brussels agreement demonstrates that attempting to solve the question of climate change through free market mechanisms means that you end up making concessions to the worst polluters.

The next set of climate talks is in Copenhagen next December.

We have a year to ensure that our political leaders agree policy that challenges the polluters rather than allowing them to continue destroying the planet.

Martin Empson is the author of Climate Change—Why nuclear power is not the answer. It is available from Bookmarks, phone 020 7637 1848. »

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Mon 15 Dec 2008, 19:00 GMT
Issue No. 2132
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.