James Shaw: Dangerous belief in 'green capitalism'.
The crucial issue is not zero carbon emissions by 2050 but whether emissions can be reduced deeply enough and quickly enough to limit the damage that is being done now.

IN THE SAME week that the Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, launched the government's public consultation on the Zero Carbon Bill, there was an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald that reported that the "chance of limiting human-induced global warming to less than 2 degrees is rapidly disappearing as carbon emissions again ramp up in China while reductions in the US and elsewhere stall"

The article also highlighted that the evidence is now also becoming clearer that even global warming below 2 degrees is already inducing severe climactic events, including bushfires, heatwaves, flooding and droughts. According to Andy Pitman, director of the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes. "The notion that 1.5 degrees is somehow safe is totally incompatible with the evidence."

While James Shaw is busily attempting to mine the proposed Carbon Zero Act for all the political capital he can, the ugly reality is that if carbon emissions continue just at today's levels catastrophic climate change is inevitable. At the very least, large parts of the world will be uninhabitable, and conditions in the rest will be harsher than humans have ever experienced.

We have run out of time already and that renders the government's 'goal' of zero carbon emissions by 2050 largely an exercise in futility. It is also dangerous because it seduces people into believing that the government is really doing  something substantial to fight climate change when it is really doing next to nothing.

The crucial issue is not zero carbon emissions by 2050 but whether emissions can be reduced deeply enough and quickly enough to limit the damage. But that will require the kind of fundamental change that this government is incapable of supporting.

While a significant section of the international environmental movement recognises the need for fundamental economic and political change,  James Shaw and this government  still think that 'solutions' can be found without the need for significant change.

When writer and activist Naomi Klein squarely states that its capitalism versus the planet, James Shaw is arguing that the Zero Carbon Act will be good for capitalism. Last year he declared it would "unlock a whole lot of economic activity". Rather than arguing that a comprehensive response to climate change is our best chance for a more just economic system, he's instead arguing how climate change can benefit capitalism.

James Shaw's belief in 'green capitalism' is dangerously illusionary. He thinks that significant reforms can be introduced without challenging the capitalist system that got us into this mess in the first place. He disregards the fact that an economic system premised on the need for short term profit is incapable of providing the sweeping changes that are now required. That Shaw's reactionary views aren't being substantially challenged within the Green Party itself reveals that this party has moved well to the right - which is something NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart pointed out back in 2015.

The benevolent view of capitalism held by this government means it not only consistently fails to make the connection between capitalist economic growth and the destruction of nature, it fails to comprehend that this environmental destruction cannot be stopped so long as capitalism continues.


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