Climate Change minister James Shaw and his entourage are heading for Glasgow and COP26. But don't expect him to express any solidarity with the protests that will be happening throughout COP26.

THE POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES of some two hundred governments are gathering in Glasgow for COP26, including Green Party co-leader and Minister for Climate Change James Shaw. According to John Kerry, the American special envoy for climate change, the world is in the last chance saloon and must act decisively if it is to avoid the ecological catastrophe that scientists and activists have been warning our political representatives about for many years now. But it was not until the 2015 Paris Agreement that the politicians finally acknowledged that it might actually be a good idea to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change. 

But despite the proclaimed commitment of the signatories to the Paris Agreement to cut gas emissions, they have actually been on the rise. According to the World Meteorological Organisation the build up of gases rose to record levels in 2020.  

'At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of the century far in excess of the Paris Agreement of 1.5 to 2c above pre-industrial levels, says WMO Secretary General Prof Petteri Taalas. 'We are way off track'. 

Despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern telling the country in 2017 that climate change was her generation's 'nuclear free moment', New Zealand's track record on greenhouse gas emissions remains dismal. Gas emissions rose by 57 percent between 1990 and 2018 - the second greatest increase of all the industrialised countries. Earlier this year new figures showed that New Zealand's emissions had increased by two percent in 2018-2019.

Its little wonder then that the young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg last month slammed Ardern's observation that climate charge was 'a matter of life and death' as self-serving and hypocritical.

'Its funny that people believe Jacinda Ardern and people like that are climate leaders', said Thunberg. 'That just tells you how little people know about the climate crisis...It goes without saying that these people are not doing anything.'

New Zealand's record on carbon emissions is indefensible and Climate Change Minister James Shaw is wisely not attempting to defend it. He told The Guardian last week that he was 'embarrassed' by the country's record on emissions but that no political leader could arrive at COP26 'holding their head high'. 

While Shaw may be appear to be refreshingly honest in his assessment of the Labour Government's record on climate change its also worth remembering  that this is the same James Shaw who said he was 'listening' to the 180,000 people who marched throughout the country in September 2018 demanding urgent action on climate change.

Over two years later all that 'listening' has only resulted in Labour Government producing a woefully inadequate carbon emissions plan. It was meant to be enacted into law by the end of the year. It has now been kicked down the road for another five months in order that it, ominously, squares with the requirements of the Budget.

Most notably the plan gives a free pass to the dairy industry to continue polluting the climate. The dairy industry produces nearly half of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Says Greenpeace: 'The document is frankly full of meaningless waffle that won't turn the tide on an accelerating climate crisis, and it is clearly pandering to the dairy industry'. 

But Greenpeace, headed by the pro-market and former Green Party leader Russel Marshal, disagrees only with the Government's mix of policies rather than its support for the political and economic system that has generated them. It shares with Shaw -  and the Green Party he co-leads - a baseless belief that the very economic system that is destroying the planet can be harnessed to save it. You won't see Greenpeace calling for 'system change, not climate change' - leastways, not with its present leadership.

But 'system change, not climate change' is exactly the demand that will underpin the protests that will surround COP26 over the next ten days. Unlike James Shaw - and Greenpeace - they recognise that 'Only the end of capitalism’s relentless pursuit of private profit, endless waste, and rapacious drive for growth, can provide the solution not only to climate change, environmental degradation, and mass extinction, but to global poverty, hunger, and hyper exploitation.' These are the words of the Ecosocialist Alliance, a UK-based coalition organized by Green Left, Left Unity and Anti-Capitalist Resistance and endorsed by organisations  throughout the world including System Change Not Climate Change, the Green Eco-Socialist Network,and Climate and Capitalism.

James Shaw is unlikely to display any solidarity with Ecosocialist Alliance or any of the other similar groups that will be protesting outside COP26. In private he has disparaged the ecosocialist movement and the left in general. In public, he will keep his mouth diplomatically shut. But while COP26 might extensively debate climate change it still remains a mute point whether anything tangible and meaningful will be produced by the discussions. But whatever is agreed we know capitalism can at best mitigate climate change, not stop it.


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