Yes, Quebec can reduce GHGs by 55% by 2030 so as not to exceed 1.5°C

Drastic drop in energy by achieving full left independence

Marc Bonhomme

This article was first published in French at Presse-Toi Á Gauche here


Awareness of the climate catastrophe is spreading, as is the pessimism of not being able to counter it… for the greatest benefit of firefighters and arsonists. Taking advantage of the eco-anxiety that is boosting the post-pandemic return to normal reflex and the energy insecurity resulting from the war against Ukraine, the capitalist tenors are proposing an immediate reinvestment in hydrocarbons, including greenhouse gases ( GHGs) will be absorbed by negative emission technologies (capture and sequestration of GHGs during their emission or coming directly from the ambient air). Since, on the one hand, these new production infrastructures could not theoretically be amortized over the long term and, on the other hand, these capture-sequestration technologies are not mature in addition to being risky and very expensive, would open up for capital a new and gargantuan field of investment… as long as it is fully subsidized by the state. We guess the counterpart of austerity if not austerity that would result.

The use of renewable energies as a pivot is a dog chasing its tail

The pandemic and the Ukrainian war are catalysts and justifyers of this capitalist strategy by sharpening the contradiction between, on the one hand, the demand for fossil energy yo-yos, first slowed down by the pandemic and then accelerated by the desire to boycott the Russian hydrocarbons immediately taken into account by speculation, and on the other side by the construction of renewable energy equipment. As the supply of energy, whether in hydrocarbons or renewable, is under the control of a handful of transnationals supervised by a few large States, these, according to events due in the final analysis to the capitalist dynamics generating zoonoses and wars, it is easy to create an acute scarcity of energy sources in such a way as to cause panic. This scarcity in the short term raises the prices for their greatest profits (and the military expenditures of the oil states). In the long term, it legitimizes the extension well beyond the limits assigned by the IPCC-UN of the energy transition so as to take the time necessary to amortize their hydrocarbon production infrastructures… unless there is state compensation. .

At first sight, the solution to this contradiction would be to weigh on the accelerator of renewable energies even if it means either carrying out the necessary nationalizations or ensuring sufficient state control. This is the solution of social-liberal green capitalism, with its carbon tax or market, or reformist with its more or less pronounced state interventionism. However, renewable energies being diffuse and unstable compared to fossil ones, they require a much higher ratio of equipment versus energy produced (and considerable installation space) in addition to the manufacture of this equipment (cement, steel, silicone) is energy-intensive and that the energy needed to do this will initially be of fossil origin at an average of 80% given the current global fossil-renewable ratio. The IPCC indicates that for a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C by 2100, no more than 500 billion tonnes of CO2 can be emitted beyond 2020, which is equivalent to just over ‘a decade of emissions at the current rate  ‘ (The Economist, The latest IPCC report argues that stabilizing the climate will require fast action , 9/04/22).

To achieve this by replacing hydrocarbons with renewables, including hydroelectricity, in the context of inevitable capitalist growth, it would be necessary right now that “[g]lobally, emissions from the energy sector [decrease] by 2.2 at 3.3% per year until 2050 to stay below 1.5°C. (Daniel Tanuro, IPCC Report: From Scientific Rigor to Social Fable, Hurry-Left, 4/4/22). To achieve such a feat would require a rapid decline in the energy versus production ratio and the GHG versus energy ratio. However, by combining these two ratios, “[b]etween 2010 and 2018, the increase in average GDP per person increased fossil CO2 emissions by 2.3%/year, while the increase in population increased them by 1 year. More specifically, “[t]he activities most intensive in greenhouse gas emissions increased sharply over the decade 2010-2020: +28.5% for aviation, +17% for the purchase of SUVs, +12% for meat consumption”(Daniel Tanuro). All in all, not only is the solution of renewable energies other than as a complement a dead end, but the mode of production-consumption associated with it aggravates the contradiction. This mode, it should be emphasized, is based on exponential material production and mass consumption, of which the solo car and the individual house are the pillars, urban sprawl the mode of land use planning and deforestation the inevitable consequence of the meat diet.

The inevitability of a drastic reduction in energy consumption

The green capitalist strategy of replacing fossil fuels with so-called renewable energies therefore proves to be unrealistic. To make it realistic, green capitalism proposes to add negative emission technologies to it, with disastrous socio-economic consequences, as we have seen. But this addition would not help because the necessary infrastructure would have to be built on a gigantic scale to make a difference, not to mention the uncertainty of the results. However, as for the infrastructures producing renewable energies, these infrastructures require an Everest of energy-intensive materials claiming worldwide 80% fossil energies at the start to produce them as well as to operate them. Capitalist growth traps the world in a vicious circle that leads to existential catastrophe.“climate stabilization cannot be achieved without a very substantial reduction in final energy consumption – a reduction so significant that it necessarily implies a reduction in material production and transport” (Daniel Tanuro) to which must be added an agrobiological revolution with meat reduction.

The goal of any action plan to achieve the IPCC targets will be primarily to substantially reduce global energy consumption based on the principles of precaution, historical responsibility and ability to pay accepted by all countries party to the Convention. United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Rio in 1992. For Quebec, on the eve of COP-26 in Glasgow, a range of key organizations (Climate Action Network Canada, the Federation of Labor du Québec, Équiterre, Greenpeace, Nature-Québec, the David Suzuki Foundation and Oxfam-Québec) called for an internal target of 65% as the medium term of an overall target of 178%. These targets are justified by the fact that “internationally,Quebec’s fair share in the fight against climate change ).

The elephant in the room: the consumption of the richest 10% is completely responsible

The poor relation until very recently of the study of the causes of the climate crisis (and of the concomitant crisis of biodiversity) in the light of the Rio principles had been the inequalities, not between countries but between individuals according to the groups income within national borders as well as globally. As the NGOs EcoEquity and Stockholm Environment Institute have developed a calculator for the countries based on the principles of Rio ( Climate Equity Reference Calculator ) allowing a range of combinations, and which was used to calculate the Quebec targets mentioned above, the NGO Oxfam and Institute for European Environmental Policy have calculated carbon inequality by income bracket ( Carbon Inequality in 2030) from which is taken the very telling graphic below:

Translation of the three main paragraphs of the graph: Per capita: per capita
Gap: gap Level: level Global: worldwide

Based on current national emissions reduction policies and pledges, the per capita emissions consumption of the top 1% is projected to be 25% higher in 2030 than in 1990, and still 30 times higher than the global per capita level. compatible with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5⁰C
The per capita emissions of the richest 10% in 2030 are on track to be nearly 10 times higher than the global per capita level compatible with 1.5⁰C , while the emissions of the bottom 50% will still be well below this level.

We see that it is the GHG emissions of the richest 10% of humanity that are the problem, particularly those of the 1% denounced by the Occupy movement. The key to reaching the IPCC targets lies in the drastic reduction of their mode of consumption in favor of a substantial increase, in relative terms, of the poorest 50%. The strategic trap we could fall into here would be to make a moral appeal to individuals to reduce and modify their consumption as the lead wire of the transition action plan, even if it means strongly incentivizing and penalizing them.

This would be sticking to taxes or carbon market and bonus-malus programs to choose the right products or services while the structure of the mode of consumption is biased pro-carbon (for example the deficiency of public transport in the suburbs and region and its paralysis by automobile traffic in the city centre). The fatal error of this strategy is the assumption that we can revolutionize the mode of consumption, which must indeed be done, without revolutionizing the mode of production on which it is based. It is indeed a question of aiming for 10%, in particular 1%, less however as cads of consumption than as owners and controllers of the means of production, as masters of the universe and its laws, which is the source of their income for luxury and ostentatious consumption.

The forced growth of capitalist competitiveness will be defeated based on the bottom 50%

Appealing to individuals to spend their fortunes ecologically will give rise to a few pseudo-Damascus roads in the style of fiscally subsidized charitable foundations, which will in no way change the capitalist basis of the mode of production. It is its law of competition between private capitals, the corollary of which is that between States leading to wars, which obliges the cumulard to grow or perish. The forced growth of one, production, leads to the forced growth of the other, consumption, including military and state security. The result is the mass consumption of the so-called middle classes — roughly 40% of the graph above — based on individual ownership of the dwelling (the house) and the means of transport (the solo car).

The responsibility for GHG emissions by income brackets against a background of the economic-political power of the 1% supported by the 10% and the ambivalence of the following 40% sets the stage for the determination of each other’s strategy. The radical right which refuses the climate struggle seeks to unite the middle classes of the 40% through populism against not the 1% except rhetorically but against the racialized part of the 50%, which in despair rallies some of the “native” of the same category. The traditional centrism of the elitist 10% proposes a climate struggle within the framework of the market economy, even if it means weighing more or less fiscally on the wealthiest 50% to support the poorest 50% depending on whether this centrism is right-wing or from the left. The climate struggle of the left,

Growth, even without a market, does not meet social needs but leads to war

The bracketing of the market is no stranger to capitalism when its vital interests are at stake. The typical example is war production when the big tenors of big business insert themselves into the state apparatus to transform tail over head and in no time the economic structure into a war economy. We note that less drastic transformations but deemed politically essential, such as the United States program for the first moon landing, the modernization of the socio-economic structure of Quebec known as the quiet revolution, the reconstruction of Europe ravaged by war, were accomplished by a strong State intervention extended over 10-20 years, such as the French plans, for example. If we do not see any similar mobilization for the climate fight despite its urgency and its survival stakes, it is because the required transformation is antithetical to capital in the sense that it requires a monumental decrease in material production, which kills the accumulation of capital. Capital is only ready to take the dead end of negative emissions sheltered from an inevitably more and more fascistic far-centrist dictatorship with the catastrophes that will pile up.

The so-called realists of this world will plead left-wing utopianism because the top 50% and more would reject such a fall in their standard of living out of hand. This is the deceptive paradox of the market economy: the GDP per capita, without taking into account its distribution, has nothing to do with the better standard of living called the level of well-being. The human being, beyond modest physiological needs, by his evolution since the dawn of time requires solidarity and more solidarity for his free development which will enrich this solidarity both towards his species and towards the whole of the nature of which he is a part. Not only does capitalism not meet the basic needs of everyone, not even far from it in the so-called rich countries, but instead of creating solidary social relations, it destroys them to make the atomized individual an accumulator of tangible products and fictitious capital as a security palliative and social recognition. Even basic needs, capitalism satisfies them at the expense of nature by means that isolate individuals from each other (house, car), damage their health (meat diet, processed foods) and provide them with empty and debilitating pleasure. (entertainment, alcohol, drugs).

It is not a question of transition but of the separatist rupture of the Solidaire platform

The problem is to pass from A to B what is tautologically qualified as transition. But politically it is rather a question of rupture, first and fundamentally against the 1% from whom, through a revolutionary mobilization made up of strikes and blockades, it is necessary to wrest power in order to socialize in one way or another. other strategic sectors of the economy which are finance, so as to control national savings and international monetary flows, the communication and transport networks which structure social relations, the energy system which moves and conditions the society, the agriculture which nourishes it, the habitat which shelters it and the health and education which cares for and instructs it. The conditions will then be met to bring down material production by giving all the space to land use planning made of collective and energy-efficient transport and housing, urban agrobiology and short journeys, green landscapes without publicity; to durable, repairable, reusable and recyclable products; to an ecofeminist society to take care of people and mother earth based on public services and the safeguard of ecosystems.

This climate justice – social justice perspective is found in the 2022 electoral platform of Québec solidaire. The party undertakes to cease all exploitation and transport of hydrocarbons, to “reduce Quebec’s emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030” and “to question international agreements and conventions Economic and Military Signed by Canada”. From the first term, he committed to proposing a referendum for independence following a constituent assembly while promoting French as an official and common language. These are firm and strong commitments to break with the Toronto-Calgary financial-oil axis which defines the Canadian economy and with the federalism of Ottawa which submits to US imperialism and flouts the pre-eminence of French in Quebec. It is this ecological independence on the left that is the guarantor of this rupture in the socialization of the vital sectors of Quebec society, whatever the parliamentary wing of the party says and does.

A bottom-up Common Front sharpened by a Solidarity campaign for a new 1972

This radical and absolutely necessary perspective could be put forward all the more by Québec solidaire during the elections this fall as the situation of the social struggle is beginning to send signals of rebound. We recently noted both in the US and in Quebec and no doubt elsewhere, spurred on by inflation, a modest rise in strikes. Similarly, the recent failure of the Common Front, the usual major trade union meeting in Quebec for more than half a century, has prompted some of the most important unions to rebuild it, at least from above, in view of the next confrontation in the sector. public immediately after the elections. If the visible resumption of debates within the inter-union militancy could go beyond the usual blah-blah,

A Common Front under the control of the base has the capacity to take the first steps on the bridge to go from point A to point B, for example by fighting not only for a catch-up and an indexation of wages but also for the hiring of at least 100,000 people in the public and community sectors, to start a major construction site for at least 10,000 energy-efficient social housing units per year and for free public transit, including the investments needed to meet demand. Such demands, combined with a Solidarity platform, which already contains them, put forward and not put under the carpet as during the 2018 election are able to awaken the spirit of the quasi-insurrectional uprising of 1972, with its onset of pre-revolutionary situations,

Marc Bonhomme, May 1, 2022  ;

DisclaimerOpinions expressed in articles are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Global Ecosocialist Network

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