in Cuba

“Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change came out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It has been an abject failure in terms of stopping climate breakdown.

But it has succeeded in developing a climate change industry. Today there are myriads of consulting firms, carbon traders, advisers, experts, PR specialists, astroturf organisations, Norwegian-funded think tanks, and BINGOs that claim to be addressing climate breakdown but are actually pushing a form of climate denial: the idea that the climate crisis can be avoided without leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

This abject failure can be seen clearly in the steady increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. In August 1992, the CO2 level in the atmosphere was 354.94 parts per million. By August 2019, it had reached 409.95 ppm.

In his 2017 book, “A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science and Socialism”, Ian Angus writes,

For 25 years, the world’s top politicians have demonstrated their gross hypocrisy and their indifference to the future of humanity and nature by giving fine speeches and making promises and then continuing with business as usual as climate change accelerates toward disaster.

Angus points out that there was one exception in Rio: Fidel Castro.

In the aftermath of the hypocrisy and abject failure of yet another UN meeting on climate change – the UN Climate Action Summit – Castro’s message is more important now than it was 27 years ago.

Tomorrow will be too late. Action plans with targets of “net zero” in thirty years’ time, or even five years’ time, are too little too late. We need to find ways of keeping fossil fuels in the ground starting today, not tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be too late

Speech by Fidel Castro to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio Di Janeiro

President of Brazil Fernando Collor de Melo;

Mr. UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali; Your Excellencies;

An important biological species is in danger of disappearing due to the fast and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humanity.

We have become aware of this problem when it is almost too late to stop it.

It is necessary to point out that consumer societies are fundamentally responsible for the brutal destruction of the environment. They arose from the old colonial powers and from imperialist policies which in turn engendered the backwardness and poverty which today afflicts the vast majority of mankind.

With only 20 percent of the world’s population, these societies consume two-thirds of the metals and three-fourths of the energy produced in the world. They have poisoned the seas and rivers, polluted the air, weakened and punctured the ozone layer, saturated the atmosphere with gases which are changing weather conditions with a catastrophic effect we are already beginning to experience.

The forests are disappearing. The deserts are expanding. Every year billons of tons of fertile soil end up in the sea. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Population pressures and poverty trigger frenzied efforts to survive even when it is at the expense of the environment. It is not possible to blame the Third World countries for this. Yesterday, they were colonies; today, they are nations exploited and pillaged by an unjust international economic order.

The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it most. The reality is that anything that nowadays contributes to underdevelopment and poverty constitutes a flagrant violation of ecology. Tens of millions of men, women, and children die every year in the Third World as a result of this, more than in each of the two world wars. Unequal terms of trade, protectionism, and the foreign debt assault the ecology and promote the destruction of the environment.

If we want to save mankind from this self-destruction, we have to better distribute the wealth and technologies available in the world. Less luxury and less waste by a few countries is needed so there is less poverty and less hunger on a large part of the Earth. We do not need any more transferring to the Third World of lifestyles and consumption habits that ruin the environment.

Let human life become more rational. Let us implement a just international economic order. Let us use all the science necessary for pollution-free, sustained development. Let us pay the ecological debt, and not the foreign debt. Let hunger disappear, and not mankind.

Now that the alleged threat of communism has disappeared and there are no longer any more excuses for cold wars, arms races, and military spending, what is blocking the immediate use of these resources to promote the development of the Third World and fight the threat of the ecological destruction of the planet?

Let selfishness end. Let hegemonies end. Let insensitivity, irresponsibility, and deceit end.

Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.

Thank you.

 

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  1. Very true. So how on earth is it possible nothing substantial has been done? Mr Castro forgot to emphasize that money and its derivative power are the most addictive and contagious substances to humankind. As is well known, addicts and bullies do not easily give up their goodies voluntarily (they will lie, excuse, smear etc. for their next high). Worse still, where kicking off alcohol, smoking or gambling has personal benefits for the addict, giving up profit and power has none, in the addict’s mind. Decisionmakers, in the broadest sense, are addicted to money and power, and consumers are addicted to ‘more’/’new’ to feel better than the neighbour, carefully nurtured with ‘personalized advertising’ and fiercely defended by the corporate ‘dealers’. Hence nothing since Rio 1992, or Stockholm 1972.

    See Overman et al. 2019 for a feasible solution for the tropics (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305750X1930035X): assess and disclose i) the paltry net share developing countries have been and are receiving on forest-based natural resources to their citizens, ii) how much more redd-income is forgone by the deforestation and degradation of these forest commodities, and iii) the enormous amounts of money the country can earn by imposing forest governance measures. Such financial knowledge hits every citizen in their wallet, hence generates strong economic motivation across society for improvements, bursting business-as-usual elite power and government corruption along the way. Use REDD+ credits as the back up trump card in negotiations (no improved deal? Fine, we get more* money from REDD+ if our forest is not cleared or degraded. * ‘MUCH more money’ if the electorates of south countries join hands and at international level dismiss the neo-colonial paltry $5 carbon price, instead demand the going world carbon price for this new ‘commodity’, so they can set it a little lower to keep REDD+ credits attractive. (‘national REDD+’ does not have all the problems of project level REDD+ of the past 10 years [setting reference additionality, permanence, leakage]. And finally, obviously REDD+ is not enough, given it represents ~10% of global emissions while 45% reduction (of 2005 level) is needed by 2030 and 100% by 2050.