Action Paper from Local Futures: Climate Change or System Change?

Action Paper from Local Futures: Climate Change or System Change?

By Local Futures

Local Futures, an international non-profit organization that promotes alternatives to the global consumer culture, today released a 17- page action paper entitled “Climate Change or System Change?” in response to the mixed outcome of the climate talks in Paris.

Click on the link to read the full report: http://www.localfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/climate-action-paper.pdf.

“Climate Change or System Change?” argues that globalization – that is, the deregulation of trade and finance through an ongoing series of ‘free trade’ treaties – is the driving force behind climate change. The climate problem can only be tackled effectively if governments stop subsidizing globalization, and begin pursuing a localization agenda instead.

“If we are going to limit warming to the 2-degree Celsius benchmark,” the paper notes, “there will need to be a fundamental shift in the economy: away from growth-at-any-cost globalization towards more diversified, localized economies that serve the real needs of people and the planet.”

The most effective steps to reduce CO2 emissions were not discussed in Paris. Civil society must lead the debate and pressure governments to change the system behind climate change.

“If we are going to limit warming to the 2-degree Celsius benchmark, there will need to be a fundamental shift in the economy: away from growth-at-any-cost globalization towards more diversified, localized economies that serve the real needs of people and the planet.”

INTRODUCTION:

Many people are understandably encouraged by the tone of the climate negotiations in Paris: governments are finally taking climate change seriously, and are even expressing a willingness to take concrete steps. Nonetheless, they have once again failed to take the necessary action to prevent catastrophic climate change. In fact, the most effective steps to reduce CO2 emissions were never discussed in Paris. Instead, delegates quibbled over piecemeal quasi-solutions while leaving the systemic root causes of the problem unchallenged.

If we are going to limit warming to the 2-degree Celsius benchmark (much less the 1.5 degree limit demanded by the group of “most vulnerable” countries), there will need to be a fundamental shift in the economy: away from growth-at-anycost globalization – a system that is heavily tilted in favor of the biggest corporations and financial institutions – towards more diversified, localized economies that serve the real needs of people and the planet.

Such a shift would not only substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it would bring a range of other benefits too. It would help to create more jobs; limit the power of global corporations; reverse the erosion of democracy; and reduce fundamentalism, ethnic conflict and even terrorism. And this is its great strength. Here is an opportunity to unite diverse single-issue campaigns across the social and environmental divide: to create a movement powerful enough to overthrow the de facto government of global corporations and banks. (This argument is more fully fleshed out in Localization: Essential Steps to an Economics of Happiness, Local Futures/ISEC 2015).

“Promoting climate change denial is only the most obvious way in which corporations have managed and limited the climate debate.”

In the media and even among climate activists, insufficient attention has been paid to the ways in which multinational corporations have distorted the climate debate from the beginning. It’s not just the use of corporate-friendly scientists to muddy the waters about the causes – if not the very existence – of climate change, although that has certainly happened. Recent headlines, for example, revealed how Exxon-Mobil steadfastly denied the reality of global warming even though internal memos reveal that the company was aware of the problem in 1981 – seven years before it became a public issue – and formulated strategies to respond to and even profit from it.1 Along with other fossil fuel corporations, Exxon spent millions funding scientists willing to argue that global warming is an unproven and ‘controversial’ theory unsupported by the evidence.

But this represents only the most obvious way in which the climate debate has been managed and limited. Corporate think tanks, lobbyists and PR firms have used more subtle and insidious strategies, many of which remain deeply ingrained in the public discourse.

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