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December is the month of plastic baubles and technological must-haves, when politicians look to boost flagging growth figures with consumerist intemperance. It is always a fitting month to host the ‘conference of procrastinators’, as Patrick Bond has dubbed the UN climate talks. On this occasion the tired gaggle of government and business negotiators assembled in Durban, South Africa.
2012, the year when the first phase of the Kyoto agreement ends, is upon us. Instead of replacing it with more ambitious targets, the principle of mandatory emission reductions seems about to be abandoned. Climate change is rapidly falling down the list of political concerns, replaced by the crisis of finance – the integral role of capitalism in the climate disaster is conveniently ignored. As always, the vested corporate interests of northern countries will be a major stumbling block. Increasing consumption is the only logic that will hold any sway in Durban.
Richer countries also have the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ in their sights. The now infamous US state department negotiator Todd Stern, whose bullying tactics at Copenhagen 2009 were revealed in the Wikileaks diplomatic cables, expressed his contempt for any claim that there is historic responsibility for climate change. He stated: ‘The sense of guilt or culpability or reparations – I just categorically reject that.’
The facts are, still, terrifying. In 2010, carbon emissions rose by a record amount. We must start to reduce carbon emissions by 2017 if we are to avoid water shortages and mass migration. Current pledged cuts would put us at a 5 degrees celsius temperature change. This would mean large parts of the planet becoming uninhabitable.
Our political elites are so in thrall to private finance that they will not act to save their own citizens. Nowhere is this democratic deficit clearer than South Africa itself. One in six South Africans live in shacks (see our interview with Bandile Mdlalose this issue). Some 2.5 million homes do not have electricity, and companies predict a 125 per cent price increase in the coming years.
Yet despite its energy-poor majority population, South Africa is the world’s 13th-largest carbon emitter. It is part of a bloc of rapidly industrialising countries that have skilfully, if cynically, set up their economies to make carbon trading work for them. You won’t see South Africa fighting for binding emissions targets.
Of course, most of South Africa’s carbon emissions are created by mining and manufacturing commodities for the global North – only 16 per cent of South Africa’s total energy consumption is used by its residents. Both the products and the profits are syphoned off for northern countries, leaving the nation’s citizens with depleted and polluted resources.
This is a government that is failing its people. The ANC, as Vishwas Satgar argues this issue, have become overseers of Afro-neoliberalism. Accompanying this is a narrowing democratic vision: opposition voices are marginalised, politicians are market servants and participation is limited to voting – a particularly inadequate option in a de-facto one party state.
The campaigns of the African climate justice movement find themselves oddly disjointed from the climate negotiations – their demands on jobs, energy poverty and extraction will not even be discussed at a summit concerned with quantitative targets. The climate discussions have always been framed in terms that suit northern elites, though even within these narrow parameters an adequate solution evades them.
The domination of politics by corporate interests extends far beyond the climate talks, as neoliberalism brings its limited market democracy to every arena. In Europe, the IMF, assisted by Europe’s ‘inner core’, is once again asserting its right to dictate national polices. Some solutions politicians refuse to discuss: taxation on the rich, significant losses to banks or credit easing for the poor.
But there is a rising tide of resistance. The largest UK strike of my lifetime took place on 30 November – one organised by unions that are starting to address the dual crises of economy and environment by demanding the creation of one million climate jobs.
And from Romania to Peru, the Occupy movement has spread to 82 countries. Beginning with the indignados in Spain and Greece, the reclaiming of public space for debate and deliberation has been a crucial aim. The participatory politics practised by protesters is far removed from our tick‑box democracies.
In a political system dominated by corporate finance, creating more participatory forms of democracy, although crucial, will not be enough. We also need economic democracy. The challenge to Occupy activists and trade unionists alike is to begin a move towards a democratic economy by collectively organising our own productive forces and striving for cooperative workplaces. To become a regenerating force that creates real democracy, we must also create real economic change.
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency