Climate crisis: “We must bury capitalism or it will bury us”

This bold statement does not come from a left-wing climate activist, but from a head of state of one of the most important countries in Latin America. It comes from a speech by Gustavo Petro Urrego at the World Economic Forum. In it he announces, among other things, that Colombia will stop extracting petroleum. Below is his speech.

The climate crisis could wipe out all life on the planet, including humans. We are not talking in terms of millennia. Even for most of the great living species we speak not in terms of centuries but of decades. Our grandchildren will live much worse than we do. The idea of ​​progress collapses if we don’t stop the crisis.

The reality of the past periods in which we live shows that the capitalism that has developed over the last 30 years is not able to stop the climate crisis.

The unbridled and deregulated pursuit of profit is the engine of late capitalism. It will not allow clean technologies to replace fossil fuels unless they demonstrate a greater ability to increase productivity.

The capitalism that has developed over the past 30 years is unable to stop the climate crisis.

Profit is linked to productivity and productivity to energy. The big energy that has enabled the earnings growth of the last 200 years is coal and then oil. It is difficult to understand the history of capital’s hunger for profit without fossil fuels.

Over the past three decades, capitalism has made it impossible for countries to plan and has liberalized markets to the maximum. This has created a kind of global anarchy that makes it impossible to take the economic and social measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Given capitalism’s inability to plan, it has delegated the solution of the climate crisis to the market and the law of supply and demand. But the time required for this does not coincide with the urgency that life on Earth requires.

The solution to the climate crisis does not lie with individual capitalists, or with the market mechanism. That mechanism is not able to guarantee technological changes with the necessary speed. We are heading for collective suicide by clinging to the market.

We are heading for collective suicide by clinging to the market.

The current over-indebted countries have no resources to mitigate or adapt to the climate crisis. The solution proposed by the UN climate conferences is to take on even more debt. That is an inappropriate solution.

Companies will not decide to switch to clean technologies if it does not increase the productivity of their employees. Using more energy in production across the planet means democratizing clean energy generation for every inhabitant of the earth.

This is why, despite political rhetoric and fine words, the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere is not only increasing, but actually accelerating. That will bring us closer to one in a few years point of no return and thus at the onset of extinction.

Throughout history, capitalism has provided the link between unbridled profit and chemical and atmospheric changes. If the capitalism of the last 30 years is not able to solve that problem, then this capitalism will end humanity, or humanity will have to bury capitalism in order to live.

Davos businessmen should look to another capitalism as their last chance: low-carbon capitalism.

Zero-carbon capitalism would give nations the ability to plan again, in the form of multilateral and global transitional planning. The vacuum created by the search for profit to accelerate the transition is being filled by public, global and democratic planning.

A carbon-free capitalism would give nations the ability to plan again.

This means that the COPs have binding force in their decisions. If the World Trade Organization or a free trade agreement is binding, why are decisions on correcting the climate crisis not binding? Why are they just suggestions in the midst of the catastrophe?

Carbon-free capitalism should subordinate the treaties of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund to climate agreements. Carbon-free capitalism should ensure that the climate agreement reduces emissions from coal, oil and gas to zero in the short term.

A zero-carbon capitalism should foresee that the immense plan to decarbonise involves sweeping reforms of the global financial system, allowing debt to be traded for climate in such a way that countries reduce the costs of adaptation and especially those of mitigation. finance by reducing their debt. Zero-carbon capitalism must devalue the debt that weighs on production processes and nations worldwide.

Zero-carbon capitalism should end tax havens undermining government budgets to make the transition.

Zero-carbon capitalism requires radical transformation of major infrastructures, such as private vehicles or suburban urban planning. These need to be replaced by infrastructure that enables the development of a clean energy economy, such as large rail networks for public transport.

Carbon-free capitalism can no longer protect the fossil economy. Fossil capital must enter a serious and final stage of devaluation.

A zero-carbon capitalism must ensure that certain fundamental rights are no longer commodities for profit, such as drinking water, basic food, preventive health care and medicines. Food for people should be based on food sovereignty and not on the global free market.

A carbon-free capitalism must ensure that certain fundamental rights are no longer commodities for profit.

Is carbon-free capitalism possible? The great transformation of capital, as Polanyi said, is now or there will be no carbon-free capitalism, no capitalism at all, and possibly no humanity at all.

You can watch President Gustavo Petro Urrego’s speech below.


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