Societal and Consciousness Writer: Katie Byng-Hall Investigates The Wider Attributions Surrounding The UN Report
Photo by Daryan Shamkhali
The UN has released a report into how the world can battle climate change through becoming more sustainable, in order to inform their GSDR (Global Sustainable Development Report). Biophysicists at the BIOS Research Unit in Finland have drawn damning conclusions about our society, stating that climate change cannot be combatted if capitalism continues to be the dominant structure of the world's economy.
Capitalism is a system geared around generating profit as the top priority. Competition is a key element of the system, meaning that companies generally eliminate any factors which reduce profit in order to keep up with their rivals. As renewable energy resources have a low EROI (energy return on investment), meaning that they cost more to use than fossil fuels, companies often overlook more sustainable options for the sake of not losing money.
The Finnish researchers have condemned capitalism's frequent assumption that fossil fuels are always readily available and cheap, and have urged states to initiate “strong political governance” to transform their countries' economic structures to be more conscious of the environment.
The UN report states that capitalism is “inadequate” to cope with the world's current environmental “turmoil”, but there “no widely applicable models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era” to replace it.
Presently, 80% of the world's energy supply comes from fossil fuels, but the Earth's natural ecosystems which can support this demand are diminishing rapidly. One method to deter companies from excessive use of fossil fuels is through carbon pricing.
This is a system whereby companies are charged for all the carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere, meaning that they save money as they reduce their polluting activity. This system helps to stimulate research into low-carbon technology to satisfy company bosses.
The report concluded that global energy use needs to be reduced because there is not enough time to simply replace all fossil fuel with renewable energy. The scientists put forward some key areas in which radical change is required to reduce the world's carbon emissions.
City planning needs to be altered so that public transport is less necessary.Importing and exporting goods needs to be reduced so that less transportation is required.Plant-based diets should take precedence over meat and dairy consumption.Buildings should be developed from long-lasting wood as opposed to concrete and steel.Air-conditioning and heating systems should be used less in buildings.
Local Over International
One of the key proposals that the report highlights is that developing countries should focus on producing goods to satisfy their own needs rather than exporting produce cheaply to other countries. In order for this to happen, big companies must refrain from outsourcing their labour thousands of miles from where they are based in order to boost profits.
Communities, especially developing ones, should be encouraged to be “self-sustained” instead of participating in the “international free trade”.
The report states that “individuals, organisations and nations should approach the economy as a tool to enable a good life rather than as an end in itself”: people around the world should have opportunities to earn a living using renewable energy in their local area.
Some developing countries are already making a concerted effort to become more sustainable. In 2017, carbon-neutral energy production stood at 114 gigawatts in the world's developing countries, while industrialised countries produced only 63 gigawatts; Chile was the country with the fastest growing producer of renewable energy.
In the same year, 54 developing countries invested in wind farms, but China and India remain heavily reliant on coal for energy. It is incredible that developing countries are putting so much effort into becoming greener, but this success will pale into insignificance if the rest of the world doesn't follow suit. Emissions must be reduced across the globe, and capitalist companies have to make the biggest changes for this to be achieved.
While it is debatable if humans can ever abandon capitalism altogether due to our natural competitive instinct, it is undeniable that the way we approach our energy usage must change before we destroy the planet for the sake of profit.
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