Environment

Cancun conference recycles old excuses

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The outcome of the UN climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, is being spun as a success. Such claims can only be made because of the chronically low expectations before the conference.

After the devastating failure to reach an agreement at Copenhagen last year, negotiators are patting themselves on the back - not for real achievements in tackling climate change but simply for keeping the talks going for another year. There has once again been no agreement by the rich countries to legally binding emissions cuts that would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Welcome to "austerity countryside"

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The environmental record of a government that once described itself as "the greenest ever" is already deeply worrying.

Cuts in the budget for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have been announced that could fundamentally change our natural areas.

Among plans being considered are the privatisation of nature reserves and the Forestry Commission, a reduction of grants to the body that manages Britain's canals, and cuts so severe that Natural England, the country's main conservation organisation, could lose a third of its staff.

BP's sponsored leak

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BP may not have been able to plug the oil leak from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but it's good at plugging its own brand.

Try a search on Google or Yahoo for the terms "oil spill" or "oil disaster" and you will see a sponsored link at the top of the page referring you to BP's website. The disgraced oil giant paid an undisclosed amount for the privilege. Following the link shows you photographs of people who appear very happy to be victims of the spill, and since the pictures of the clean-up are entirely oil free perhaps that is no surprise.

Slick cover-up

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In the wake of the BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico, Barack Obama poured scorn on the "cosy relationship" between Washington and the oil industry.

Some weren't impressed. "I think one of the risks associated with his rhetoric on the spill is that it hardens the divide between the Democratic Party and the business community," said David Rothkopf, a former commerce department official under Bill Clinton. "And that's something that while it seems to be in the spirit of the moment now, could have serious ramifications come election time."

But business and government appear to be working together as well as ever, aside from the rhetoric.

The 'population bomb'

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The "population bomb" is on the environmental agenda once more.

Green guru Jonathon Porritt recently lambasted the politically correct for ignoring the demographic elephant in the living room - "exponential population growth". Is he right?

When Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, our rising numbers were seen as the primary threat to the planet's future. Only strict birth control could prevent doomsday. Some demographers said we should require a licence to have children, as you would for a dog.

Climate change: Capitalism's inbuilt obsolescence

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The economic driving force of capitalism is the need to accumulate wealth - to make profits.

This drive to make money means that anything that increases costs, such as reducing pollution, will be resisted by those in charge. Investment in energy reduction or improved processes may have a long term logic, but in the short term they risk reducing a company's ability to compete for profit.

Copenhagen: the burning issues

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Patrick Bond examines the forces battling it out at the climate summit in Copenhagen - and the resistance from below.

The negotiations in the run-up to the 7-18 December Copenhagen Summit confirmed that northern states and their corporations won't get their act together. Nor will southern elites in high-emission countries, especially South Africa.

Capitalism and Climate Change: Accumulating Chaos

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As world leaders gather at the Cohenhagen summit to discuss climate change, Martin Empson argues that the market cannot save the planet - we need a mass movement.

Imagine a United Nations conference on the environment. It brings together representatives of every major economy, with NGOs and scientists. In the run up to the conference the participants have been locked in negotiations for over three months. There has been deadlock on almost every key point of the agreement. The president of the world's most powerful economy prevaricates about even attending. Afterwards proclamations from government leaders everywhere are issued claiming that the event marks a new beginning for the planet.

Vestas changed the climate

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The workers at Vestas on the Isle of Wight have not won yet. But even without winning, they have done more for environmental politics in this country than a hundred conferences.

First, they have changed the debate about wind power. It's not true that onshore wind development is stalled in this country. There has been a 500 percent increase in onshore wind power in Britain in the last five years.

But it is true that among environmentalists many people took the NIMBY opposition to wind farms seriously. Now the balance has shifted decisively.

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