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The final agreement is unlikely to set a plan to phase out fossil fuels, says Chris Williams, professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

On Tuesday, environment and foreign ministers on climate change began their talks at COP 20, currently taking place in Lima, Peru. The high-level meetings include the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The meetings include the foreign ministers so that national delegations can negotiate agreements that would eventually be signed in Paris at the end of 2015. But there are others attending the events, which include lobbyists of fossil fuel industry, NGOs, and environmental activists from around the world.

With us to discuss the developments at COP 20 is Chris Williams. Chris is professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University. He is a longtime environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis.

Welcome back to The Real News Network, Chris.

Chris, before we begin, let’s have a look at some of the protesters that are protesting against the presence of Shell Oil and other oil companies at the conference.


What do we want?

Climate justice!

When do we want it?


–has polluted our rivers. Shell have taken our land. Shell has destroyed our likelihood. We’re saying it is time that the world stand up against Shell, that they cannot continue in their violence against people, in their violence against communities. Shell has no place in Nigeria. Shell has no place in these negotiations. Shell has no place in the energy future.

We said no to dirty energy. It is time for renewable energy. Leave the oil–.

In the soil!

Leave the coal–.

In the hole!

And leave the tarsands–.

In the sand!

Shell is laughing to the bank. The people are [incompr.] to hospitals are mortuaries.


PERIES: Chris, so what are these protesters protesting about? And also, give us an update on what’s happening at COP 20.

CHRIS WILLIAMS, AUTHOR, ECOLOGY AND SOCIALISM: Sure. Well, they’re protesting about a couple of things. One is the enormous influence of the corporations that are supposed to be being downsized by the need to reduce our carbon emissions. And so the fossil fuel corporations are all at the conference as well. And in the views of protesters, myself and many others, they should not be part of the negotiating process. They have enormous amounts of wealth to sway people’s negotiating positions. Exxon has a turnover in excess of $400 billion–far larger than many–most, actually, countries, the GDP of most countries. And so why are they there? Because they represent the death of the planet, essentially, if we carry on burning their product.

And so protesters are arguing and trying to prevent them from actually being at the meetings, because if anybody should be at the meetings, it’s the protesters who represent thousands of people around Latin America and the world, and whose lives and cultures are all in jeopardy because of the fact that we continue to allow the corporations to–the fossil fuel corporations to exist and burn fossil fuels; and also to protest the fact that government ministers from around the world are not taking the issue nearly seriously enough and are spending far too much time listening to the corporations and bowing down to their demands, rather than listening to the voices of community groups, organizations on the ground throughout South and Central America and everywhere else in the world, who are saying, we want a different path, we want climate justice, we want equity, and we want a stable climate for our children and human society and the survival of other species who were all threatened by a 2 degrees C world, let alone the 4 degrees C world that we are kind of on track to achieve by the end of the century if we don’t radically reverse course.

PERIES: And, Chris, what actually is taking place at the summit right now? What are the negotiations sounding like?

WILLIAMS: The negotiations are sounding, as they have done for the last 19 years, pretty dismal, despite some early optimism and pre-conference kind of happiness about the U.S.-China announcements, which I think was very misplaced and is being shown to be quite misplaced, because now it’s back to the usual bickering and staking out of positions to try and get things into the text of any final communique or any final statement by all the different players.

And we know from past experience that most of that, whatever’s currently in there and is being pushed by various different groups of countries will be omitted in the interests of the big players. So, as soon as the U.S., China, Brazil, India, South Africa, etc., get together, then we will see in a very different text, and from the one that we’re–currently there are messages about [phasing out (?)] fossil fuels by 2020, 100 percent and so on. It seems highly unlikely that that’s going to happen, because most of the negotiations at the moment concern mitigation, adaptation, but without any real implementation plan for who’s going to pay for it, who’s going to be providing the money, who’s going to be getting it, and on what timeframe, who’s going to be making the emissions cuts, how much are they going to go down by, by what time period, and some very specific questions. So it’s more about the details and kind of jockeying for position and some horsetrading at the moment than any real visionary process for how does the world move off an energy source that is at the heart of the whole world economy. How would we do that? I don’t think that question is really being nearly adequately addressed.

PERIES: Right. Chris, I want to thank you so much for joining us and shedding light on what’s going on in Lima, Peru.

WILLIAMS: Thanks very much for having me on the show.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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