The Environmental Conference of the Bourgeoisie

A Qatari fighter jet flies over skyscrapers during the Gulf emirate's National Day celebrations in Doha on 18 December 2012. (Photo: AFP - Karim Jaafar / AL-WATAN)

By: Rami Zurayk

Published Saturday, December 22, 2012

Qatar, under the auspices of the UN, has hosted the biggest ever international conference on climate change. The aim was to find a solution for greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, one of the sources of the greenhouse effect.

In the past few days, official participants from different countries and governments held a series of meetings and discussions to reach an agreement on how to safeguard the interests of all and reduces emissions at the same time.

Besides this important goal, there is something that distinguishes this conference, hosted for the first time by an Arab country. It is the sizable presence of the private sector. This has coincided with much talk of a “green economy” – a smokescreen for the more accurate term “green capitalism” – and the reduced role of the civil society, which has now been co-opted into the international power system.

Non-governmental organizations now play the role of the naughty schoolboy, serving this power system directly and indirectly. They have been reduced to tools that help the system repackage itself in a more acceptable form without any real change to the power relations that characterize it.

For example, members of international civil society groups organized a large demonstration in which Arab participants held up placards calling on their rulers to lead the efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. This authorized demonstration was the first of its kind in Qatar, a country which is responsible for the highest emissions of greenhouse gases compared to the size of its population.

This repackaging is in keeping with the bourgeois background of the majority of civil society organization members, particularly the leaders. It is the result of the diminishing role of the anti-globalization political movements, now buried deep in the Arab winter. The joys of spring seem so far away now!

Rami Zurayk is Al-Akhbar's environment columnist and author of the blog Land and People.

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