Editorial: Other victims of the Ukraine war

IssueOctober - November 2022
Comment by Milan Rai

Every time the US has increased its military support for Ukraine, Russia has responded by escalating in some way.

We’re approaching a very dangerous point now, where a Russian nuclear attack starts to become a real possibility (see p7), with catastrophic consequences not just for Ukraine, but almost certainly for the world.

However, as Noam Chomsky recently pointed out to Truthout: ‘The impact of the war goes far beyond: to the millions facing starvation with the curtailing of grain and fertilizer exports, now partially relieved though there is little information about how much; and most important of all and least discussed, the sharp reversal of the limited international efforts to address the looming climate crisis, a colossal crime against humanity.’

The continuation of the war is breaking down the trust and co-operation and commitment that is needed to avoid even more disastrous levels of climate change.

In other words, the war in Ukraine is deepening the already grave threat to future generations.

The international process that we had before the war was already not good enough.

If all countries completely fulfilled the climate goals they set themselves at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last November, we would still see global warming of 1.8 °C compared to preindustrial times. That’s the verdict of both Climate Action Tracker and the International Energy Agency.

This is significantly beyond the 1.5 °C target set at COP26.

This problem was meant to be solved by governments registering their new and improved climate plans by 23 September.

Out of the nearly 200 countries who attended COP26, only 23 submitted updates by this deadline.

Very few of those 23 pledges were more ambitious than before.

The top three emitters – the US, China and India – just added details to their plans.

According to Climate Action Tracker, back in June, we are headed for 2.7 °C of global warming with current government policies around the world.

The war

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not helped. According to Climate Action Tracker, government responses have focused on short-term energy supply needs, at the expense of long-term climate strategies.

Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute said in June: ‘We’re about to witness a global “gold rush” for new fossil gas production, pipelines and LNG facilities, risking locking us into another high-carbon decade and keeping the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 °C warming limit out of reach.’

For example, EU countries are likely to be importing 25 percent more gas than before the invasion of Ukraine (despite the reduction in Russian gas imports), because of new liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities that are being planned as a result of the war.

Instead of a Just Transition to a zero-carbon world, we are seeing an Unjust Transition to high-carbon world.

Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine dealt a hammer blow to the possibilities for co-operation. The situation has been made worse by the US-UK determination to keep the war going and to bleed Russia into submission – despite the dreadful cost to Ukrainians.

We need a negotiated end to the war and a renewed effort to decarbonise the world. In both cases, the British government can play a constructive role. We must force it to.

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