United Nations climate talks finally began in Copenhagen this week, after months of speculation and infighting among those at the top.
Politicians have already admitted that they will fail to reach a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Treaty, due to expire in 2012.
But it now appears that more sinister machinations are underway.
As Socialist Worker went to press, a leaked draft agreement revealed plans to rip up Kyoto altogether, put more power in the hands of richer countries and force poorer countries to negotiate with the World Bank to receive any funding for climate initiatives.
The draft has been drawn up by representatives of richer countries without the knowledge of poorer countries.
The leak exposes the way that the leaders of richer countries use climate change to cement their own power while blocking any measures that could actually cut carbon emissions.
The talks are already an embarrassment. Organisers estimate that the conference, including participants’ travel, will emit some 41,000 tonnes of “carbon dioxide equivalent”.
That’s the same amount that a city the size of Middlesbrough would emit over the same time period.
Politicians are fond of lecturing ordinary people on their carbon footprints – but they won’t be making any sacrifices.
More than 1,200 limousines have flooded into Copenhagen for participants, and the airport is expecting an extra 140 private jets during the peak period of the talks.
Sponsors of the talks include BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Scandinavian Airlines.
Those who do care about the planet held a die-in on Monday of this week, and are building for a massive international protest this Saturday.
Barack Obama’s government this week accepted that carbon emissions are a threat to human health, raising hopes that the US will no longer block action on climate change.
But it guarantees nothing concrete. And Obama wants cuts of just 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 – well short of what is needed.
Gordon Brown says he wants European governments to be more “ambitious” and commit to 30 percent cuts in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020.
But this is still not enough.
A new report into Britain’s carbon targets this week said that Britain could allow air travel to increase by up to 140 million journeys a year by 2050 – while still meeting its emissions targets.
This is because Britain subscribes to carbon trading and offsetting – which allows companies and states to buy extra carbon credits, or invest in “green” projects, so that they can still emit carbon.
The European Parliament agreed last year that half of the EU’s cuts can be met through offsetting.
But even with carbon trading, many countries – including Denmark – are set to miss the target while other countries have abandoned the goal altogether.
World leaders may try to sell the talks as a success. But organising action to keep the pressure on them is the only chance we have to save the planet.