“The fight against climate change” – energy policy as humanity’s rescue? Ruthless Criticism

Translation of a February 19, 2018 lecture held in Berlin, Germany by GegenStandpunkt

“The fight against climate change” –
energy policy as humanity’s rescue?

Part 1.

This is a popular prejudice: saving the climate is really a good thing that everybody must get behind. The states have already taken the first steps in the right direction with climate conferences, but then they bicker, with the result that 25 years after the first climate conference, the powerful of this world have done a lot to save the climate, but without success.

Our counter-argument: if those who are in charge and who make the important decisions in this world have not managed to do what they themselves have supposedly been trying to do for 25 years and are always only failing, then they might have something else in mind!

Based on the arguments of the politicians at the climate conferences, which present not only theories but political measures, we would like to show:

1. This prejudice is completely unjustified.
2. What is the purpose of the climate conferences? What exactly are they negotiating?

A speech was given by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the last climate conference in Bonn, Germany (November 2017). Her arguments make clear the internal logic of this political objective, its targets, its program, and also its practice.

The second part of this lecture deals with the subject of the inter-governmental competition that is so fierce at these conferences.

1. A popular prejudice: “Saving the climate is a problem for humanity and a vital issue”

Merkel is not completely wrong to begin her speech with a central tenet of this “popular prejudice,” because she thinks it will open doors:

“We have come together here because we are facing one of, if not the central, challenges of humanity. Climate change – everyone in this room knows this; but I also call it out to everyone else – is a vital issue for our world. It determines the well-being of all of us. It decides very specifically whether people will still be able to live on the Pacific Islands in the future, for example. It is therefore particularly significant that the Republic of Fiji has taken over the presidency of COP 23 as an island state. It is an honor for us in Germany to support the Republic of Fiji in this – I say this on behalf of the entire Federal Government. Our common message is: We want to protect our world.”

Many people who are turned off by all the back and forth of the politicians say: “its all just hot air.” A more effective approach, however, would be to ask: is what the politicians saying true?

There is no common interest of humanity. The social, political, and economic practice of dealing with climate change is speaking a different language. However, the idea seems very simple at first: if climate change warms the earth and everyone lives on the earth, then everyone is affected. But no common ground follows from this common concern – assuming that it exists – on the question of target goals, for example.

Let’s take a look at how this so-called humanity is divided:

– The vast majority of the earth’s inhabitants belong to the category of those who have to breathe particulate matter in booming economies or at their workplaces, while others are in countries such as Fiji or Africa where they see their food sources dwindling. Is climate change really what these people are affected by? Or is it not perhaps the economic and political calculations that are made with them by those who decide what will or will not actually happen from climate change in which parts of the world?

– For the companies, climate change and its effects are a condition of competition. It opens new business opportunities for oil and gas exploration, among other things. In the arctic regions, you can travel by ship where you couldn’t before. Other businesses will certainly also go bust because of it, but those who decide what economic consequences follow from changes in nature do so according to their economic calculations and not because of climate change.

– It is even less true for the political subjects of the states that lack a decisive say in various parts of the world. For some, such as Fiji, which is why Merkel cites them, it is not only that they are affected, but that as an island state with very little income and very little space they do not have the power to do anything on their own about this effect. Others, who live in the Arctic regions, such as Russia, for example, are well advised to finally get an ice-free port. Some foresee that they will have to raise the dikes and take care of that. There is no common ground or any common denominator of concern that responds to this change in the natural conditions of economic and political activity.

If one acts as if the various actors with their conflicts and disputes are all part of a single predicament, then this deliberately ignores who is harmed by whom and why, and who has advantages and disadvantages from this way of dealing with nature. Everyone is addressed in completely abstract terms that explicitly insist one should not think about how one is actually affected and by whom, but one should think of this abstract thing called climate change as an object of concern.

Is this just bullshit? It’s definitely that! But what’s really the point of it? The considerations that have just been expressed are well known. Yet speculations, calculations, and the damages resulting from changes in nature are all subsumed under this abstract concept. One should not think about how people are harmed or who benefits from the harm of others, but rather one should put oneself in the abstract position: “I am a human being like everyone else and, as a human, it is very bad when I have to live on a globe where the climate collapses in this way.”

With regard to the majority of humanity, it must be said that it doesn’t matter if it goes along with this and says they feel affected as human beings if the Fiji Islands sink. But if the German Chancellor refers to humanity, then this is not convincing because she refers to it too, but because she refers to it as the Chancellor of Germany. Then everyone says: “Ah, the head of the great economic power Germany seems to think that climate change is very important, so what does she have to tell us?” This “what is she announcing now, what does she want to do?” does not follow from the title “humanity” that she refers to, but from the fact that everyone knows that when Germany makes political and economic decisions, this has quite important consequences for large parts of the world, or at least for its own inhabitants.

Merkel dons the pose of the general public to tell the world that she wants to draw conclusions. She does not draw conclusions from the fact that she is the guardian of a problem of humanity, but rather the guardian of a nation of great political and economic importance. Everything it does in the interest of this nation is really something it does in the interest of all – this hypocrisy alleges that Germany’s interest is also that of the general public.

Objectively speaking, her appearance at the climate conference refutes the claim that “we are all” affected and need to do something about climate change. When Merkel says that we are all affected and that is why she is making the proposals that follow, she is claiming global political leadership on the issue. In reality, there is a real conflict between states regarding the climate issue and they all want to have a decisive voice in this conflict. In this respect, “humanity” as a body of appeal is a lie, but not an empty formula. It is the way state leaders talk when they (1) want to tell the world what they intend to do and (2) when they want to make clear how important what they plan to do is because (3) they want to tell the world what it must do now about the climate problem.

This abstract “humanity” is good for nothing but underpinning these claims. Interests, purposes, and needs can be judged, criticized, or advocated. Humanity as this abstract subject has no common interest in the matter at all and that is why politicians always make the interest of humanity what they want. That’s what this word is good for.

2. The critique of the politicians (Merkel, etc.)

If someone wants to criticize what happens to people’s living conditions and wants to change something in what exists, then it is not good to rely on the politicians who are responsible for this issue. On the occasion of the climate conference in Bonn, there were demonstrations and actions by protest groups. For example, a leaflet by Greenpeace. Here’s how they see it:

”Global warming requires that action be taken at turbo-speed, but climate negotiations happen at a snail's pace, slowed down by large corporations and the logic of capitalist profit. Germany is hardly better than the USA. As much as the Chancellor talks about climate protection on the international stage, she lets coal-fired power plants continue to run at home. While even weakened climate targets are sacrificed to the interests of lobbies, the historically far greater responsibility of the global North for climate change is simply denied.”

It is a bad idea to begin a criticism on the abstract level that global warming requires action at turbo-speed. Merkel would never deny this. She would interpret the sentence exactly the way she sees it herself, namely: this requires the action that she plans on. Then comes the reproach: the politicians are not doing this quickly, but slowly, because they are bogged down by the large corporations and the logic of capitalist profit. That’s a strange argument. After all, Greenpeace says the reason that the air is polluted and that climate change is occurring has something to do with the calculations of those who have a decisive influence on the economic purposes of our society. When Greenpeace talks about the large corporations and the logic of capitalist profit, they seem to be aware that using the atmosphere as a garbage dump is great in terms of costs and profits for the calculations of companies.

The idea that the entrepreneurs are slowing Merkel down is also contradictory. What is the relation of the political power to this capitalist calculation? If she really wants to oppose this calculation, but then lets herself be hindered from doing anything about it, this leaves an empty space in terms of explanation: so why? Greenpeace gives nothing more than a negative definition of state action, that the state does not do what Greenpeace wants it to. But they don’t give a reason why the state does what it does. That’s why we are offering to show a positive reason that states act the way they do. To always merely say that the corporations with their profit logic are destroying our environment and the state is doing nothing .... Such a powerful and well-enforced force apparatus can’t really be characterized by the fact that its activity consists only of omissions. That’s pretty unbelievable.

“... While even weakened climate goals are sacrificed to the interests of the lobbies, the historically far greater responsibility of the global North for climate change is simply denied.” This is false: they do not deny responsibility; they stand up and say: “We are the biggest air polluters and that is why we must also make sure that air pollution is curbed.” How does it really work that those who have organized the whole world according to this principle claim to be the best fighters of the effects of what they themselves have organized?

One doesn’t do oneself any favors if one grants that the politicians are actually pursuing good, decent, philanthropic goals and then accuses them of negligence, because one thereby avoids the question that has to be answered: If the politicians are responsible and if they are always neglecting the responsibility one wants, then what is actually driving them?

3. The politicians’ interest in climate policy

After the vital question, Merkel continues:

“That is why we are in favor of the Paris climate agreement. That is why – and this is the task now following the great success of this agreement – we must now implement it together. We need a suitable set of rules for this. That is exactly what is being worked on at this conference. It is about trust and reliability in the joint effort to make urgently needed progress on climate protection. We in Europe are aware of our responsibility. We are legally implementing the European Union’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990.”

That’s pretty bold. She goes from the abstract assertion that we are dealing with a vital question to saying without further ado: “Don’t worry, people, the topic of the ‘climate’ is in good hands, namely ours. We have the matter under control and we are now showing how we have it under control by implementing the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

As soon as there is a solution – which is not called an “agreement” by accident – a “legally binding agreement between powers” – the problem arises as to how we can derive climate goals from our shared responsibility. If rescuing the climate really were a matter that affected everyone equally, then there would probably not have to be endless consultations that do not even agree from the outset on how to define the damage that we are dealing with together. It is simply not the case that state leaders meet and say it is clear what is at stake – saving the climate – and that it is also perfectly clear what the damage is that we are working together to fix. There was endless squabbling until they reached an agreement on a common denominator for all the damage that each state found on its own. This common definition of damage – CO2 – is the one they want to and can tackle together. All the other damages and all the other effects were explicitly excluded.

Judging the Paris Climate Conference by how it saves the climate, the result is a joke: when the contract was signed, it was clear that the far-reaching climate targets that had been adopted were unrealistic. Nevertheless, the conference was a great success because they had agreed on a substance that is harmful and on a value by which this substance is to be reduced. But then it was not even the case that they managed to say: we now know where the damage lies and how we will fight it together: CO2 reduction. A dispute began over what should be charged, what others can be charged with, time tables, etc. The arguments were purely over the conditions for the implementation of reductions on the national level because they would be far too damaging to their economies if these figures were accepted.

Now what is the substance of the diplomatic dispute? Since the Kyoto Conference was agreed, two equations have been valid:

1. Saving the climate means CO2 reduction,
2. CO2 reduction takes place in the national implementation of a modern energy policy away from fossil energy sources towards renewable energies.

The following 3-step is concluded diplomatically and politically, but not as a scientific fact:

– CO2 emission leads to changes in the climate and only has harmful effects on all living conditions. (No doubt about that.)
– Then we must look after the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,
– This requires us to switch our energy policy from fossil fuels to other energy sources.

The logic is: if more and more inhabitable areas in countries like Fiji are sinking into the sea, if storms are increasing, then we must try to reduce CO2, and if we try to reduce CO2, then it is clear how this has to be done, namely with energy policy measures.

This climate objective is a strange thing: one comes up with it, argues about it endlessly, decides on it, says to oneself that the decisions are not at all realistic, and struggles for 25 years to turn it into reality. There are also ways in which governments deal with the effects of climate change that have absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether there is a common interest, but implement the harmful or useful effects that it has for each of them according to the resources they have at their disposal. (Germany’s are different from America’s, different from Fiji’s, etc.) These political and economic measures that states take in regards to the effects of climate change were not discussed at the climate conferences. It never got into that at all. It continues like this.

What is the achievement of the commitment to this type of climate rescue? This is one of the popular prejudices mentioned above: the whole thing sounds as if it were a scientifically-based compulsion. The scientific connections are clear: the effects we see are due to climate change, there is no scientific doubt about this. The doubts come at a completely different place. If one discovers a scientific connection between CO2 emissions, climate change, and energy policy, then the question is: where does all this CO2 actually come from? The states ask themselves this question in a very peculiar way. They said: “The main CO2 polluters are the so-called great industrial nations. But precisely because this is the case, it is absolutely necessary that the emission reduction amounts be a percentage of how much each country is already emitting into the atmosphere.” In doing so, they have made a far-reaching admission about the issue. They have acknowledged that the production of this harmful gas is an intrinsic part of the way they produce the wealth they need and the economic growth they want.

So, of course, they assume that reducing CO2 damages their economic growth, and they say this must be justifiable. This takes us a long way from the statement that climate change is a vital question. (In regards to the question of the cause, scientists say “anthropogenic,” which is also not quite the truth, because it is not so much anthropos = human beings, but the people who have economic power. But that’s just an aside.)

So an effect is being fought while the reason these effects come into being is being explicitly retained. At the same time, under the premise that the measures taken in other ways by states for or against climate change will not be affected. The combination of these findings already leads to the conclusion that it is actually about implementing energy policy and not so much about saving the climate. So the method used to reduce CO2, namely changing energy policies, is the real subject of diplomatic negotiations.

It is not a question of denying the scientific context, but of saying how it actually enters into the state’s calculations. After all, government agencies don’t just simply implement scientific findings when they enact environmental protections or other measures. Anybody who has a little bit of concern with the policy of removing limit values and the question of how this affects living organisms knows this. There are scientific results, but what the state makes of them follows from considerations that have nothing to do with science.

“With the Climate Protection Plan 2050, Germany has defined its medium and long-term strategy.... The next step is to fill this strategy with concrete measures. Let me be frank with you: This is not easy in Germany either... On the one hand, it is about fulfilling what we have set ourselves. On the other hand, it is also about social issues and jobs, for example in connection with the issue of reducing coal. This is also about economics; that is, about the affordability of energy. Even in a rich country like ours, there are, of course, considerable conflicts in society that we must resolve sensibly and reliably.”

Merkel takes for granted that CO2 reduction is the way to carry out a shift in national energy production. What is the relation between energy policy and climate protection? Merkel started with a “vital question,” but then she openly states that there is an alternative that does not allow a responsible German politician to simply put this vital question into practice the way she would like, because the companies that have been doing business with the old forms of energy would be harmed by it. (This is the truth in the sentence “it’s about jobs.”) She addresses the fact that using the atmosphere as a dump is a necessary part of the business calculations of energy companies and that these business calculations are so important for Germany’s capital base that it can’t be sacrificed simply for climate goals.

She is saying that there is a measuring stick for the rescue of the climate. The measuring stick, however, is not the damage caused by climate change, but whether it is a hindrance or a means of economic efficiency. That brings her to her real purpose: the economic efficiency that energy production is supposed to achieve.

So a few more sentences: “Energy production must be economical” has three sides:

1. What politicians call security of supply: energy must always be accessible to the extent and for the price required by the national economy;
2. it is itself an important business sphere;
3. for companies, it is a cost factor that plays a decisive role in their competitiveness.

These are the three viewpoints under which the nations have actually decided to shift their energy production. (More on this in Part 2). They are doing this anyway, and that’s what CO2 reduction should be useful for. Merkel admits this: rescuing the climate, even if it is defined as a reduction of CO2s, does not follow from the damage it causes elsewhere, but follows to the extent that it fits the energy shift that is needed as a means of the national economy. If that doesn’t match, it won’t work. This is a denial of the “common interest” that everyone supports and that everyone observes.

By the way: for those who are really affected, Merkel’s alternative is very strange. If you want a job with a profitable company, you have to be able to tolerate the fact that a company emits a lot of pollution into the air, otherwise it isn’t profitable, and then the jobs are gone. So if you insist too much on CO2 reduction, you might protect people in their capacity as breathers of air, but at the same time you damage them in their capacity as people who need money. This is an interesting alternative that this type of economy confronts her with: a responsible politicians either harms people by keeping their air clean but makes businesses unprofitable or she harms people by making busineeses profitable but unfortunately they have to breathe dirty air. She does not mean this to be a devastating judgement about the purpose and content of this type of production, but an argument for the fact that it is absolutely necessary to strike a good balance between these two sides of climate change.

The peculiar way in which the German Chancellor talks about the purpose of the thing is that the standards of success of the economy, which she commands and which also supports the state with credit and taxes, do not well tolerate the imposition of political conditions that require consideration for humans and nature. Because the use of these production factors is a necessarily part of the calculations made by business. Pollution is not a bad thing at all, but on the contrary, a useful means of improving the relation between cost and profit. What can be concluded from this is that the politicians have a hard time deciding on these issues correctly, but that it is up to them to decide between the two and on the extent.

From the way Merkel represents the issue, it can be concluded that nothing in this is true: that it is actually about saving the climate, but because of jobs this is difficult, so it is only possible to a limited extent. Conversely, it is about the success of national growth. This has to unite with the shift in energy production. It has to be compatible with the fact that the companies making profits with energy do not suffer any damage, but enjoy the benefits.

That’s the project. More will be said about how useful CO2 reduction is for this project in part two.


There is a contradiction between capitalism and environmental destruction and it is logical that Merkel is in a dilemma. So this Paris climate agreement is a good thing. Of course, they’re having trouble dealing with it. In the last two years, Germany has even fallen behind with these emissions. This, of course, is a dilemma. The only way is to change capitalism. We don’t have a working class. After all, a lot has happened in this area and electricity from renewable energy has now reached 37%. There are also various movements in the USA as well as in Canada and Germany. It is now the only progressive political movement that exists.

You’re going to have to make up your mind. When you say that capitalism is incompatible with environmental protection and take this seriously, I do not understand how at the same time you can say that politicians have a dilemma with their own decisions. When the administrators of this mode of production get together and think about how to change energy production, they are managing capitalism.

– Of course they are dependent on capital, but I count on a minimum of goodwill in them. Of course, these politicians also make a mess because they are dependent on capital. That’s a contradiction they live with.

You think a little bit too highly of the politicians. This may be a contradiction, but arrangements for the relative limitation of CO2 do not come into being as a result of an anti-capitalist purpose, but serve precisely this purpose: making the ruin of nature and labor as sources of wealth compatible with economic growth. That is the yardstick this originates from.

– Of course this is a dilemma and in case of doubt they are against renewable energy, on the side of industry and capital. Some are still trying to change something, it comes from below, from the corresponding movement. How else is something supposed to change?

You’re twisting like a straw in the wind with your argument. On the one hand, you say they are dependent on capital; on the other hand, they have good will. Then you say they are not at all for renewable energy – our message was not that they are not for renewable energy. That’s what you seem to think because you think it’s great when renewable energies are developed. So you don’t even want to know why and under what conditions they are for it. The message of this lecture is not saying that this is a nice title under which something completely different is taking place, but showing the conditions under which energy conversion takes place. You obviously are not interested in this. It was also not news that we have capitalism, but against this back and forth: on the one hand, with the word “dilemma” you acknowledge that the politicians actually have a philanthropic purpose, but constantly deviate from it because they are dependent on capital. I think that is a false judgement about capitalism. This means that the judgments that are being made about capitalism are not correct. And your subsumption of the opposition to environmental damage under “at least it exists” does these people some injustice because they do not see themselves as a substitute for a non-existent working class. They have a completely different objective.

– It is not true that the Paris climate agreement does not mention problems of social redistribution. It says in the preamble “Fight against poverty,”etc. In fact, they are just fraudulent the way they are formulated in the climate protection agreement. But my concern is: what does the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Protection Agreement actually mean? I see two opportunities here. China's leading climate researchers say this is a big opportunity for us to take the lead in climate negotiations. We are prepared to do this, need support and also have had certain successes, both in reducing extreme poverty and in climate protection technology. China has applied for more patents on climate protection technology in the last 5 years than America. But we must also see global warming as an opportunity, as feedback; what we as civil society, as entrepreneurs can also contribute to it. This divergence of solutions between China's extremist potential and America's extremely liberal potential, these two approaches we can see at the moment. Where does Germany stand?

I don't know which “we” you are thinking about. The subject of the second part of the lecture will be how energy policy is a means of competition between states and how they press their competitive interests on each other – America, China, Europe. How do those people generally show up who are always referred to as those who are actually affected? This way of looking at it from the point of view of one’s own national leadership and saying we must now find a way for our energy policy against China or with China, or against America or with America, is a different matter than to ask ourselves: how does one actually stand in this competition? That’s the standpoint I’ve been trying to point out about what people are being served as an alternative. I have no interested in intellectually endorsing the German or European position in the global competition for the implementation of new forms of energy. Why should I do that?

Although it anticipates an argument in Part 2, I can illustrate my argument with these so-called renewable energies: It is very strange that the equating of less harmfulness with new forms of energy simply slips through counterfactually under “that then improves living conditions for all of us.” That the same companies, which are now doing business with the new forms of energy, would make different calculations about the question of damage to nature and labor than they did with the old ones is a factually inaccurate assumption. Examples: as soon as biofuel became modern, Mexicans are no longer able to pay for their tortillas. In countries like Malaysia, huge swathes of rainforest are cleared for plantations, not to mention the effects of windmills, etc., and the minerals that are needed, the Third World countries where they are being mined, etc. I have referred to facts. It is therefore a counterfactual assertion to say that we have forms of energy that are harmful to the environment, namely fossil fuels, and human-friendly, environmentally useful forms of energy, which is renewable energy. This assertion does not stand up to objective examination.

Earlier, you put a lot of emphasis on everyone knows that capitalism ..... Now I would like to point out that among those who object to capitalism, everyone is also aware of the recklessness of this mode of production towards humans and nature, how it treats working people as a cost factor and nature as a free factor of production. And this recklessness has now been explained again. This recklessness rages regardless of whether it is about fossil fuels or alternative energy sources. This was exemplified in all of Malaysia being used to extract palm oil and the rainforest cut down to produce biofuel, or other evidence from wind energy, etc. You obviously don't know that the same principle applies there, or you don't want to know anything about it, because you find alternative energy so much better.

– Palm oil is not an alternative energy source. It is true that people are exploited in capitalism and nature is an alleged factor that costs nothing. But as you can see, it costs, namely that the environment, nature, is destroyed in the long term or man must live in the world, in nature. So alternative energy is a way out of this vicious circle. There is only this one possibility and there is a possibility that even if we were to get socialism, nothing would change and nothing would be better. A mistake Marx made in pushing ecology too far off the edge. A new society is not possible without ecology. We will only get a new society if we are ecological and not just against capitalism. We are so far in agreement on the analysis of the problem. I would like to talk about the possible solutions.

I do not share your view that we are in agreement on the analysis. There is a difference between talking about why modern capitalist nations decide they can no longer tolerate dependence on oil and gas, then draw the consequences, and what that actually means for people here or elsewhere. This is a different question than how German energy policy appears in the international competition for the conversion of the global energy industry. And it is a mistake to say that these two questions are the same. The protection of the environment is only necessary as an independent purpose because from the outset, when producing and consuming, the point of view that nature is a means of producing useful objects does not count. That is why there is indeed a supplementary care in capitalism. This supplementary care does not measure the actual harm done to people. That it doesn’t can be seen from the fact that the same companies that are subject to environmental regulations in Central Europe are operating very differently in countries such as China or Peru. Apparently, the question I raised doesn't matter. That's what I was after. I have something against subsuming this question to the completely different question of how a modern capital location manages to get its energy policy away from fossil fuel energy without damaging the calculations of the companies.

– I actually agree with the analysis that energy policy, like everything else capitalist, also takes place in competition and that it has no motivation to improve conditions for nature and humans. One only has to look at when renewable energy policy was introduced. I am thinking of oil prices in the 1970s or in the 2000s. They were introduced in such a way that they were promoted. But that is why one could support the fact that in the end the impact on man and nature is, so to speak, less due to technical components alone than in production with fossil fuels.

That’s a somewhat pathetic logic. You might as well say it’s actually great when there's a global economic crisis because not as many pollutants are pumped into the world. If you simply take the view that there is no harmful effect, that is intellectually very modest. You know the unpleasant purposes with which something is being done, and then you say, but at least it turns out that I am spared one thing or another. (If China commands its growth from now on so that it still builds at least one coal-fired power plant every week, but at the same time a few solar power plants too.)

Part 2.

I will pick up on your point, which was a good clue. It was pointed out that energy shifts get an impetus during certain phases of energy prices. One was the oil price shock in the 1970s, the other was developments in 2006-2010 when the price of oil was well above $100. The argument was to clear up the fog about the question of the renewable energy revolution. A conditional logic was presented in Merkel’s speech, which starts with the great catastrophe of climate change, translates this into a fight against climate change, and then translates this into “CO2 must be reduced and this should be profitable.”

On the one hand, it is a state task to provide energy and, at the same time, the state transfers this task to capital. Apart from the mobile phone and internet giants, the energy companies are the largest capitals in the capitalist states. So, at the same time, what is a prerequisite for capitalist production on the site is itself one of the largest capitals on the site. The criteria are contradictory.

In Germany, energy used to come mainly from coal. At some point, coal production turned out to be quite expensive and was replaced by imported cheap oil and gas. Coal was outcompeted due to cheapness. At the same time, for a responsible state, importing energy raises the question of dependence on other nations. As far as oil is concerned, it is best known by the Americans: when oil was imported from the Arab world for decades, the Americans, as guardians of the world energy market, immediately took the position that they could control the Arab states and wanted to have control over them. One can see from this question of security how huge a display of imperialist power is directly involved in guaranteeing the security of this energy source. If we do not want to think of the USA, we can think more simply of Germany, where the question of importing gas from Russia is always connected with the question: we are becoming too dependent on Russia.

If you think about these criteria, how much force between nations is involved, how much imperialism, then you have to realize what the appeal of the renewable energy revolution really is. The turnaround in energy has been exacerbated by a period of very high oil prices, during which the nation has to pay more and more money abroad. Growing powers such as China and India, etc., are fighting over this raw material. The standpoint of the renewable energy revolution means that energy production is now merely a question of technology and capital. A country like Germany has both. In capitalist-imperialist terms, that’s like winning the lottery. In perspective, one no longer pays a big chunk of good money to foreign nations and foreign capitals and makes them rich, but produces energy on one's own soil with one’s own resources.

One gets rid of the question of dependency and can even flip it over: not only does one no longer pay good money to foreign countries, but, conversely, one has the chance to earn money abroad because the technological transformation of energy makes it possible and, at the same time, one can make dependencies of foreign countries. This is actually the real capitalist-imperialist impetus of this energy question and the energy transition.

Why is it so important that the major competitors on the world market commit to the same program?

1. Negative: an energy transition costs. As profitable as the energy revolution through technology may be in the future, it is initially the case – see the Renewable Energy Act and the corresponding shares in a rising electricity price – that this is first of all a burden on the location, its competitiveness, and thus on the rest of capitalist production at the location. There is a danger of falling behind on the world market. In this respect, it is an important interest to get the competitors to commit themselves to the same program.
2. On the positive side, the other nations are also committed to this program of shifting from energy production to technology so that the competitive conditions are guaranteed under which Germany hopes to win with its special energy transition and its potential.

Merkel says:

“During Germany's G7 presidency in 2015, we reaffirmed our common will to follow the path of decarbonization as industrialized countries as a whole. I am convinced that the industrialized countries must make a very special and important contribution because they have the capacity to make the necessary technological developments that can set standards, but also, of course, because they have a historic responsibility and have made a significant contribution to the global increase in CO2.... This year, during our G20 presidency, we adopted the G20 action plan on climate and energy for more sustainable economic growth. The OECD has also made clear what this is all about: only if we gear our extensive investments in a climate-friendly manner can we secure our prosperity in the future. That is why we are convinced that climate policy is also future-oriented economic policy. After all, the preservation of our livelihoods is the prerequisite for us to be able to do business successfully at all.”

Only the industrially developed countries have the ability to replace costly imported fossil fuels with technologically converted energy. This ability gives them the power to set new standards of energy production for the entire world of states. Its dishonest: Merkel transforms her interest in committing Germany’s major competitors to this energy shift into a shared responsibility of the competitors. The gall is considerable: This claim to define the renewable energy revolution is justified with the self-accusation of having previously wrecked the globe with pollutants. On the one hand, a moral self-incrimination: we messed up the environment. Shame is not in order, but the contrary: this justifies the power and the responsibility to define how energy has to be produced in the future.

Merkel is proud to have finally gotten Germany’s main competitors to make a common declaration of intent to set competitive conditions for future energy production with a voluntary commitment to CO2 reduction: that’s real meaning of the climate theme. The title of this universal concern with climate change is appropriate for the program of getting competitors on board. That doesn’t work if you come along with your own interest, but only with a universal concern that no one else should be able to avoid.

The significance of the climate issue is that the competitors win a title to interfere in each other’s energy production. This only works among similar competitors for a price that applies the other way around. How touchy any definition of energy sovereignty is for a successful capitalist nation, i.e. how important this energy question is for any capitalist nation, can be seen from the fact that anything more than a voluntary commitment to reduction targets is out of the question. Each nation reserves the right to decide the energy mix by which it promises to achieve this voluntary commitment. Germany, for example, insists on its extremely dirty but also extremely cheap lignite. France insists on its radioactive but CO2-free nuclear power plants. Incidentally, at the climate conference in Bonn, there were alliances between states that distinguished themselves by voluntarily abandoning coal-fired power stations, and some of these states have no coal-fired power stations at all. Germany with its lignite and Poland with its domestic bituminous coal were not at all amused.

This much acclaimed consensus on a 2015 climate agreement in Paris actually speaks volumes about the real significance of the climate issue. From the point of view of global warming and its consequences, virtually nothing has been gained. All climate protectors know this much better than me. But from the German point of view, with the universal recognition of climate protection setting a competitive condition for energy production, a lot has been achieved. The point is that the main competitors, the USA and China, made this commitment in Paris, which they had refused in Copenhagen in 2010. This is not because the state leaders suddenly understood the dramatic consequences of climate change, but rather because they now regard this new form of energy production as lucrative and are themselves developing an interest – like Germany – in determining conditions for their competitors in this field.

Some evidence for this: after Trump withdrew from the agreement, the first reaction the next day by German politicians was: “We should be imposing import duties on US goods.” It is not so important that it did not come to that, but if Trump withdraws from this commitment to embark on new forms of energy production and thus new costs, then he gains a competitive advantage. We are affected by this, so we should actually impose customs duties. That shows what this is all about. (One could also say: If it were about the climate, we would have to adopt the corresponding reduction targets of the Americans.)

Trump sees this definition of conditions for new energy production, which Obama committed to in Paris, as an absolutely unacceptable damage to the freedom of calculation in energy matters for the USA: “We have so much cheap oil in the ground and gas and coal. We’re using all the resources we have. Any agreement is in fact an unacceptable attack on American interests.”

The definition of competitive conditions at climate conferences is the basis for the real competition on the world market for solar cells, wind turbines, bio-exhaust systems, etc. Merkel sees Germany well positioned in this competition: “If we have the means and set the standards, then the thing will succeed.” Who standards should be set for is not concealed: other states that are also working on energy issues, and in this way rescuing the climate becomes a German world market offensive.

“All this is also happening in the conviction that the transformation to a low-emission economy – properly designed – offers great opportunities for growth. Renewable energies, resource- and cost-saving efficiency technologies, climate-friendly innovations in the building sector and in transport – this and much more will gain in importance on markets worldwide. I can tell you that renewable energies are already the strongest pillar of energy in Germany and that we are seeing support for renewable energies increasing at a relatively rapid pace and their market maturity is being reached ever faster.”

The energy transformation is therefore not just the transformation of a central sector of the national economy into new profitable production processes. The energy transformation is also and above all the occupation of foreign markets, i.e. the business of other nations, with the “made in Germany” technology brand necessary for such a transformation. Germany’s status as a paragon in issues of climate protection is good for this and Merkel indicates pretty nicely the competitive edge it has achieved. Last but not least, this is how the German economic power secures its status as world export champion. Therefore, one should not ask what happens to the climate, so one should not be surprised that the targets are never successfully met. Because this much is clear: the national project of transforming the national energy industry into future forms of energy to secure and expand Germany’s position as a world economic power just requires as much freedom as possible for capital with its cost-income calculations to produce precisely all the damages that call for CO2 turnarounds at climate conferences. In negotiations with the coalition government, it was revealed that Germany is now also officially abandoning its CO2 reduction target for 2020. Apparently, it does not consider its ambitious targets sustainable.

Critics complain that Germany is losing its credibility as a climate protection pioneer and its growth opportunities on the global market for renewable energies. I don't even want to talk about whether this is a pretense or meant seriously. That doesn’t matter because they are obviously confident that their concerns are only important if they cite the valid yardstick for their criticism. The valid yardstick is world market success. They highlight this when they formulate the objection and say that this is terribly bad if Germany fails to meet its CO2 reduction targets, then it loses its reputation as a pioneer and then loses all its export success. So this is obviously what the energy transition is all about.

In the last quote, Merkel gets melodramatic:

“We have melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods on the one hand and storms, unbearable heat and droughts on the other. Nobody – I say: nobody – can and may ignore this. If we also look at the world's growing population, we know: Increasing conflicts over natural resources are inevitable if we do nothing about climate protection. That is why Germany has always spoken out in the United Nations Security Council in favor of taking a much closer look at the security aspects of climate change.”

It is not a mistake if this makes you think of institutions such as Frontex {the European border police]. It’s quite remarkable. If you think back to the beginning: communities with no resources such as the Fiji Islands were evidence for the general concern. Now progress has come so far that they themselves are a problem of world order. So the imperialist power Germany supplements its competitive project of an energy revolution with the claim to be entitled to view the world as a supervisory power with state force if the victims of disasters turn out to be problems for the world order. In the beginning, it was the problems for the inhabitants of the drowning Fiji Islands. They are the legal grounds for calling for a change of direction in energy policy. At the end of this quote, those affected by the loss of their livelihoods are the problem that Germany promises to address as a world supervisory power.


One more thought for those who think that we should keep in mind that the renewable energy revolution is actually a good thing: “the growing world population is the real problem.” If one takes it theoretically, one has to say that this comes from not making the real perpetrators and the real victims the subject, but citing a general problem of humanity as the cause. In the first case, we know that the question of whether melting glaciers, rising sea levels, floods, unbearable heat, etc. causing people to flee where they live has much less to do with the climate, but much more to do with the political and economic conditions in the countries where these natural disasters occur. Shifting the whole question of why so many people on this globe are so fucked to the argument that its because of climate change is an explicit dismissal of even acknowledging the real reason for it.


– The oil that comes from America is only fracking oil. Moreover, the USA took the whole Middle East hostage, so to speak, after 1945 with the pact between Saudi Arabia and the USA. Right now this bloody conflict is with Iraq and Iran and the Americans are the main players. So this relative dwarf nation of Germany also has interests, but in the alternative energy sector, for example, China has overtaken Germany. German capital, the German companies, are still tied to oil. Okay, Siemens is building wind turbines, there are individual things, but the Merkel government has actually curbed the German renewable energy revolution and this has led to Germany no longer being a leading nation in this area. The head start is no longer there. The whole of Europe is not as strong as people always think. ... Alternative energy is the future, otherwise it will all end. The oil is running out. Even the USA is switching to alternative energies, even Scandinavia. This was now an illustration of the previous presentation. You made it clear that saving the climate is above all a competitive event in which Europe is not doing so well against the Americans.

Your anti-Americanism is all well and good. But how do you get from these facts to the question: how is Germany faring against it?

– I detected an alternative. But we must produce our energy differently. The question now is how can we do that if not in a capitalist system like today? You may have ideas.

The concern was a little more modest: to make it clear that it makes a difference whether one is talking about the role this commodity plays in the economy and what this has to do with the climate disaster. So a few misconceptions need to be refuted and withdrawn from circulation. This does not even raise the question, because the “we” you are talking about does not exist. There are state calculations with this raw material. The substance of this state accounting has been briefly explained. It has also been said why it is that as soon as states set the goal of having a reliable supply of energy for their national economies, they immediately come into conflict with suppliers because it is not simply a commodity where one sells and the other buys, money crosses the table and both sides are satisfied. As soon as an oil supply contract with Saudi Arabia or a gas supply contract with Russia is concluded, the question is immediately raised whether this offers another power the opportunity to interfere in our politics: “Are we dependent?”

What kind of an idea is it, that from the outset not only economic interests count in energy issues, i.e. the interests of those who use energy, the electricity consumers who want to sit in a lighted room, for example, or even those for whom energy consumption is a cost factor in production and those who produce energy as a means of business? It is a product that is not only of interest for economic use, but a state project! That is why it is unbelievable that those who for 150 years have organized the world energy market as it now exists, because it works the way it does, want to have independent energy sources which they have national sovereignty over and are not dependent on, with the argument that the Fiji Islands are sinking, so an energy revolution should happen. That doesn’t make sense to us. That’s why we thought about how all this is connected. That is not an answer to how one could imagine everything in different way. So it is true that the costs of the consequences of climate change are rising. We know that these CO2 emissions must be kept down, that we must change our energy production globally. How do we do that? Sure, we want to make a profit...

I refuse to go to an intellectual never-never land. It starts with the word “we.” Then you can imagine anything is possible, how you could make everything humane, decent, etc. But the thoughts are good for nothing, because you do not think: somehow there must already be an existing purpose in the world. That’s what one expresses when one says, “You know already that we...” But I cannot find the “we” anywhere. Except in the speeches of politicians who claim that it entitles them to decide who pays the costs, what other people get and do not get from the energy transition.

For example, if you say: “The cost of energy and climate change is rising.” Then my first thought is: if you don’t say who incurs the costs and who the costs are passed on to, all the talk about costs is good for nothing. Because then you don’t even talk about the real costs that you have and the question of whether other costs can be gotten rid of. For example, Siemens in Görlitz: “This poor company, nobody takes its turbines away from it because of the energy transition. And now it has a terrible dilemma. It has to lay off workers, even though it’s such a socially conscious enterprise.” But one can also say: that’s interesting. The costs may indeed be incurred by Siemens, but they have to be paid by the workforce. And that is different from saying there are universal costs and they are increasing for all of us. Because that’s not true! There may be costs, but for whom are these costs and for whom are they gains? This is not decided by problems of humanity, but by the respective social and economic roles played by people in politics and economics.

What is the title of universal impact of climate change good for? It is good for a competitive struggle between nations where one tries to recruit the others, good when the Chancellor defines problems of humanity and makes herself the vicarious agent of it. A lot would be gained if it was clear that one shouldn’t let oneself be recruited by this title. Even if one is always exposed to Merkel, Trump, and the other idiots, one should sometimes take the intellectual liberty to judge these machinations and try to figure out what purposes they are pursuing and not let oneself be recruited into making the problem, which they define, one’s own in the “we” form. Or as a critical person who might consider it a bad solution, but endorsing the sayings in principle. Even for the staunchest critic, the good will is still there to make at least some contribution, even under capitalist calculations, to this problem of humanity. A lot would really be achieved if one at least did not let oneself be intellectually recruited. This climate issue has really contributed to a certain intellectual blindness.