In many ways, the COP27 climate conference being held in Egypt is a cruel but necessary irony. The tyranny of the host government — the sweeping arrests, arbitrary checking of citizens' mobile phones at road checkpoints, and a further crackdown on freedom of expression — makes it look even more like it was a poor choice to hold the summit in Sharm El Sheikh. Greta Thunberg thinks so, too, and why shouldn't we heed the valued opinion of the climate change icon?
However, the choice of Egypt was, in fact, the correct call to make. It is the most fitting host for the summit and many of the policies which might be imposed as a result. Both are or will be authoritarian and depend on coercion to achieve their goals. Such pressure on climate change will be political, financial, and social; some is already happening and has been for years.
We can expect to see a global carbon tax standard, or pricing on carbon emissions, called for by the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and proposed to be set at $75 per ton of carbon emitted.
While such pricing already exists in some countries and the EU, for example, the scheme advocated by the IMF would be implemented worldwide in a multitude of ways. The intention is to provide an incentive to authorities and companies to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, aiming to get to net zero by 2050.
That's optimistic, but who dislikes the idea of a "green" world free from pollution and potentially harmful emissions? It so happens, though, that such a drastic transition has its downsides, and they are not to be taken lightly.
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For a start, a globally-adopted carbon tax would have an impact on individuals as well as governments and businesses. Higher consumer costs are the most obvious manifestation of this; the average citizen will be hit the hardest.
Moreover, carbon taxes imposed directly on individuals or households — something that has long been proposed by climate activists and elitist international organisations — would make it even harder to afford basic necessities such as fuel, energy and food. Calls to implement such taxes will only grow in the lead up to 2030.
The effects of a carbon tax can be seen clearly in Canada, for example, which has a federal minimum cost of CA$50 per tonne, rising to CA$170 in 2030. That tax is already hitting average Canadian citizens hard, and some could freeze to death this winter if they can't afford to heat their homes. This has prompted politicians in favour of the tax to urge the federal government to remove it from home heating costs, while other Canadian politicians are doubling down on the issue. In a real "let them eat cake" moment, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has advised citizens to end their Disney Plus subscriptions in order to deal with the tax and overall inflation. Japan, meanwhile, has looked at what is happening and opted to pull its plans for a carbon tax, easing the burden on companies and consumers alike.
There is also the "energy suicide" of Western nations to consider. They are implementing policies which limit their ability to benefit from clean energy resources and the means to acquire them. The shutting down of nuclear power plants — the most efficient and carbon neutral method of producing the enormous amounts of energy needed — has already been noted in a previous article, as has the overall effort to stem energy production in favour of a rapid "green transition".
The British government has just reimposed its ban on fracking, the drilling for and extraction of natural gas inland, and a number of EU states maintain their ban on the practice despite the bloc needing to import over 80 per cent of its gas requirements. To shut down such energy production capacities at a time when those same nations are boycotting Russian gas, amounts to energy suicide.
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At the current rate, the results of such policies will be catastrophic. The sharp reduction in energy supplies and rise in prices will hit everything, including transportation and household expenses, as well as entire industries such as agriculture, food production, farming, refrigeration and heating.
In Britain, there are credible warnings of rolling blackouts and power cuts this winter, timed and scheduled by the government and energy companies in an effort to ration energy supplies. Those efforts will be backed up by cooperation from media organisations such as the BBC, which has prepared scripts to broadcast and calm the public. The coordination between government and media in support of such action, which is necessary thanks to Western nations' self-inflicted policies against energy production, is dystopian. With forecasters warning of a harsh winter ahead, the effect of power cuts could be deadly.
Yet it could all be for the greater good according to some climate activists. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as the saying goes. In this case, the "few eggs" are potentially millions of people, including already vulnerable individuals. Maybe there is some truth in the popular slogan that, "You are the carbon they want to reduce."
Amid all of this, the United States has hit out at Saudi Arabia for the OPEC+ decision last month to cut crude oil production and output, accusing the kingdom of siding with Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Riyadh denied that the move — in defiance of US President Joe Biden's plea to the Saudi regime in August to increase oil output — was political or made as a gesture of support for Russia. It was, insisted the Saudis, purely economic in an effort to prevent volatility in the global oil markets.
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Despite that, Biden vowed to impose "consequences" on the kingdom, and prominent US Senator Bob Menendez called for a freeze on all cooperation with the Gulf state, including arms sales. If Washington follows through on those threats, it would be the first time that a US administration has taken such harsh action against Saudi Arabia.
Looking past US arrogance and sense of entitlement, and the kingdom's sovereignty, though, the Saudi government is fully aware that its long-time patron and other Western states are engaged in energy suicide while they try to extort more oil from the Gulf. Last month, senior Saudi officials and energy executives criticised the lack of sufficient investment in fossil-fuel production to stave off another energy crisis, warning the world of its vulnerability this winter. They also acknowledged publicly that it is Western governments that are making the situation worse, and laid the blame squarely on the global plans to decarbonise energy and the markets.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.