The “scientifically catastrophic” Paris climate change agreement was like someone agreeing to cut down from five burgers a day to four, according to leading environmental activist Naomi Klein.
In an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post UK in London this morning, the best-selling author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine set out her views on the deal.
While she praised the agreement secured this weekend as “politically historic”, Ms Klein accused David Cameron of throwing his early green credentials “under the bus” in the wake of the 2008 global banking collapse.
Speaking ahead of her appearance at University College London’s ‘Socialism, Capitalism and the Alternatives: Lessons from Russia and Eastern Europe’ event, Ms Klein gave her reaction to seeing “politicians wildly cheering for themselves in Paris” after the deal was agreed.
She said: “I couldn’t watch for long. It’s a very strange thing to cheer for setting a target that you are knowingly failing to meet.
“It’s like going: ‘I acknowledge that I will die of a heart attack if I don’t radically lower my blood pressure. I acknowledge that in order to do that I need to cut out alcohol, fatty foods and exercise everyday. I therefore will exercise once a week, eat four hamburgers instead of five and only binge drink twice a week and you have to call me a hero because I’ve never done this before and you have no idea how lazy I used to be.’”
The historic deal saw nearly 200 countries agree to keep global temperature rises to “well below” 2.0C, with an aim to limit it to 1.5C.
Greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity will be reduced to “net zero” by the end of the century, while countries are required to step up their carbon reduction targets every five years.
Ms Klein, whose most recent book “This Changes Everything” focuses on climate change, argued the political success of the deal does not match the scientific impact.
She said: “We live in this moment where different things are true simultaneously.
“It’s absolutely true that it’s a tremendous achievement to agree on the need to keep warming below 2 degrees, or 1.5 if that’s possible. It could have been worse, it absolutely could have been worse based on past experiences.
“It could have been much more acrimonious when you think you’re dealing with states that have revenues from fossil fuels making up as much as 95 per cent of their government revenues and states that are very far along in energy transition agreeing to the same document it’s an achievement.
“But the tension is something can be politically historic and scientifically catastrophic at the same time. Those truths can co-exist and do co-exist.”
Reflecting on the UK’s green credentials, Ms Klein was scathing in her assessment of the Prime Minister has overseen the scrapping of subsidies for onshore wind, cutting of support for solar power and even adding the carbon tax to renewable electricity consumers in the business sector.
All of this comes after Mr Cameron famously touted himself as friend of the environment when he became Tory leader in 2005, even hugging a husky on a visit to the Arctic in 2006.
Ms Klein said: “The way the government has pushed for fracking and off-shore oil drilling is completely inconsistent with the campaign David Cameron first ran on.”
When asked if she felt let down by him, she replied: “I never believed in Cameron so I don’t feel let down by him.
“He fits a very clear pattern in Europe that pre-2008 when the economy was doing better you had even right wing parties talking a good game about climate change and when the economic crisis hit the climate was just kind of thrown under the bus.
“That’s true in Britain and you see it with the push for more fossil fuel extraction, you see it with the attacks on renewables, you see it also with the cuts to the agency that deals with the impacts of climate change. Cutting flood defence programmes, which as we’ve just been reminded is absolute madness.”
It’s not just those who sought to rebuild the economic world using the mantra of austerity who Ms Klein feels is letting down climate change activists – anti-austerity parties are also failing the movement.
She said: “I don’t think this dynamic is going to change until the fights for economic justice and the fight for climate action become the same.
"If it is just about going on a march and if it just about parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere that’s not going to motivate a movement that is as motivated as Exxon and Shell to protect the status quo.
“When people are fighting for a future that is better than their present, not just better than a catastrophe far off in the future, better than right now which is intolerable, better than unemployment, better than crumbling services, better than relentless austerity – that’s the movement.
“That’s why I find it endlessly frustrating that Europe’s anti-austerity parties almost never talk about climate change.”