A Presentation to South Shields meeting “Make 2019 the year Corbyn becomes PM” jointly organised by Real Democracy Movement – Penny Cole, on line from Lochwinnoch
The IPCC report that came out at the end of last year stated there are 12 years left to act before catastrophic climate change becomes unavoidable. News of the report mobilised hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to go on strike and brought the start of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
There have been criticisms that this movement doesn’t have a goal but surely the idea of rebelling against the system that causes climate change is a good start. ER also calls for people’s assemblies to oversee the decarbonisation of the economy, not leaving it to politicians. And they are quite right. The response of politicians to the report was total silence.
The engine of growth for the climate crisis is the capitalist system which demands continuous growth in profits, through the production and sale of more and more commodities.
These two charts show how the speeding up of greenhouse gas emissions has mirrored the growth of commodity production in the globalisation era.
And we can also see it mirrored in these other areas where we are speeding towards points of no return.
Our big problem has not really been politicians who deny climate change (until recently that it is). It has been neoliberal governments, like the Blair/Brown government or the Clinton government, that accept there is a problem, but will not take the kind of drastic state action needed. Neoliberals do not believe in state action, instead leaving everything to the market to decide.
This chart shows the decades-long debate at conference after conference – at each one there are invariably more fossil fuel lobbyists than scientists with more say in the outcome. As the debates went on, the emissions continued to rise.
Neo-liberal states claimed they could tackle the problem using the same tools of marketisation, monetisation and commodification that they have applied to public services. Terms that have become popular: green capitalism, natural capital, sustainable economics, sustainable growth.
But the market will only do things that are instantly profitable, and particularly so after the financial crash of 2008. None of the money generated by quantitative easing went into tackling climate change – unless you count the fracking boom in the US that made gas so cheap the power stations stopped burning coal.
We urgently need a transition to renewable energy, low emissions transport, organic low-intensity agriculture, and a transformation of building regulations. That all requires state action, including strictly enforced regulation. What party will deliver?
The deepening political crisis means that outright climate change deniers are now in office in America and Australia. And they have taken power in countries that host the most the crucial remaining carbon sinks – the rain forests of Indonesia and Brazil.
In the face of this inaction and indifference to the future, people often feel powerless. But John McDonnell has promised that a Labour government will act urgently. Below are some of the actions a Labour government could take in the short and medium term.
But this Green New Deal could easily go the way of all the other Green New Deals. So it is crucial that we flex our democratic muscies in a new way and do what ER have suggested. We need to create people’s assemblies in every town and city, to oversee the transformation. They can support a Corbyn government when it comes under attack – as it will – from the fossil fuel corporations and banks – and also hold it to account for our childrens’ future.
Priority Actions for a Corbyn government
- • Halt all public subsidies for oil and gas extraction, including fracking and north sea oil and gas
- • Close London’s carbon trade exchange
- • In the short term, levy a tax on the Big 6 energy companies, capping their profits and putting the income generated into a transition bank to pay for a rapid – not snail-like – switch to renewables.
- • Put together a medium-term strategy to take the Big 6 back into public ownership to facilitate joined-up energy planning, i.e. smart grids, hyper-local energy plans using the nearest most efficient resources to generate power.
- • Invest in an emergency fund for insulation, solar panels, ground source heat pumps, etc. as appropriate.
- • Strict regulation of all new construction, making them as close to zero carbon footprint as possible.
- • Start up funding for workers’ co-operatives to deliver these changes (Cleveland, Ohio); creating thousands of jobs particularly for those formerly employed in the oil and gas industry and coal mining areas.
- • Every business required, as part of their annual report, to quantify how they have changed production, buildings, transport and distribution and energy use, to meet carbon reduction targets for their industry, and a tax levied proportional to their failings.
- • Rail and bus networks into not-for-profit ownership, slashing fares and working towards an integrated transport system – another area with scope for workers’ co-operatives.
- • Cars out of city centres with park and ride, and create public transport/cycle-only boxes in the centre of cities (Leeds model)
- • Use Uber-type technology not to facilitate more taxi rides, but to support car pools and car sharing schemes – an IT workers’ co-operative funded to design and run it.
- • Set upper limits on total flight miles in and out of Britain and distribute them fairly through an air miles system; halt airport expansion
- • Stop plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations
- • Local energy co-operatives not only selling power to the grid but giving the power cheap to people in the community, to cut their bills.
- • Support farmers to switch to organic, by ensuring that subsidies focus on environmental and health benefits, and not industrial agriculture.
- • Farm subidies for smaller-scale, sustainable farming especially methods that protect soil from erosion. Large-scale industrial-type farming can take care of itself!
- • Ban neonicotinoinds and other pesticides permanently.