By Chris Clough
IF ANY year should settle the debate on climate change, 2021 should be it. Extreme weather events around the globe included wildfires raging out of control in Canada and the USA, in Greece and Australia; Hurricane Ida hitting New York, killing 42 people, many in basement flats; catastrophic floods in Henan in China and in the Ahr Valley in western Germany. The list could go on and on.
For the world’s leaders who will gather at COP26 in Glasgow from 1 to 16 November, the ‘debate’ has shifted, a fact symbolised by the exit of the Denier in Chief Donald Trump and his replacement by Joe Biden and the Democrats’ environmentalist icon John Kerry.
Their host Boris Johnson has, it seems, undergone a Damascene conversion on the road to Glasgow. In a 2015 article in the Daily Telegraph, he said that year’s severe winter weather had nothing to do with climate change and mocked the Paris COP Agreement:
‘I am sure that those global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation. There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong [in December] – but they don’t include global warming.’
As late as 2019, he voted against a motion calling on the government to bring forward a ‘green industrial revolution to decarbonise the economy and boost economic growth’. Yet by November 2020, he was announcing his own Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.
In April this year, the government’s sixth Carbon Budget included a target to ‘slash emissions’ by 28 per cent by 2035, and that it would be enshrined in law. But the rhetoric does not match reality. A recent study by the Green Alliance think tank showed that the government will meet less than a quarter of its emissions reduction targets. Worldwide we are currently set for temperature rises of 2.7–3.0C, despite 30 years of dire warnings from scientists and six years passing since the Paris Accords aimed to keep temperatures at 1.5C.
In fact, not only are the Tories dragging their feet on shutting down current fossil fuel extraction, they are making plans to open up new oil fields off the west coast of the Shetland Islands and building new coal mines in Cumbria. Anything to further enrich the oil companies and gain strategic advantages over their rivals in the EU and further afield.
The millions of mainly young protesters, who, in an international movement of unprecedented scale, have been organising school walkouts and direct action, show that we do not have to accept the criminal negligence that has been on offer from the politicians of the ruling class so far. On 6 November there will be actions in Glasgow and coordinated protests across the world.
The vacillation by the governments of the world over the past three decades is even more criminal given the relative simplicity of the solution – stop burning fossil fuels. But this has proven to be impossible so far and no party is willing to challenge the profit motive of capitalism and do what is necessary: expropriate the fossil fuel companies without compensation and redeploy and retrain their engineers, scientists and experts into the project of transitioning to a green economy.
Red is the new green
Only a rapid and radical transformation can now divert humanity from its disastrous path. This requires nothing short of the seizure of power by the working class and the democratic utilisation of society’s resources in order not only to avert climate disaster but also to improve the lives of working people in the process.
For this reason the trade union and socialist movement urgently needs to actively take up the struggle against all the companies and governments adding to the rising danger, to name capitalism as the enemy, to exercise workers’ and service users’ control over the key parts of the economy, expropriating and reorienting the industries and transport systems responsible. In the process we can identify the obstacles, combat the illusions in a green capitalism and, most importantly, win people over to the solution – workers’ revolution and socialism.