Protests against climate change and capitalism’s degradation of our environment have been growing. Now the world’s leading scientists warn that human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of Earth’s natural ‘life-support systems’.
The Socialist Party argues that the profit driven internal logic of the capitalist system will indeed push the planet to breaking point. That’s why the only real solution to climate change is systemic, socialist change.
The new inquest into the tragic death of a nine-year old in London, which was linked to pollution levels, should underline the urgency of this.
Parliament has now agreed to view climate change as an emergency, with Corbyn correctly stating that individual lifestyle changes won’t be enough to tackle the impending environmental catastrophe.
To truly tackle climate change, we would have to see a massive redistribution of wealth and power in our society. A recent report by the Committee on Climate Change has argued that it will be possible for the UK to go ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050. But this target won’t be reached while production remains organised in the interests of profit - not people and planet.
Fundamentally, you can’t control what you don’t own. Going carbon neutral would really require democratic planning of the economy - something only possible on the basis of public ownership of the big monopolies which currently dominate, starting with the nationalisation of the energy companies under democratic workers’ control and management.
In fact, the 2050 target might even be possible sooner if the economy were taken under workers’ control, with socialist planning used to create a more equal and sustainable society.
In a socialist system, we could tackle the housing crisis by building high-quality, genuinely affordable council homes that run efficiently on renewable energy.
We could utilise recent technology to revolutionise public transport, making it free. This could massively reduce the number of cars on the road.
By taking control of our society’s wealth, instead of giving tax cuts to the richest, we could invest in research into green technology and energy. Under capitalism, the short-term profits of the rich will always take priority over the long-term needs of workers and the environment.
The climate crisis is a global issue. Trump’s state visit here is planned from 3-5 June. The US president’s climate scepticism is no accident. He is backed by the fossil fuel industry, which has spent decades funding and promoting climate change denial.
That’s why young people and workers, building on the recent youth climate strikes, need to build for mass action to protest against Trump and capitalism this summer.
Capitalist politicians - including Trump and May - hold no solutions in stopping climate change. In fact they are a central part of the problem.
Only working-class people can really do this - by seizing the wealth currently concentrated in the hands of the super-rich few - and using it to build a new society based on solidarity and sustainability: socialism.
Labour’s nationalisation plan: What policies are needed to avert climate catastrophe?
Michael Johnson, Socialist Party, Leeds
Jeremy Corbyn has announced a ‘Green Industrial Revolution.’ The plans include nationalising the gas and electricity supply - taking the National Grid into public ownership.
Labour’s ‘Bringing Energy Home’ also promised that in government they would fit nearly two million homes with solar panels, and give interest-free loans and grants to help a further 750,000 homes install solar panels.
Labour commits to generating at least 60% of the UK’s electricity and heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030 in response to the UN’s 12-year deadline to avert a global climate catastrophe. While a positive step, there is still more Labour, and particularly Labour councils, could do to tackle climate change now.
At present, Labour councils are, on the whole, at best, declaring ‘climate emergencies’ while taking few of the steps they could to make real change.
In some areas, Labour councils are carrying out plans that will lead to increased carbon-dioxide emissions - as is the case where I live in Leeds. Leeds Labour Council has declared a climate emergency, but is expanding Leeds-Bradford Airport.
Instead, councils should invest in and develop public transport to make it cheaper and easier for working-class people to reduce car usage. This would require taking public transport out of the hands of the privatisers.
Councils should build new, green, carbon-neutral, council homes that can reduce energy consumption. Councils would have to resist rather than implement the cuts brought on by Tory austerity, and use their reserves and borrowing powers in the short term while they mobilise working-class support to win the money back.
The recent climate change movement has seen thousands take to the streets. This has certainly had an impact on Labour announcing these policies.
However, the key to building real action means mobilising the organised working class and campaigning for trade unions to take action.
They should organise around a socialist programme that fights for investment into safe forms of renewable energy, renationalisation of privatised utilities and public transport under democratic workers’ control, step-up research on green energy, waste reduction and energy saving and a democratic socialist plan of production that puts people and the environment first.
Opinion: Socialists must link climate struggle to power of organised workers
Wayne Scott, Socialist Party Scotland (CWI)
I attended a meeting organised by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). It was billed as a debate between them, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion (XR).
XR didn’t turn up. The guy from Friends of the Earth gave few solutions beyond recycling and carbon taxes.
He was responded to by Amy Leather, a member of the SWP’s central committee. She started off with a good introduction on the history of industrialisation in Britain, the development of plastic industries, and so on - all very interesting.
This, however, set the tone for the rest of her speech. The SWP limits itself to anti-capitalist argumentation, and Leather spoke repeatedly of “system change” to prevent climate change, without explaining that has to mean socialist change.
So she spoke of doing away with production methods that are environmentally harmful, ditching fossil fuels and so on. Not once, though, did she raise any demand anywhere close to public ownership of the big polluters.
The word socialism was given a mere passing reference, with no real explanation of what that means or how we achieve it. She said nothing about the potential role trade unions can play here.
I spoke from the floor for the Socialist Party, making some points around climate change being a class issue. I asked the Friends of the Earth guy how he expected me to consume less than I do when I’m on Universal Credit. These points were echoed by SWP members in the room who also rejected individual solutions.
I raised with Leather that I thought it was wrong to simply pose the question of shutting down the fossil fuel industries with no qualification, as this would cut us off from the workers in those industries and so damage working-class unity and power.
Instead we demand the nationalisation of the top companies and big polluters, without compensation to the bosses; a rapid transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables; a guarantee of a job for all in those industries with no loss of pay, retraining people when necessary; and a system of democratic workers’ control and management based on a socialist, planned economy.
I also pointed to the potential role the trade unions can play here, saying that if the union leaders built towards coordinated strikes against austerity, it would attract the young people fighting climate change in their thousands.
I finished off by pointing to the role Socialist Party members in the National Education Union played in getting a motion passed defending students who walk out and supporting the establishment of school student unions.
Why give no concrete proposals for how to link the trade unions with the school students in her initial remarks? It’s because, unlike the Socialist Party, the SWP doesn’t put the working class central to achieving fundamental change.
Genuine Marxists take part vigorously in every social movement and campaign, but always try to link them to the huge economic power that organised workers have to shut down the economy and ultimately run society. That is what is needed to resolve the multiple crises facing society and achieve socialism. That is what the Socialist Party does.