Global climate change, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, poses the greatest threat to humanity.
The evidence is overwhelming, as are the stark warnings of dire risks if we don’t act urgently to limit it. Yet fossil fuels are being burned at an ever faster rate, accelerating us towards more and even more severe catastrophe.
Capitalism, the system of organising production according to what is most profitable for the business-owners, is the driving force behind environmental catastrophes. Limitless and eternal pursuit of profit cannot respect nature’s boundaries. The bosses seek and compete to extract wealth at the highest possible rate, exploiting workers and the natural envisionment as much as possible to this end.
Fossil fuels have been closely entwined with capitalism throughout its development. Today, fossil fuel capitalists are a particularly powerful section of their class, internationally. Climate change is the most acute of a plethora of environmental crises which are driven by capital’s insatiable thirst for profit.
Capital is created and recreated by workers performing wage labour. It is us, the working-class, who carry out production — production with often devastating environmental impacts. This means it is us, too, who can force the necessary environmental changes, challenging the power of our bosses to do so.
It comes as no surprise that the bosses’ party, the Conservatives, have a record of inaction, and worse, on climate change. They have been champions of fracking, their last-minute moratorium on it looks like an election gesture, and Boris Johnson has a recent record of public climate scepticism.
This year’s Labour conference passed much-needed bold environmental policy, including commitments to:
• a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030
• “a worker-led ‘just transition’... public ownership of energy, creating an integrated, democratic system; large-scale investment in renewables”
• “rapidly phasing out fossil fuels”
• “repeal all anti-union laws, facilitating worker-led activism over social and political issues, including climate change”
• “take transport into public ownership and invest in expanded, integrated, free or affordable green public transport that connects Britain”
• “building and retrofitting of zero-carbon social and council housing and public buildings with lowest possible embedded carbon in construction”
• “a complete ban on fracking”
• “a radical car scrappage scheme to increase electric vehicles”
• “a programme of ecological restoration to increase biodiversity and natural carbon sequestration”.
• “supporting developing countries’ climate transitions by increasing transfers of finance, technology and capacity”
• “welcoming climate refugees”
We work for Labour to champion and fight for these demands, and implement them when in power.
Two further vital policies did not reach conference floor, but have wide support in Labour.
The first was a moratorium on airport expansion. Coupled with a jobs guarantee, a worker-led transition involving retraining, and huge investments in the transition, it need not lead to the loss of current or even potential employment.
The second, arguably the key to the other policies, was democratic public ownership of banking and finance, providing resources and economic leverage.
Whether or not Labour wins the next election, we need to build grassroots power on climate issues. We want Labour to be a beacon for this.
Crucially, this means organising in workplaces around environmental issues. Climate strikes, called by young people, are an opportunity and starting point for this.
As well as a society-wide fight for a socialist Green New Deal, we want to help workers and students making environmental demands on the bosses at the level of workplaces and campuses.