The Global Climate Strike on 20 September, initiated by school students striking for climate action is hugely important.
It is galvanising a large, energetic student movement, with strong links to the labour movement, for action on climate change that could force governments and corporations to take some positive measures on climate change. This won’t be enough to stop corporations from continuing to find new opportunities for profit regardless of climate or human impact. Governments at worst make it is easy for capital to do this, or at best fail to keep up with capital’s rapaciousness. The domination of society by for profit investment is the overarching obstacle to comprehensive action on climate change.
We support both action for specific and immediate measures to reduce greenhouse emissions, and also building a climate action movement towards taking power over investment away from private capital, and placing production in public ownership under grassroots democratic control. The climate action movement can be the seeds of that democratic grass roots and workers’ control if, while demanding immediate action and integrating climate action with the industrial power of labour, it also sets its ambitions on economic and political overturning of capitalist domination.
The organisers of Workers for the September 20 Global Climate Strike are demanding No new coal and gas; 100% renewable power by 2030; and Fund climate jobs and a just transition. Some but not all of the publicity refers to publicly owned power.
The movement for climate action will need a broader set of demands and measures both because these are not enough to limit warning to 1.5 C, and because different groups of workers and people are more able to take up different elements of the program of changes needed, depending on where they live and work.
More sources of emissions
According to ABC Four Corners electricity generation is the only emission source that is falling, currently 34% of carbon from Australia. It is followed by 30% from industry manufacturing extraction and processing resources, 19% from transport and 15% from agriculture. In transport, cars are the highest emitters, at around 44-45% of transport emissions, with commercial road transport making up over 35 %. Aviation emissions are 9% and projected to increase by a third by 2030. We all need to understand sources of emissions in more depth, to know how to eliminate or reduce them.
Workers’ Liberty’s additional demands
Some immediate measures we can demand are to redirect funds for Badgery’s Creek airport in in Sydney to high speed rail projects on the east coast. Other emissions lowering demands for transport include public transport instead of road projects, and electric vehicle facilities.
Publicly ownership of energy is essential. According the Australian Energy Regulator in 2018 the major energy operators in the retail market are Origin, AGL, Energy Australia and Alinta in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, and Aurora in Tasmania and ACTEW AGL in the ACT. Snowy Hydro in NSW and Victoria is still publicly owned, but not controlled by power workers and consumers.
A Just Transition needs to be spelt out in more detail, and to go well beyond looking after coal mining communities as coal-mines close down. We need a type of "Green New Deal" with democratic plans for "climate jobs" and secure retraining and redeployment for workers in all of the high-emitting sectors which need to be cut back. A Just Transition cannot depend on profitability of private investment to create alternative employment.
In Sydney at least the School Strike for Climate campaign is working with trade unionists, especially building from links forged at Sydney University. There are no doubt links being made elsewhere in Australia between students and workers.
This creates an opening for more engaging longer-term strategy for workplace action. Workers, on whom production depends, are in the box seat to redesign production, and use industrial leverage to back demands on both governments and corporations, to reduce carbon emissions, and other environmental, health & safety damage which result from production. Trade union leaders who don’t tackle climate change could become more exposed to challenges from their ranks. Workers control of production can be for the good of people and planet, rather than subordination to the purpose of accumulation of profits.