The momentum of the Climate Strike on 20 September should tell the labour movement that now is the time to take climate change seriously as a class issue seriously.
Capitalism sees the environment and natural resources as commodities to be exploited, the same way it see human labour. Just 100 major companies have been responsible for over 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.
Climate change is, in short, caused by the drive for profit. It is caused by capitalism.
For the first time in this wave of school-student climate strikes, a number of workplaces organised some forms of action — lunchtime photos, or small protests, or in a few cases half-day walk-outs.
The walk-outs which did happen had the support, explicit or otherwise, of the employer: nowhere yet have workers been strong enough to strike over climate against strongly hostile bosses.
The ban on political strikes, dating from the Thatcher era, has deterred unions from balloting their members specifically on the issue of climate change. Yet it is clear that many workers, even often in workplaces with no union, want to take action and support the school students.
Workers Liberty’ activists and supporters are going to follow up on 20 September by encouraging greater workplace participation and action in the climate strikes, demanding that employers open the books on their strategies for decarbonising the workplace, and calling for workplace decarbonisation as well as government measures.
We want to get “green” workplace reps elected, or re-elected where they once existed. As Paul Vernadsky wrote in Solidarity 516, the level of organisation on climate change in workplaces has decreased in the last decade, but it can be rekindled by the student mobilisation.
From 7 October, for two weeks, Extinction Rebellion plan to do their next phase of “International Rebellion” — “peacefully occupy the centres of power and shut them down until governments act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency”, in London to “shut down all roads into Westminster”.
Whether this is the best tactic is another matter, but the demand that governments declare and act on “climate emergency” is urgent and justified.
Labour conference in Brighton saw manoeuvres by the Conference Arrangements Committee to avoid debate on more radical climate demands.
But it did support:
• “a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2030”, with “an increase in good unionised jobs in the UK, and the cost borne by the wealthiest not the majority”.
• “a complete ban on fracking”.
• public ownership of energy, creating an integrated, democratic system, and public ownership of the Big Six
• repeal of all anti-union laws, facilitating worker-led activism over social and political issues
• taking transport into public ownership
• a welcome to climate refugees.
Let’s build a movement, in the workplaces, on the campuses, and on the streets, to win those demands.