CommentAngus Satow

A socialist response to the climate emergency

CommentAngus Satow
A socialist response to the climate emergency

Photograph: Robin Pope

AFTER WEEKS OF SUSTAINED pressure from the Youth Strikes and Extinction Rebellion, a new climate movement has emerged. Jeremy Corbyn’s motion for Parliament to declare a climate emergency passed. The labour movement’s task now is how we are going to address the crisis.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last year demonstrated, we have just eleven years to keep below the 1.5C ‘safe limit’ of climate change. We simultaneously face an ecological crisis of soil erosion, biodiversity loss and more. Our economic system, serving the profits of the fossil fuel industry and the 1%, is destroying our life systems. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all carbon emissions.

This crisis is founded upon the exploitation of the working class here and across the world. Its roots are the same as the roots of our economic and social crises. To name just one example, the British Gas boss just got a £2.5m bonus while 4,000 British Gas workers have lost their jobs and millions suffer in fuel poverty.

The environmental movement has largely failed to formulate a powerful response, reluctant as it is to recognise that only a socialist response to the climate crisis will do. The labour movement has, in turn, been slow to act on climate. Socialism and environmentalism have been pitted against each other – often through the refrain “no jobs on a dead planet”.

Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn and Rebecca Long-Bailey, has thankfully made some very welcome advances. The party’s environmental policy, outlined in last year’s Green Transformation paper, pledges to ban fracking and shift to 60% zero and low-carbon energy by 2030, among other measures. The party’s promised Green Jobs Revolution is highly commendable.

We need, though, to go further, given Britain’s historic responsibility for the climate crisis and the urgency of the challenge. But this need not be a time of impoverishment: tackling the climate crisis alongside the economic and social crises can create a more equal, prosperous and sustainable society.

A Green New Deal can tackle the climate crisis by decarbonising the economy, including a massive investment programme in renewable infrastructure and home insulation. It can create millions of good, green, unionised jobs, including in zero carbon sectors like social care and education.

It will transform who the economy works for by democratising utilities and industry and empowering trade unions to design a just transition. It will invest in cheap, high-quality and accessible public transport across the whole of the UK.

And it will be firmly internationalist, supporting the Global South through knowledge partnerships and climate mitigation funds, while supporting a ‘right to move’ and a ‘right to stay’ across the world.

It’s a powerful vision for a different kind of society. To achieve it, we need a movement. That’s why we launched Labour for a Green New Deal. Our grassroots campaign of Labour members is forming local groups across the country, which can put on events in their communities, pass motions in the party, lobby their MPs and parliamentary candidates for support as well as building support for a Green New Deal from the ground up.

Meanwhile, we will be making the case publicly for huge state investment and intervention in the economy: we need to make sure finance, industry and public services are owned by and work for the many. And we need an unprecedented state–led mobilisation to fully decarbonise by 2030.

The Labour leadership can’t do this alone. Both John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey have called for a grassroots movement to push the party on climate. We are that movement.

  • For more information, see https://www.labourgnd.uk. Follow the links on the site to download the comprehensive model motions for party branches, including their conference motion.

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Labour for a Green New Deal