Class War at the Copenhagen Climate Change Talks

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Climate change too is class war. Copenhagen is the next battle.

Editorial from the coming issue of Socialist Resistance, Thanks to Liam Mac Uaid for making it available.

In December the world’s rulers will meet in Copenhagen to discuss what they will do when the notably unsuccessful Kyoto Protocol expires. They won’t be alone. Lobbyists from the aviation, petrochemical and mining industries will be pressurising them in defence of their “right” to alter the planet’s climate by pumping millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Writing in this issue Phil Thornhill of the Campaign Against Climate Change says of Kyoto, “it was so weak and so full of holes that it was not going to achieve any significant concrete results.” In Copenhagen the stakes are much higher. Earlier this year Kim Carstensen of the WWF said, “We are at the point where our climate system is starting to spin out of control… the latest science confirms that we are now seeing devastating consequences of warming that were not expected to hit for decades .”

Climate change will be a major element in the class struggle nationally and globally in the coming years. It is the world’s poorest who will suffer most and in the richer countries it will be working people, women and the vulnerable whom capitalism will try and force to pay the price for adapting to climate change. In Peru, as Derek Wall reports, clashes are taking place between a government intent on destroying forests in search of oil while the global levels of malnutrition are rising.

In Britain the Vestas closure was an indication of just how unserious New Labour is about planning in a coherent way to create the sorts of jobs and industrial base that will be required if the economy is to become much less reliant on CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast it effectively pours huge subsidies into the airline companies and is willing to force through airport expansion in the teeth of opposition from popular local campaigns.

A group of eighty of the least developed countries, among which are many small island states, have called for reductions of at least 45 percent of CO2 below 1990 levels by 2020, in order to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. For the low-lying island states this is a matter of existential significance. If the waters rise they will be submerged along with farming land in densely populated countries like Bangladesh and Egypt. By contrast the industrial countries responsible for most of the emissions are only proposing reduction by 16 to 24 percent by 2020 relative to 1990 levels and the United States has not even said it is willing to go that far.

Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) estimates that some 90 to 140 billion dollars a year might be needed to pay for climate change mitigation technologies and adaptation. The banking crisis has changed the way people think about billions of dollars, pounds and euros. Suddenly these sums seem well within the reach of governments. That is why socialists, environmentalists, trade unions and working class communities need to get their voice heard in the debate around Copenhagen.

We have had some straws in the wind that this is starting to happen. Both the Visteon and Vestas struggles showed that working people are beginning to make the connection between their jobs, capitalism and the environment. The G20 protests and the Climate Camp are proof that radicalising young people understand the issues and many of the solutions much more clearly than New Labour. (I don’t think it’s that New Labour doesn’t understand – but they are too tied to big business to carry out the policies that are needed.)

Socialist Resistance will be supporting the demonstrations in Copenhagen. However even if you are not able to get there to be part of what will probably be one of the most important mobilizations to prevent climate change, there is still much that you can do. You could organise a local meeting of the Campaign Against Climate Change to discuss the issues, put motions through your union branch or conference, anything which poses alternatives to capitalist production.

Climate change too is class war. There are only two real options on the table. The first is that proposed by the oil companies and their tame politicians. The second is what can be forced on them by the pressure of the organised working class and the strong, broad movement which offers solutions that favour the majority of humanity. Copenhagen is the next battle.