by Lesley Grahame, Green Party Norwich South candidate.
Addressing Climate Change is a necessary part of social justice, not an optional extra for after the revolution, or the repayment of the national debt. It is the most grave of environmental threats, and the most vital of economic opportunities. Capitalism requires permanent growth of any kind, at any cost to anyone.
A fair world economy would concentrate on things that make life better, support the common good and don’t cost the earth.
That is why The Heartland Institute, a rightwing US think-tank, and others like it, promote the anti-science views of climate change deniers. The Heartland Institute was exposed by Greenpeace as receiving funding from Exxon and Koch industries. As with smoking and cancer, when the science has proved conclusive beyond reasonable doubt, they created confusion to stall government action and protect profits. They are now trying to rebrand themselves as climate optimists, aka magical thinkers, denying the evidence of urgency, while looking for ‘fixes’ that fit their model. Klein describes the disconnect between the attempted market solutions, and their actual impacts, from carbon trading to fracking.
Neo-liberalism requires privatisation of resources and powers, with minimal government powers, low tax, de-regulation, and public service cuts. In practice this has not resulted in a free market, but in privatising profits and outsourcing losses has happened with the banks, and continues with subsidies to private rail operators.
If the polluter doesn’t pay to clean-up their mess, then everyone else does, sometimes with their money and often with their health, environment, and security. Companies that externalise their costs get an unfair advantage over those that take responsibility, creating a market imperative to prioritise cost–saving over the safety of people and planet. The commercial imperative to deny responsibility is all the more pronounced where the core business cannot function without causing harm, as in the case of fossil fuels.
If the polluter doesn’t pay to clean-up their mess, then everyone else does, sometimes with their money and often with their health, environment, and security.
Industry skills could be used to diversify into alternative benign energy source, as BP once set out to do in its ‘Beyond Petroleum’ days, sadly over. BP has joined the other ‘oiligopolies’ fighting against regulation, co-operation and diversification. The problem is that we use too much fossil fuel, not too little. The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) estimates that we need to leave 80% of known reserves in the ground. There is no logic therefore in resorting to ‘extreme energy’ so called because of their difficulty, cost and environmental damage – such as fracking and tar sands extraction. Opposition is growing, and indigenous people with land treaty rights are allying with urban and rural communities hit by pipeline, rail and shipping accidents.
Most reasonable people would recognise that we share one finite planet, and cannot go on forever turning its resources into disposable consumer goods, destined for landfill. Most of us deplore the hardships and injustices endured by many of those farming, mining and manufacturing the goods that relatively few people can afford. A Green government would protect human and environmental rights, supporting an Alternative Trade Mandate that puts the public interest first, rather than TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which would allow corporations to sue governments for actions that reduce profits.
Most reasonable people would recognise that we share one finite planet, and cannot go on forever turning its resources into disposable consumer goods, destined for landfill.
The science and technology of the rich world should be shared on favourable terms. This could be seen as repaying the ‘climate debt’ of having used so much of the earth’s carrying capacity for our own industrial revolution, which has seen people, minerals and crops extracted with little or no local benefit, and frequent harm to the global south.
The wrongs can be righted if people mobilise globally, as they have done to win the vote, abolish the slave trade, apartheid, imperialism, and many other injustices. Addressing climate change, through fair redistribution of resources is the unfinished business of social movements who have won so many legal and political rights for ordinary people, and now need to win the economic power to make those gains real.
Lesley Grahame is currently a Green Party councillor for Thorpe Hamlet Ward on Norwich City Council. She was first elected in 2009, and re-elected in 2014. Lesley currently works as a Community Nurse and is a member of Unison and has for many years been involved in peace and social justice campaigns. Lesley is standing for the constituency of Norwich South.