The Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) coalition aims to mobilise 40,000 people for the largest ever climate demos in the UK on 5 December. In London, the demo is assembling at 12 noon in Grosvenor Square. It plans to climax at 3pm by encircling Parliament with a sea of people wearing blue. The details for Glasgow are not yet finalised.
The platform of “The Wave” is for the UK government to:
• Quit Dirty Coal
• Protect the Poorest and
• Act Fair & Fast.
The demand to “Quit Dirty Coal” means that the government should withhold permission for new coal power stations that cannot capture their carbon emissions. The campaign also wants a legally-binding carbon emissions limit of 350 gCO2/kWh, which all new power stations should meet.
“Protect the Poorest” means the UK providing funds for adaptation, mitigation and low carbon development in poor countries. The UK is currently providing less than 5 billion euros.
“Act Fair & Fast” means keeping global warming under 2°C, meaning a “fair and equitable” deal in Copenhagen, with emissions peaking in 2015 and declining thereafter.
The demonstration is supported by the TUC, Unison, NUT and UCU. However, some unions, including Prospect and NUM, are not supporting it because of fears that it is opposed outright to coal. That doesn’t in fact seem to be the case – a better criticism is that the demo makes few demands on the UK government to do anything for workers in the UK or elsewhere e.g. on jobs, just transition, etc.
The organisers seem to have forgotten the political significance of waving blue at parliament, which might easily seem like a “get the Tories in” parade. And as they have not organised a rally at the end, there is no direction to demonstrators as to what to do next, especially if Copenhagen is a big let-down as expected.
One million green jobs
With nearly three million people out of work who could argue with the demand for jobs, especially jobs that will contribute to the future of the planet rather than detract from it?
The “One Million Climate Jobs” demand has been backed by a pamphlet, edited by SWPer Jonathan Neale for the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union group. It is well written and researched, with concrete suggestions about the type of jobs needed, how many and how to pay for them – principally by taxing the rich. It is clear that the jobs should be new ones, additional to those that exist already, not relabelled jobs. The pamphlet says that, as far as possible, they should be directly employed government jobs, employed by a National Climate Service. It also recognises that jobs may be lost in older polluting industries, and that the solution is government-guaranteed work for displaced workers in the new sectors. As such, the demand seems a reasonable and necessary response to the climate and economic crises.
The main problem with the demand is that it is presented as a plea for action by the government, rather than as a slogan around which to mobilise workers and transform the labour movement.
It is not clearly linked to existing struggles for jobs – e.g. in the car industry – and therefore does not grow out of the logic of actual struggles. It is not presented as a transitional demand, linked to other issues such as public ownership of energy and transport industries, or to workers’ control, or opening the books, or to the creation of climate committees in workplaces.
Most notably, it does not make the case for reduced working time on full pay, which is both an answer to the problem of unemployment and a way to tackle emissions by reducing production in some areas. The demand does not connect with the need for workers to take power, or even with working class political representation.
In short, the call for “One Million Climate Jobs” is a good idea, but one that is in danger of remaining largely in the realm of placards and propaganda, rather than becoming a demand taken up by the labour movement as a vital part of its existing struggles.
Klimaforum09 opens on 7 December and ends on 18 December. It takes place at DGI-byen, close to the Central Station. Klimaforum09 is organised by a broad coalition of Danish and international environmental movements and civil society organisations.
The Political Platform is very confused. It states that, “The basis for Klimaforum09 is the realisation that there is no technological ‘fix’ to the mounting climate crisis.” It then lists nuclear power, biofuels, genetically modified organisms, carbon capture and storage (CCS) as examples of technologies which won’t work – with renewables advocated instead. It alludes to the need for changes in social relations, but the platform verges on technophobia.
Its alternative is vague. It states, “In contrast, sustainable societies require a diversity of locally based solutions”. This would appear to rule out large scale solar projects in the Sahara for example – and perhaps large-scale wind farms onshore or offshore – if they were to serve more than local needs. The perspective is insular, possibly nationalist and apparently back-to-nature.
The platform talks of “reducing consumption and production”, without reference to the impact of this on working class living standards. It talks of a “new means of organising society” without saying anything substantial about the form this might take and who will bring it about.