What are the progressive class solutions in climate change debate?

Photo: Scott Macdonald

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson · I’m looking forward to the Scottish Socialist Voice Forum on how to counter the threat climate change poses in ways that enrich and improve the lives of working people.

It seems to me the debate has lacked intelligent input from progressives like the Scottish Socialist Party. Scientific socialists like us agree the evidence suggests the earth’s temperature is rising and the dangers posed by this profound.

Whilst we have evaluated the scientific evidence and found it robust and persuasive, many of the political conclusions are not.

The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] and the various international agreements for example leave little room for optimism that the target set of zero carbon emissions by 2050 will be met.

Not while China, South Africa, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Brazil and South Korea are building coal fired power stations and Germany and the US continue to generate electricity using coal.

Low hanging fruit
Theresa May has said her final act as Prime Minister will be to put Britain on the path to zero net emissions by 2050. But that means CO2 will still be spewed into the atmosphere in 2050 but can be offset by ‘carbon capture’ measures such as planting trees or expanding wetlands.

Not to be outdone, Nicola Sturgeon has promised Scotland will be ‘net free by 2045’. She claims we are ahead of the game as far as CO2 reductions are concerned.

But her critics insist this is only because ‘the low hanging fruit’ was easily picked. The closure of Scotland’s aged coal fired power stations and their replacement by onshore wind farms was the easy part.

Beyond this, little meaningful progress has been made. And there were, for example, more car journeys taken in Scotland last year than ever before and 6 million fewer public transport trips.

To be fair reducing emissions is more difficult often because the replacement technology doesn’t work on any viable scale. Renewables are heavily subsidised, tidal power cannot be utilised economically and battery powered cars are prohibitively expensive, with a limited range and unsustainable recharging times.

The need for working people to be attracted to this debate to put their additional brains and ingenuity behind these solutions, technological and otherwise, is self-evident.

Free public transport
The SSP pioneered the case for free public transport to reduce CO2 emissions 20 years ago. This measure would provide people with a better alternative to using their car.

Imagine how much less ghastly and polluting the commute to and from work would be for millions spared the daily drudgery of the M8 into Glasgow or Edinburgh, or the Raith interchange in Lanarkshire, or the congestion on the Forth Road bridge into Fife, or the Kingsway in Dundee or thousands of other miserable, time wasting, irritating journeys?

If we could rely on fast, effective, integrated free public transport who would not jump at that option? The SSP is proud to advocate this our flagship climate change policy.

Equally we must come forward with more visionary options to reduce emissions from intensive agriculture, industry, power generation and domestic heating.

Progressive opinion around the world for example is increasingly concluding that a meat based diet is no longer sustainable. The intensive rearing of cattle, pigs and other livestock produces immensely damaging methane levels.

The African Swine Flu virus has put into sharp relief the considerable problem involved in satisfying China’s appetite for pork. Tens of millions of pigs in Africa and South East Asia were slaughtered recently in attempting to contain the disease which although harmless to humans is lethal to the animals.

Consequently the Chinese government is scouring the earth buying up pigs. Communist party officials are now advocating the need for China to move towards Soya and other plant based proteins just as the price of these commodities skyrockets on world markets.

This poses starkly the need for sustainable food production throughout the world. Whether we omnivores like it or not we may have to cut down on the amount of meat in our diet.

Of course the primary political priority is to ensure everyone has enough to eat as the climate crisis forces us to move towards vegetarianism.

System change
Nobody said the political solutions would be easy. And here is the rub in this debate. For whose benefit are the changes to be made? Socialists cannot allow the risk global warming represents to be carried by the poor, working class masses.

There are those who believe ‘sacrifices must be borne equally’ and the rewards ‘delivered to everyone’. But that is not how capitalism works. Those in need get little but pain, whilst the rich avoid it. I know where the SSP must stand in that conflict.

And that is why we need ‘system change not climate change’ i.e. we need to replace capitalism with a better system, one based on common ownership of the world’s bounty and which sees its benefits distributed to those who need help the most.

· Get tickets here for the Scottish Socialist Voice Forum, ‘Socialist Solutions to Climate Change’ – Saturday 29 June, 11am-1pm, Grassmarket Centre, Edinburgh

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