Public transport

Long Past Time For Climate Justice

Long Past Time For Climate Justice

Runaway climate change is the greatest crisis of the 21st Century.  It has been inspiring in the past few months to see new movements forming to take a stand for our planet — especially young people, as our generation have by far the most to lose from this fast-approaching disaster.  But we can never truly prevent environmental meltdown unless we challenge this problem at its root; unless we challenge the system which is the fundamental cause, both of climate change, and of the extreme inequality in today’s society.  We need to overthrow capitalism.

Capitalism = Profit > People + Planet

The science is clear: we have 12 years at the most to dramatically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change from occurring.  This will require an economic and social transformation, the likes of which humanity has rarely seen throughout our history. That is no excuse for inaction — there is simply no alternative.

The problem is not that such a transformation is impossible.  It’s that the current economic system we live under will never be able to deliver it.  Capitalism is a system where a tiny elite own the vast majority of wealth, and hence control the way resources are distributed and used in our world.  Corporations make the decisions over what is produced, who gets employed, how much they are paid, and under what conditions — and inevitably, they always put their profits over the interests of people and the planet.

Just 100 corporations were responsible for 70.6% — nearly three quarters! — of all greenhouse gas emissions between 1988 and 2015.  This crisis has not been caused by ordinary people — workers, students and beneficiaries like you, me, our families and our friends — and it’s not our fault for consuming certain products or relying on cars to get to work, school or uni.  We do not have the choice of whether or not to make those decisions — and we do not have the power to decide the fate of the system as a whole. Only a system where the economy is controlled democratically by communities can prioritise such trivial things as the survival of our generation over the trillions of dollars which climate polluters rake in every day.

We Need a Just Transition

Union ACV-CSC Belgium demonstration for a just transition.

Even if capitalism could become a “green” system, and the “sustainable” businesses won out, this would not bring about climate justice.  The perfect example of an unjust climate so-called solution is the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax.  Yes, we do need to end our dependence on petrol and diesel powered cars to reduce our emissions.  But ordinary people who need to get to work or education on time are not to blame for the lack of decent public transport in this city; we cannot magic into existence overnight a functioning alternative to getting to work by car; and we should not pay the price of this transition — especially when low wages and unaffordable housing are already squeezing people’s incomes so much.

Our trips to work, school and uni are unavoidable.  Even if this policy wasn’t so unfair, it wouldn’t actually reduce emissions at all, because people need to travel across the city anyway!  A just transition would require making trains and busses free, investing far more than the government is currently prepared to into frequent, good quality public transport services, and taxing the fossil fuel and dairy companies to pay for it.

Workers who are currently employed in the dairy or oil and gas sectors are not to blame for the fact that their jobs and livelihoods depend on extracting unsustainable resources.  Even if we were to see a transition to a zero carbon capitalist economy, these workers would be shafted — they would be tossed out of work with no proper safety net to look after them.  A just transition must mean providing a guaranteed livable income and free retraining for all workers. Capitalism will not deliver this, because it is a system which only ever does one thing — turn money into more money for the top 1%.

Even Labour and the Greens Are Failing

Our Prime Minister has responded to the call for school students to strike for climate action by saying that what she’d like to think is that “in New Zealand there’s less cause for protest, [because] we’re certainly trying to do our bit.”  Jacinda Ardern does have better rhetoric than most politicians about how bad the climate crisis is — as, of course, do her coalition partners in the Green Party — but unfortunately, their policies do not match up with the scale of the threat.  It’s not necessarily because they don’t understand how bad climate change is, or because they don’t care. It’s because governments which are not prepared to challenge capitalism simply cannot reduce pollution, whatever their intentions.

Comic by Joel Pett.

As for the Greens — as well as supporting the cruel and ineffective fuel tax, Climate Minister James Shaw has explained why the Government refused to end existing block offers for deep sea oil and gas drilling by effectively saying that the “property rights” of the corporations who have already purchased the permits for this offshore exploration are more important than climate action.  Labour and the Greens have also refused to end permits for drilling on the land entirely — meaning Taranaki is still open to yet more destructive mining and fracking. This is not a green approach in any way, shape or form — it’s a capitalist approach, which once again protects corporate greed instead of the future of the planet.

Is There Any Alternative?

Yes, there is.  Young people and activists challenging inadequate action on climate change from governments, and challenging the very existence of fossil fuel companies, is a great start.  It shows where the real power to stop climate change lies — as the Māori proverb goes: he tangata, he tangata, he tangata; it is the people, the people, the people.

Workers, students and beneficiaries need to unite behind the movement for climate action, and widen our demands — not just an end to environmental destruction, but ultimately, an end to the entire capitalist economic structure which created this crisis in the first place.  We all deserve a better world and a future to believe in — young people more than anybody. Let’s stand together, as students, workers and beneficiaries, whether we are Māori, Pākehā or tauiwi, to demand real climate action, real climate justice, and a more equal society as a whole!



This article has been republished. You can read the original here.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist.

14 March, 2019

Posted by Elliot Crossan in Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments