WE ARE QUICKLY RUNNING out of time to make the necessary steps required to prevent global warming exceeding the critical point of a 1.5 degree celsius rise. The International Panel on Climate Change has argued we have just over a decade to take the decisive action to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. We face a direct existential threat if we do not rapidly switch from fossil fuels by 2020, and a failure to do so will mean runaway climate change.
Already we are seeing record-breaking temperatures, extreme heatwaves, storms, floods, and wildfires leaving a trail of death and devastation. As the UN’s Antonio Guterres has said, scientists have warned about global warming for decades, but “far too many leaders have refused to listen [and] far too few have acted with the vision that science demands.”
When it comes to having both the vision and policies needed to address these severe dangers, it is only voices from the left that can put forward the radical changes to the economy needed, and it is the globally resurgent extreme right that is instead forming an international axis of climate change denial. Specifically, Donald Trump’s administration is continuing to undermine the Paris Climate Agreement and has made clear that the US will withdraw from it when the rules allow him to do so in 2020.
He is joined in this by the far-right president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, who has issued an executive order to facilitate the acceleration of deforestation in order to open up the Amazon rainforest for further exploitation by agribusiness, mining and construction companies. This move could destroy the ‘lungs of the planet’ by reducing the planet’s ability to absorb and store carbon.
While Bolsonaro and Trump claim these devastating policies are in the economic interests of their countries and populations, in reality they only advance short-term profits for a tiny elite. In the medium to long term they will have a devastating impact on the living standards of the overwhelming majority, especially the poorest, who are impacted by climate change the most.
This reactionary agenda faces stiff resistance from climate justice campaigners. Importantly we are also starting to see the seeds sown of an international political movement demanding a new, socially and environmentally sustainable model of political economy.
This movement understands that we need a fundamental transformation away from neo-liberalism, and that it is impossible to tackle climate change without simultaneously reducing inequality, and vice versa.
In the belly of the beast itself, the Green New Deal resolution put before the US Congress by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez coherently melds action to tackle climate change with measures to counteract the obscene inequality and wage stagnation that has built up over decades of neo-liberalism.
The resolution starts with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s conclusion that the only science-based target to tackle the climate crisis is to constrain a global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. But it also takes as its evidential starting point “hourly wages overall stagnating since the 1970s… the third worst level of socio-economic mobility in the developed world before the Great Recession… [and] the greatest income inequality since the 1920s”, including a specific focus on the racial and gender wealth divide.
To overcome this, it advocates the US government launches at least a trillion dollars in state investment to eliminate fossil fuels and switch to 100% renewable energy in the next decade, which would inevitably boost growth and create quality jobs.
Labour’s proposed green jobs revolution, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and recently elaborated by Rebecca Long-Bailey, also shows that Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour is a central part of this international movement for change.
As Rebecca said, “We believe that together we can transform the UK through a green jobs revolution, tackling the environmental crisis in a way that brings hope and prosperity back to parts of the UK that have been held back for too long.”
After decades of neo-liberalism, our economy is structurally weak and deeply unequal. Whole communities have been de-industrialised, insecure and low paid work has soared, our infrastructure is underinvested and crumbling, and our society’s fabric is being pulled apart by austerity. In direct contrast to this failed approach, Labour’s green jobs revolution can improve the living standards of millions.
Jeremy Corbyn understands that only a total transformation of the failed neo-liberal model can change this, protecting both people and planet. This not only offers hope for a better life here, but is also part of a new international alternative to ensure humanity has a future.
First published by Labour Briefing.