The risk of climate catastrophe must not be forgotten

With Trump seeking to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, we need to keep up the pressure for real action on global warming, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE

JUST weeks before Boris Johnson failed to take the strong lead and measures necessary in responding to the coronavirus crisis, he went missing as floods devastated communities across Britain.

The fact that many on the hard right deny the need for real action to tackle climate change does not alter the fact that the increasingly regular and severe floods here — alongside extreme events across the globe such as the Amazon and Australian fires — are clear examples of a deepening climate emergency that needs to be addressed urgently in the period ahead.

Progressives need to be absolutely clear that the Tory record on this issue is woeful, with figures suggesting the government could fail to meet its own climate targets by 50 years.

This is not surprising when one realises that Johnson and other Cabinet members have at best questionable attitudes, records and alliances on this issue.

To give just a few examples, Johnson himself took £25,000 in campaign money from Terence Mordaunt who is on the board of directors of the climate denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Forum.

Johnson also once claimed that that global warming was “a new Stone Age religion” and — as someone with lungs in the condition mine are knows — the worst legacy of his years as mayor was his failure to take the action needed to reduce the lethal levels of pollution from vehicles in London’s atmosphere.

Priti Patel meanwhile lashed out at fracking protesters in 2013, perversely claiming that they should in fact support fracking if they “genuinely believed in tackling climate change” and adding that “instead of pursuing their narrow-minded vendetta, the green lobby should consider the opportunities that shale gas presents.”

In terms of the world stage, Johnson has positioned him closely to President Donald Trump, whose attitudes and policies on this question are a disaster for the whole planet.

Specifically, Trump is for increasing fossil fuel production, including through expanding fracking, at a time when drastic action to reduce fossil fuel emissions is urgently needed.

This is within a context where already the US is the top producer in the world of gas and oil.

Internationally, Trump is building what has been termed by campaigners an axis of climate catastrophe — it is clear that he not only wants to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, but also to smash the whole process to pieces, with disastrous effects for humanity.

This is a real possibility as vital climate talks are due to take place at the UN COP26 meeting this year — and Trump’s buddy Johnson is due to be the chair.

Trump is joined in his reactionary politics on this issue on the world stage by Australia, Saudi Arabia and the far-right President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who last year 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,” reducing the planet’s ability to absorb and store carbon.

While Trump and co claim these devastating policies are in the economic interests of their countries and populations, they only advance short-term profits for a tiny elite.

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.

It is vital that this reactionary agenda faces stiff resistance from climate justice campaigners and 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, including those demanding a Green New Deal in the US, understands that we need a fundamental transformation away from neoliberalism and that it is impossible to tackle climate change without simultaneously reducing inequality and vice versa.

Only a total transformation of the failed neoliberal model can protect both people and planet. This not only offers hope for a better life here for those communities effected here by flooding but is also part of an international alternative to ensure humanity has a future.

Originally published in The Morning Star