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Newsletter (in English)

Climate change

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Capitalism is destroying the environment. It is a system based on accumulation and competition, both of which mean it is in conflict with the environment. Natural resources and human beings are ruthlessly exploited in order to make profit. The spiralling use of fossil fuels is producing “greenhouse gases” that result in more heat being retained in the atmosphere. As air and sea temperatures rise dramatic changes are starting to occur. A global rise of 1.5C, predicted by about 2030, would mean an extra 400 million people being exposed to water shortage and the loss of 18% of the species on the planet. Further warming is predicted, and will lead to social devastation, as coastal communities and then whole continents succumb to the effects of global warming and extreme weather including drought in some areas and flooding in others.

What should be done about it? The capitalists are falling over each other with claims to be tackling climate change, just as they promised to end poverty. As always, they turn to the market for a solution, and the latest trend in “green capitalism” is to develop a market in carbon emissions, with countries, companies and even individuals given a carbon quota which they can then trade. But it doesn’t work, and will increase global inequalities. Market mechanisms inevitably favour those who already produce high emissions who control most of the wealth. This is a recipe for keeping the poor (people and nations) that way. The poor can sell their carbon quotas to the polluting rich, and use the money to buy food and other essentials while the rich use the money to buy more cars, houses, holidays and use more energy. And it doesn’t work. The “enforced” carbon trading of companies in the EU has led to almost no change in emissions. Quotas were set so high that many companies have made money with minimal changes to stay below their limit and being rewarded with government cash! In Germany, the four larges power companies got an estimated €8bn extra profit in 2005 by cashing in their excess free carbon permits, while carbon emissions are still rising at 0.6% a year!

George Bush has come up with his own bit of greenwash – plans for a massive expansion in biofuel production, aiming for 24% of transport fuel by 2017. Increased demand for maize for fuel has pushed up prices with a devastating effect on people who rely on this staple, leading to demonstrations over the rocketing prices in Mexico. Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro have rightly denounced this “cars before food” plan.

There is an urgent need for a radical approach to climate change by looking at who has the interest and the potential power to change. People who work on the land, in the factories and live in the cities have a direct interest in protecting the environment as they will feel the brunt of the effects of climate change. The experience of Hurricane Katrina shows that it was the poor and oppressed who suffer from an unpredictable climate.

We need to harness the power of the workers and oppressed across the globe to tackle climate change. The key has to be in using struggles around the immediate interests of the workers and poor peasants to develop organisations that can build a different type of social organisation and challenge the global bourgeoisie for power.

Climate change is one of the most fundamental challenges of this century. Capitalism will be unable to solve it, and in the process of trying will condemn the majority of the world to greater poverty and exclusion as they build fortresses for the rich and deny others access to energy and development. To really address climate change we must rid the world of the capitalist system that creates it. And urgently.

by Helen from London,

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