Sunday, 27 December 2009

After Copenhagen: three steps to saving the planet

The UN's Copenhagen summit on climate change was essentially a failure. This stems in large part from the tension between entrenched economic interests and the kind of action required to radically combat climate change. The scope of action needed is in conflict with a capitalist system geared towards the pursuit of profit, no matter what the costs to people or planet. Political leaders - including our own in Britain - are, furthermore, reluctant to go down the road of massive state intervention, even though this is precisely what is urgently needed.

The failure of world leaders, despite pressure for a deal from the largest climate demonstrations yet seen, opens more of a gap between the political elite and the movements over the politics of climate change. It exposes as implausible the notion that we're essentially 'all in it together', on the same side and wanting the same things. Campaigners will now increasingly come into conflict with the leaders who have disappointed their hopes and ignored their pleas. There's likely to be some demoralisation, but it seems there's also widespread anger and a determination to take the climate movement forward.

Three things, it seems to me, are especially vital now.

1. The large-scale, highly-coordinated international protests are important, and must continue. Climate change is the ultimate global problem; the climate movement must have a high level of organisation across national boundaries. These events inspire millions, galvanise media and public attention, and build pressure on the politicians. There were similar protests at summits between Seattle a decade ago and the mid-Noughties, but this phenomenon then went into sharp decline. We may now be seeing a revival of such international mobilisations.

2. This may seem paradoxical, after my first point, but it's also inceasingly important to root the movement in every locality. The Copenhagen protests combined with the big London events the previous weekend illustrated the scale of mobilisation that is now possible here. This will only be developed if there are local groups, bringing together a wide range of activists and supporters, in every area. The big events give impetus to such local development; the local groups, in turn, enable future national and international mobilisations to be far larger.

3. As Jonathan Neale argues, the 'One Million Green Jobs' initiaitve should be central to campaigning. It links climate change with organising a response to the economic crisis, in particular rising unemployment, and puts the emphasis on large-scale government action rather than personal lifestyle choices. This will require a massive movement from below - it isn't going to come about from asking nicely. It opens the door to much greater participation in climate campaigns by the trade unions, but should be seen as much more than just a union issue. It offers the prospect of a big, sustained protest movement that connects the strength of the organised working class with other forces.

EXTRA: links to articles, courtesy of Derek Wall, by Derek himself HERE, Daniel Tanuro HERE, and Klimaforum HERE.


  1. My analysis here

    take a look at Daniel Tanuro's here

    Klimaforum are on to something

  2. Thanks to Derek - I've added those links as an update in the main post. I also notice that Roy Wilkes - Secretary of the Trade Union Group in this country's Campaign Against Climate Change - has written a very good piece for the Climate and Capitalism site (see blogroll in right sidebar of my blog for this).

  3. cheers Alex,

    Roy does some great work, incidentally this has been an area of real left unity with SR, SWP and Green Left activists working together.

    climate and capitalism put together by my good friend Ian Angus is a very good resource.