“We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.
“We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.”
This was the rallying cry of 15-year-old Swedish climate activist leader Greta Thunberg, addressing world leaders at the United Nations climate change conference last year.
Since then hundreds of thousands of school, college and university students across the world have joined a wave of strike action and direct action.
Young people are facing the reality that just 100 companies are to blame for 71% of global carbon emissions, and that only 26 individuals own and control wealth equivalent to half of the world’s population – some 3.8 billion poor people.
Young people realise that this capitalist hoarding and reckless disregard for the planet cannot last.
And with climate experts claiming we have 12 years left to save the planet, young people are taking to the streets, striking for change.
This movement rocked the UK on 15 February when tens of thousands of students and young people descended on parliament, and thousands more walked out of schools, colleges and campuses across the country on the first #YouthStrike4Climate.
Socialist Students and Young Socialist groups mobilised to take part in what could develop into an important new youth movement, the likes of which we have not seen for nearly a decade.
These strikes, coming just weeks after Socialist Students passed a motion at our national conference to support climate protests and divestment efforts, have captured the imagination of young people.
Placards reading “If the earth was a bank it would have been bailed out by now,” and “System change not climate change” have been shared widely on social media, showing that this generation of activists – having known only austerity – is becoming aware of what needs to be done to save the planet.
Given the lack of leadership from the trade unions and Labour Party, it is understandable that some students distrust political action, or look mostly to individual lifestyle changes.
But Socialist Students explains that challenging the capitalists responsible for greenhouse gas emissions is inherently political. And only mass collective action for a socialist alternative can achieve it.
Direct action to shut down roads is a valid publicity tactic. But using the power of the organised working class in the trade unions to shut down the capitalist economy is much more effective.
Socialists also need to explain impossibility of solving climate change within the limitations of the capitalist system, and argue that we need to nationalise the energy industry, infrastructure and the commanding heights of the economy (in order to democratically plan society) if we are to have the chance to stop this environmental catastrophe.
We need to end it. We need to fight for socialist change.
Oisin Duncan Glasgow University Socialist Students
The scientific consensus around man-made climate change is now several decades old, yet the first meaningful international agreements on the issue was only reached in 1992 (at Rio de Janeiro and then Kyoto).
In the period since we’ve seen the Paris Agreement, which at the time was hailed as a major step forward to a international capitalist solution to global warming. Of course that perception has now been dented by the Trump administration’s decision to pull the USA out of the agreement, which was not legally binding in the first place.
Most of the corporate media coverage of that decision was based primarily on Trump’s personal beliefs about climate change, rather than a systemic critique of how US and indeed global capitalism has become dependent on fossil fuels and is thus inherently unsustainable.
Just last year we saw Emmanuel Macron and the French capitalist class try to impose a fuel tax on the French people, (a policy which helped to ignite the Gilets Jaunes movement) and which was presented as a necessary measure to curb carbon emissions.
This attempt by the ruling class to shift the financial burden of adaptation to renewable energy was rightly seen by the French working class as both unfair and inefficient; we already know that over 70% of global carbon emissions are caused by just 100 companies.
Therefore, we oppose most forms of eco-taxation, as these policies often disproportionately affect workers and their families, rather than the CEOs responsible for our current situation. How then do we tackle the issue of climate change from a socialist perspective?
By building a mass workers’ movement that is committed to the nationalisation of key polluting industries and to re-orangise the economy as a democratically planned one!
The market has caused the problem of global warming by commodifying our planet’s resources in various ways; do we really expect the market to solve this issue?
Only a comparatively tiny number of companies are responsible for the vast majority of global carbon emissions.
Socialist Party Scotland calls for those companies to be nationalised and worker-controlled and managed, which would allow us to more efficiently transition our energy, car, and manufacturing sectors to a state of environmental responsibility.
This would also transform the gigantic profits of those companies into huge amounts of capital that would then be available for reinvestment; rather than pay out huge bonuses to oil and auto executives and shareholders, we could take that excess value and retrain the workers in those industries or use the money in other sectors of society.
Late last year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave an estimate that in just 12 years (130 months) the Earth will have crossed the 1.5°C warming threshold, after which climate change’s effects may be irreversible.
Since then, there has been no meaningful response from the world’s governments on this frighteningly pressing issue.
Only a mass movement of the working class can solve the problems to come, a movement that Socialist Party Scotland is more than ready to participate in.
Build a mass movement to fight climate catastrophe, starting with getting the Tory defenders of capitalism out
- For urgent, massive investment into safe forms of renewable energy
- For re-nationalisation of privatised utilities and public transport under democratic workers’ control and management
- Massively step up research on green energy, waste reduction and energy saving
- Make the super-rich pay – take the banks and top corporations into public ownership
- A democratic and socialist plan of production based on the needs of people and the environment