Cuadrilla backs off from Fracking in Lancashire

Red-Green Labour welcomes the decision by Cuadrilla to end its operations at Preston New Road. We see this as a fantastic victory for the campaigners who fought long and hard against fracking in the North-West. We believe shale gas should not form part of any future ecosocialist energy policy. This article originally appeared on the Drill or Drop? website.

Fracking opponents have called for a countdown to restoration at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool after the company gave up consents to key operations.

The Environment Agency (EA) announced this afternoon that Cuadrilla had surrendered part of its environmental permit for the Preston New Road site. Continue reading "Cuadrilla backs off from Fracking in Lancashire"

Hydrogen for homes- a terrible idea!

This article first appeared at People and Nature. A plan to pipe hydrogen, instead of natural gas, to millions of UK households is being pushed hard by the fossil fuel industry. It sounds “green” – but could wreck efforts to make homes truly zero carbon, using insulation and electric heat pumps. Oil and gas companies support switching the gas grid to hydrogen, as a survival option in case of decarbonisation, as hydrogen is usually fabricated from gas. Continue reading "Hydrogen for homes- a terrible idea!"

From The Ground Up- the climate movement gets in shape for COP 26

The surprising success of the online mobilisation, “From the Ground Up”, from 12-16 November, poses new challenges and new responsibilities for the climate movement, writes Iain Bruce. This “Global Gathering for Climate Justice” was organised by the COP26 Coalition to mark the time when the United Nations climate talks were meant to have taken place in Glasgow. Lasting five days with 53 events and some 8,000 people registered, the global gathering for climate justice brought together an impressive range of movements, speakers and topics. Together they sketched out key components of the response that is needed to the climate and Covid crisis – not only in the next year leading up to the postponed COP26 in Glasgow, but beyond that across the coming decade, when drastic action is needed to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Continue reading "From The Ground Up- the climate movement gets in shape for COP 26"

The Climate And Ecological Emergency Bill- a vital initiative

Red-Green Labour welcomes the Climate And Ecological Emergency Bill as a serious attempt to pass into law measures to limit global temperature rises due to greenhouse gas emissions to no more than 1.5 degrees and also to protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity. Crucially the Bill puts forward the idea of a Citizens Assembly to drive forward the process of combatting climate change. We urge all Labour and progressive MPs to support this important initiative. The Bill and an executive summary can be found here: https://www.ceebill.uk/bill

Not fit for purpose- Johnson’s 10-point Eco-plan

Johnson’s much vaunted 10-point eco-plan is totally inadequate as a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis – or build-back greener as he likes to put it, writes Alan Thornett. His claim that the package would create up to 250,000 jobs is a sick joke. Even the £12bn funding for it is fake, since only 3 billion of it is new money. Labour has rightly called it “deeply, deeply disappointing”, saying it would neither properly tackle the climate emergency nor the jobs crisis caused by coronavirus – and they are right. Continue reading "Not fit for purpose- Johnson’s 10-point Eco-plan"

Relaunch Labour’s Green New Deal

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According to the World Health Organisation, the Covid-19 pandemic is still accelerating globally; infections have doubled in the past six weeks. This is another sharp reminder that today’s model of human society is no longer fit for purpose and is exposing us to ever more frequent and dangerous zoonotic pathogens.

Set against this sobering reality – and with a massive rise in unemployment looming as the furlough scheme is brought to a premature end – Sunak’s package is entirely inadequate.

Continue reading "Relaunch Labour’s Green New Deal"

‘Who Owns England?

'Who Owns England?' by Guy Shrubsole . William Collins (2019) reviewed by David Bangs (co-leader Brighton Defend Council Housing 2005-7 co-leader Brighton Keep Our Downs Public 1995-6) The remarks I make below about Guy Shrubsole's book are sharply critical. They are made, despite that, in a spirit of solidarity, and with a wish for a deeper debate on the issue of property forms and their links with the destruction of nature. In a context of rising levels of global struggle against poverty and ecocide highlighted in Britain by the Corbyn project, renters' unions like Acorn, and Extinction Rebellion, Guy Shrubsole's 'Who Owns England' is a hugely welcome review of who-owns-what land. His research group's work is exemplary, and cracks open many well-kept secrets. I thoroughly recommend this book as an information source. Buy it. And yet...I struggled to read it through to the end. Lots of it made me uneasy and frustrated. There was something about it that reminded me of reading Sunday Telegraph magazine articles on aristocrats and their stately homes, or the Sunday Times Rich List...a smidgeon of fascination with that which it hates. It widens the exposure of landownership pioneered by such as Kevin Cahill, David Cannadine , and - above all - Marion Shoard, but theoretically and programmatically it says little. Its prescriptions are timid indeed, and, though it shouts (and I join in) the slogan "This land is ours!" it actually calls for no more than a modernising and tweaking of the system of property relations which power the extinction event in which we live – its destruction of nature and our countryside, the growth of mega-cities, the destruction of land based labour and of our soils, and the impoverishment of our food. This programmatic timidity is exemplified by the book's call for "the resetting of the social contract between the landed and the landless, obliging landowners who might otherwise try to make a quick buck from their land to instead look after it for the long term". This recycled liberalism grossly under-estimates the cultural power and agility of capital, the ramified links between its patterns of ownership and its dynamic in-built destructive drive for expansion and control. We mustn't waste time attempting to put lipstick on the face of this monster. The book's depressing accommodation to modernising landowners is exemplified by its adulatory remarks on the Knepp rewilding project, which I know well, having walked that countryside for some 55 years. For sure, it is a good place to hear Nightingales, Cuckoos and Turtles, but it was even better birding (as was the whole of that Wealden countryside) when it was a place of mixed small farms, producing the ordinary foods we need, up until the triumphant completion of agri-business's productivist revolution some half century ago. Global capitalist agriculture abandoned the moderate soils of the Weald, preferring to turn the countryside of eastern and central England into a barley barons' desert. On those better soils, and in the land-grabbed poor world the rich now make their profits. In the Weald, the Highlands, and the African national parks they spend their profits. They 'safari' in Africa and they 'safari' too at Knepp, in a model of countryside usage which should be inimical to any advocate for nature, for whom the ending of our deep alienation from nature surely must mean returning the natural world to our humdrum living environments, not making nature a place to 'safari' out to. Yet Shrubsole argues that we should ramify this division between nature-on-peripheral-wastes and food-productivism-at-the-centre, when he tells us that "to free up large tracts of land for wild nature, it makes sense to do so in areas of sparse population, and where agricultural productivity is low". Abandon hope all ye who think that our human home is in a palimpsest with nature! Shrubsole wastes space in nostalgia for 'gavelkind' (partible inheritance) and the end of landowning male primogeniture, like some 18th century rationalist, though the partible division of our woods under the dreaded sign "Woods for Sale" presages the proliferation of "Private Keep Out" signs, and the partible division of one great estate near me has meant the dereliction and destruction of ancient meadows and rides. It is social ownership, socially managed, that we need, not partible land division. Instead of fiddling with the reintroduction of land covenants (now no longer sought by the National Trust) and nibbling at the edges of the problem (which is what even the end of secrecy, land value tax, and a community right to buy mean) we need an emergency approach - for we live in an extinction emergency, not just a climate emergency. That language of 'emergency' is something that resonates even with the owning class, for they used such measures during world war two, requisitioning "almost a quarter of the country" – in Shrubsole's words, though he does not build upon that evidence. We need demands that relate to current levels of consciousness, but have a dynamic which moves beyond capitalist relations – and the language of "emergency", "requisition" and "extinction" does resonate with the homeless and the witnesses of nature's destruction. Councils should be obligated and funded to requisition enough under-occupied dwellings (preferably better quality ones) to meet housing need. Councils and the national state should be obligated to requisition and restore all land where ecosystems are damaged or neglected. Council's should be obligated to assemble sufficient farmed land that it be cooperatively organised to directly address local food needs for locally grown products (by retail, not wholesale distribution). All open land should be covered by compulsory agri-environmental measures, with democratic oversight, and funding should be means tested. No landowner who can afford to do that work should be paid by us to do it. And please, let's forget the language of 'fair' prices for public land acquisition. If you do not need the land you own, you do not need market recompense for losing it. After all, the earth is a common treasury, as Gerard Winstanley said.

How we can sow the seeds of a better food system

From apples, neeps and pumpkins to learning about traditional grain crops, this harvest season has been an opportunity to find out more about the growing community food movement in Scotland, writes Mairi McFadyen. This month I’m highlighting a campaign from the Scottish Farm Land Trust, running until 30th November, seeking to make more land available for ecological farming. For so many in today’s world, there is an alarming disconnect between the food on our plates and how it got there. We know so little about where our food comes from and how it was produced. Since the 1950s, farming practices have shifted away from localised, traditional methods of food production towards mechanised industrial-scale chemical-intensive monocropping. To produce food on an industrial scale, you need to take a variety, make it uniform and stable, and use this to create a monoculture – which doesn’t work without the use of artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides. This goes against the fundamental nature of living things which are diverse and able to adapt to their environment. Rather than an abundance that nourishes us all, food is seen as a commodity. This is not good for food, it’s not good for the planet and it’s not good for us. A Global Food System Across the globe, this method of farming has undermined or eradicated diverse and self-contained rural economies, traditions and cultures, wedding farmers and regions to a wholly exploitative system of neoliberal globalisation and inequality. Globally, we have a food surplus in the West – alongside a public health crisis of obesity and type two diabetes – and a food deficit in areas across the Global South, with millions starving. We waste over a third of the total amount of food produced. The increasingly globalised and geo-politicised food systems that transnational agribusiness promote are not only not feeding the world, they are responsible for some of the planet’s most worrying environmental crises. We’re depleting our soils, we’re cutting down our forests and causing floods, we’re using unsustainable quantities of water, we’re killing our wildlife and destroying the biodiversity on which all farming ultimately depends. The management of our food systems will determine whether agriculture helps to mitigate or contributes to climate catastrophe.
“Climate change isn’t just about greenhouse gases – it is about land rights, agriculture, natural resources, and the right to manage them for the greater good. The food system is a central part of this fight – what we eat is responsible for more carbon pollution than all the world’s planes, trains, and automobiles. Between the forests and fields converted to agriculture and pollution directly from farming, what we eat accounts for nearly a third of all the gases contributing to climate change.”
Food, Farming and the Climate Crisis: How We Can Feed People and Cool the Planet', Landworkers Alliance 2019 Changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, drought and extreme weather events are already affecting agricultural productivity both globally and locally. In the face of the unparalleled threat of climate unpredictability on our food supply, we must build local and community resilience and we must call for a dramatic change in our methods of production and distribution. The Seeds of Agroecology The challenge of the 21st century is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet: in other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that, collectively, we do not overshoot our ecological limits. This is the premise of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics (2017). How do we sow the seeds of a better food system? How do we produce food in a way that makes a positive contribution to both the health of communities and the natural environment? Those involved in the global agroecology movement see ecological farming as a force for radical change, offering a political-economic critique of modern agriculture and the vested interests that determine it. Agroecology is a model of agriculture that works with the diversity of nature, as opposed to agroindustry which extracts natural resources intensively on a very large scale for profit maximisation. Agroecology simultaneously applies ecological and social principles, combining science with the traditional, practical and local knowledge of producers. It encourages democratic, decentralised decision-making by farmers and incorporates practical, low cost and ecology-based technologies for productive farming. Agroecology is now widely recognised as both a mitigation and adaptation strategy for climate change. Social movements around the globe – many with significant leadership by womens’ and indigenous organisations – are coalescing in campaigns for a healthy food system built on both an environmental and human rights ethos. Not only do agroecological farming methods strengthen ecological resilience in the face of today’s climate crises, they empower people politically, socially and economically, offering a path forward for growing food to feed us all. Act Local: Blackhaugh Community Farm Earlier this year I was invited by Rosie and William from Perth & Kinross Common Weal to come and chat to the local group who meet in Blend café each Wednesday. I was welcomed by a lovely bunch of interesting folk who were keen to tell me all about the local projects that they are involved with – a community forest buy-out, local growing projects, a community farm among others. We had a great energising chat about the convivial spirit at the heart of these ventures. I was given a bed for the night by horticulturalists Margaret and Andrew. The following morning, over breakfast, they spoke passionately about their interest in and love of gardening and growing and told me more about Blackhaugh Community Farm which they are both involved in. Before heading north, I stopped in to see for myself. Located on the edge of the village Spittalfield in Perthshire, Blackhaugh farm is a 43 acre piece of land stewarded by a local action group in the common interest since 2015. The site is home to Andrew’s own Apple Tree Nursery, where he grows and grafts a range of fruit trees, nut bushes and fruiting shrubs. Many of his trees are traditional Scottish varieties or unusual cultivars, grown sustainably and specially selected for their hardiness and suitability in our varied Scottish climate. The farm is based on agroecological principles, with the aims of supporting people to live, work and learn from and on the land through growing healthy food, creating community spaces and sharing knowledge. Since 2015, the group have renovated a farmhouse, planted over 500 trees, set up the Taybank Growers Cooperative (a 4 acre market garden which grows fruit and vegetables for sale locally through a box scheme and honesty shop), converted outbuildings into useful spaces, provided grazing for sheep and cows and hosted the first ever Scottish Scything Festival! While I was there, I met Johnny, the owner of the farm, and Roz, a tenant, who was hard at work preparing the veg boxes to go out that week. Roz was keen to tell me about another organisation she is involved with, the Scottish Farm Land Trust (SFLT). Set up by a group of farmers and environmentalists in 2015, this project takes inspiration from initiatives across Europe acting to successfully secure farmland in trust to be managed democratically for those who want to start farming using agroecological methods. Scottish Farm Land Trust Both Roz and Jonny are founding members of the SFLT, motivated by their own personal experiences of trying to find land and suitable tenants for agroecological farming alongside a desire to create a system and structure to support others in a similar situation:
“We want to see a food system where farms are connected to their communities and produce nutritious food in a way that makes a positive contribution to the health of communities and the natural environment. This can be achieved by supporting small-scale agroecological farms. We want to see our farming system thrive, with a greater diversity of farmers and business models. Improving access to land and widening participation in the ownership of land is essential for this to happen."
Scottish Farm Land Trust. The SFLT are currently holding a crowdfunding campaign until the end of November to raise funds to develop their organisation (at this time, the board is entirely voluntary) and put their plans into action. They are keen to support a new generation of farmers to lead the change in farming that they believe Scotland really needs. The story of the SFLT began in 2015 when a few of the founding members visited Terre de Liens, a civil society organisation created in 2003 to address the difficulties faced by agroecological farmers in securing agricultural land in France. In just 15 years, Terre de Liens have been successful in purchasing over 3500ha of land, creating tenancies for over 200 farmers and raising €65million in public share offers. This is a model that works. The Scottish team was then invited to join an EU-wide incubator project (2015 – 2017) for Land Trusts run by the Access to Land EU Network, involving case-study visits to the Czech Republic, Greece and Poland and to more established land trust organisations in Germany and France, allowing those involved to learn slowly, make connections and build relationships. In 2017, the SFLT worked with Nourish Scotland to run a survey of the general public to find out how many people wanted to start farming agroecologically in Scotland. Over 1000 people responded; significantly, 71% of those who did want to start farming said that access to land was the biggest barrier – a problem reflected across Europe. According to the SFLT’s research, in the last 10 years, the value of farmland in Scotland has increased by 85%, while farm incomes have increased by only 15%. Moreover, the price of agricultural land itself is typically higher than could generate a return from agricultural production. Farmland is largely seen as a commodity on which to speculate, rather than a public good providing good quality food. Scotland has a more concentrated pattern of land ownership than most other European countries. The trend is towards further consolidation of this inequality: existing landowners are more able to buy land for sale than new entrants. For those not in a position to purchase land, the options for renting are limited and the number of agricultural tenancies is falling. In 1913, there were over 70,000 available in Scotland; this fell to under 15,000 by 1980. In the last 20 years, the number has fallen again by over 40% – despite legislative changes attempting to reverse this trend. There is a huge need for change. Earlier this year, the Scottish Land Commission published a research paper on increasing access to farmland. Here, the SFLT was highlighted as a ‘new model to increase land availability for new entrants’, a model which has already been demonstrated to be successful elsewhere. By working collaboratively with other organisations that make up the ecology of food justice groups in Scotland – such as Nourish Scotland, the Soil Association, the Scottish Crofting Federation, Landworkers Alliance, Organic Growers Alliance and others – the SFLT hope to build and support a new network of agroecological farmers more strongly connected to their local communities, creating opportunities for more people to get involved. The SFLT also hope to be able to influence policy around tenancies, organic agriculture and land distribution, advancing rural regeneration and the transition to a more sustainable agriculture in Scotland. The enormity of climate and ecological breakdown and social collapse can easily overwhelm. One very tangible thing we can do is support those projects that are coming up with practical solutions and catalysing radical change. You can donate to the Scottish Farm Land Trust’s crowdfunder here , With thanks to Margaret and Andrew for their hospitality and to Roz Corbett for her help with compiling the background information and sources for this column. Image credit: the Fife Diet References Blackhaugh Community Farm website: https://blackhaughcommunityfarm.weebly.com/ Andrew’s Plants & Apples website (bare-root trees are available from November to March): https://plantsandapples.com/ Food, Farming and the Climate Crisis: How We Can Feed People and Cool the Planet, Landworkers Alliance 2019 Agroecology in Action, Landworkers Alliance 2019 Source: Bella Caledonia

Green New Deals must push the boundaries

Green New Deals (GNDs), of various kinds, are increasingly a feature of the global climate and ecological struggle. They are not new but today they have greater significance, writes Alan Thornett. The most important such deal to-date is one submitted to the US Congress – entitled ‘Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal’ – by the new Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, along with the veteran Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts. The proposal originated with the Sunrise Movement – a group of environmentally motivated young people in the Democratic Party – and adopted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known as AOC). In Canada a ‘Pact for a Green New Deal’ has been launched and is getting wide support. There are calls for a European-wide GND and an Australian GND. In the British Labour Party a campaign for the adoption of a GND at its forthcoming conference has gained mass support and is likely be adopted though possibly in an amended form. These initiatives are a response to the frightening pace of ecological destruction. As I write the Brazilian rain forest, the lungs of the world, its greatest a biodiversity treasure house, and is the home of indigenous peoples, is in flames. Climate records are broken at ever greater regularity. Crucial resources are running out, including fresh water and arable land. Pollution is choking the eco-systems of the planet. The oceans are now 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times. Coral reefs are dying off at an unprecedented rate. There will soon be more plastic in the oceans than fish and species are becoming extinct at a disastrous rate. They are also a response to increasing public awareness of the ecological issues and new developments in the struggle itself, in particular the emergence of the Greta Thunberg and the (inspirational) international school students strikes she has generated, and of Extinction Rebellion, a none-violent direct-action movement that has placed the biodiversity crisis at the heart of its activities. The AOC Deal in the US The AOC Deal – or more precisely ‘Resolution’ because it is in the form of a resolution to Congress – has added significance because of its location in the USA, where it is a beacon of hope in the bleakest landscapes. A stark alternative to the ecocide emanating from a White House that presides over ever rising US carbon emissions whilst rolling back climate regulations enacted by the Obama administration. The Resolution has already redrawn the boundaries of the debate on the ecological crisis in the USA, prompting Trump (unsurprisingly) has branded as ‘socialist and therefore un-American’. The Resolution was publicly launched it in Washington in February with the support of 60 members of the House, nine Senators, and several presidential candidates. The headline message stressed at the meeting was to make the USA “net carbon-neutral in ten years”, which would require huge strides in reducing the USA’s reliance on oil, gas and coal and its replacement by clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources. Its first point of principle is that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming over the past century, causing the sea level to rise, more severe wildfires and storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and national infrastructure. Its second is (crucially) that global warming above 1.5°C pre-industrial level will have catastrophic consequences. The result, it says, will be mass migration driven by climate change. Wildfires, by 2050, will burn twice as much forest area in the Western United States than was burned in the years preceding 2019. Ninety nine percent of all coral reefs on Earth will be lost. More than 350,000,000 extra people will be exposed globally to deadly heat stress by 2050. There is a risk of $1,000,000,000,000 damage to public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the United States. These principles directly reflect the conclusions of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming, published in October last year. It was compiled by climate scientists from around the world following the failure of the Paris climate summit to fully adopt 1.5°C concluded that the previous UN target of 2°C above preindustrial levels is indeed now out of date and should be superseded by a new maximum of a 1.5°C increase – after which key elements of the crisis start to run out of control. Cutting carbon emissions The Resolution makes a number of proposals in terms of cutting carbon emissions including the following: • Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources; • To achieve zero Green House Gas (GHG) emissions through fair and just transition for all communities and workers. • Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘‘smart’’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity; • Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency; • Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector; • Overhauling transportation systems to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; with clean, affordable, and accessible public transport. • Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, including by restoring natural ecosystems and low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, and afforestation. • Restoring fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency. It also recognises that a reorganisation of the economy and of society on this scale would represent a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone. It goes on to call on the Federal Government to make green technology, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries bringing about a global GND. Bernie Sanders The Resolution has already had an impact on next year’s presidential election campaign. Bernie Sanders, for example, who was the first presidential candidate to support the OAC Resolution, recently put forward his own ecological platform, which he sees as complementary it. He launched recently, and poignantly, whilst visiting the town of Paradise, California, the home to 26,000 people that was completely destroyed in December last year by the deadliest wildfire in the history of the state that was driven by climate change. Sanders called for the creation of 20 million clean energy jobs and $16.3 trillion in green federal investment. He called for the decarbonisation of transportation and power generation, the two largest sources of emissions in the United States, by 2030, which would lower US emissions by 71 percent. His plan, he said, would raise money from numerous sources including: $6.4 trillion from selling energy via power marketing authorities; $2.3 trillion from income taxes from the new jobs created under the plan, and $1.2 trillion from reducing the military expenses related to protecting oil shipping routes. Expenditure would include: • $40 billion for a climate justice resiliency fund for under-resourced groups like Native Americans, people with disabilities, and the elderly to prepare for climate change • $200 billion for the United Nations Green Climate Fund to help other countries reduce their emissions • $1.52 trillion to deploy renewable energy and $852 billion for energy storage • $526 billion for an underground high-voltage direct current power transmission network The controversies Crucial as the 1.5°C target is it is still far from universally accepted even on the left. The British Labour Party, for example, despite having greatly strengthened its overall ecological profile under the Corbyn leadership, has still not accepted it as its official position. When Red-Green Labour activists proposed its adoption at the AGM of SERA, Labour’s environmental section, last November, we lost the vote the 1.5°C. John McDonnell, however, in an interview in the Independent on June 13th this year said that Labour was strongly considering adopting the 1.5°C target ‘ in order to respond to the science’. The strength of the Labour Party GND, which is heading for the Party conference in a few weeks-time, is that it clearly accepts the 1.5°C target and that this means achieving zero carbon emission by 2030. There were challenges to this during the debate in the branches and committees with proposals for a 2050 target date and to insert ‘net’ before zero. What will be put to conference, however, is not yet clear since there is a compositing process prior to conference where amendments will be discussed. RGL is arguing that if there is a challenge to the original there should to two options put to conference. The AOC campaign is not clear on the 2030 deadline and ‘net’ zero either. Although a target of net-zero by 2030 had been headlined at the public launch the AOC GND the Resolution itself, as submitted to Congress, is more conservative. It says that: “Global temperatures must be kept below 1.5 °C above pre-industrialised levels to avoid the most severe impacts of a changing climate, which will require global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.” It is true that this reflects the IPCC Report. Unfortunately, however, it reflects one of its weaknesses. The Report predicts that “the global temperature is likely rise to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 if warming continues to increase at the current rate.” This does not make sense. First it is predicated on warming continuing at the “current rate” – which is looking increasingly unlikely. Second it proposes action on the best case scenario rather than the worst. If 1.5 °C by 2030 is a clear possibility, as the IPCC report accepts, that should be the target date, since 2050 it could be too late. The ‘net’ zero carbon stipulation is also problem. ‘Net’ zero means achieving carbon emissions by balancing emissions with removal or sequestration, (often through offsetting) rather than eliminating carbon emissions altogether. Whilst anthropogenic sequestration can be a valid option it also opens the door to the manipulation of data and the falsification of results. ‘Net’ zero is defended in the AOC resolution by saying that it might not be possible to fully get rid of, for example, emissions from beef production or air travel before then. It should also be said that both of these deals are vague as to what constitutes fossil fuel energy and either explicitly or implicitly accept the use of nuclear power. Both also fail to address the issue of economic growth. With the AOC Resolution this is compounded by the name ‘New Deal’ with its reference to Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the Great Depression – which was based entirely around growth. Growth, however, is not an option when it comes to saving the planet. At the average rate on economic growth of 3 per cent per year over the past 60 years the global economic would grow by a factor of sixteen in the course of a century and 250 over the course of this century and the next. Making the polluters pay They have another commonality as well. Whilst they both make excellent demands that point in the right direction, they both lack a high impact centralising demand capable of stopping the global temperature going above the1.5°C maximum temperature increase in the time-scale available to us and generating a mass movement around it – for example making the polluters pay for the pollution. Fossil fuel is hard-wired into the global energy system, with massive financial, corporate and ideological resources behind it. As long as it remains the most profitable way to generate energy this strangle-hold will continue to be used. In my view an important part of breaking this stranglehold is carbon pricing – making fossil energy dramatically more expensive than renewables by heavy (and increasing) taxes on carbon based products within the framework of a socially just progressive taxation system that transfers of wealth from the rich to the poor and generates mass support in the process. (Carbon taxes should not be confused with carbon trading as promoted by Kyoto and the UN: schemes such as the Clean Development Mechanism, the Joint Implementation Mechanism, and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. They are at best window-dressing and at worst licenses to pollute.) The omission of carbon taxes from these proposals is unsurprising, since carbon taxes are widely opposed on the radical left. This is often on the basis that they are a market mechanism, which indeed they are, but so is taxing the rich which has long (and rightly) been supported by the radical left. The issue is not whether a tax is a market mechanism but whether, in a given circumstance, it is progressive or reactionary. This is an important discussion. Peter Hudis, for example, in a recent article on the Red Green Labour site on June 15, argues that the most important attribute of the AOC Resolution is precisely that it has nothing to say on carbon taxes. He references, in justification, to the opposition of the Yellow Vests to Macron’s fuel tax in France, who saw it as an additional burden on the poorest in society. Macron’s carbon tax was indeed regressive, and the reaction of the Yellow Vests was entirely predictable. This was not because carbon taxes per se are regressive, but because this one was introduced in the framework of Macron’s right-wing agenda including tax breaks for the rich and cuts to social programs. The fact that nothing had been done on the left in France to promote the idea of progressive carbon taxes did not help. There are many ways in which carbon pricing can be used to bring down emissions rapidly and democratically. A proposal worth looking at, in my view, is the one proposed by James Hansen, the climate scientist who has done more to tackle climate change over the past 30 years than anyone else. He famously made a high profile intervention in the US Senate in 1988, which catapulted global warming and climate change into the public arena, making it an important turning point in public awareness. Hansen proposes a fee-and-dividend system which involves placing a uniform fee (or levy) on the fossil fuel production, at the pithead, the wellhead or at the port of entry, for each ton of carbon produced. The revenue generated would be distributed, on a heavily redistributive basis towards the poor, as dividends to the population as a whole on an individual (per capita) basis – with half shares for children up to two children per family (though restricting this to two children seems problematic). Those who reduce their carbon footprint the most would stand to benefit the most. Carbon pricing can also tackle pollution. According to Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the 5p charge introduced in Britain in 2016 on single-use plastic bags resulted in an immediate 83 per cent reduction in plastic bag usage. More than 7 billion bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the 5p charge but this plummeted to slightly more than 500 million in the first six months after the charge was introduced. This was also a market mechanism. The objection often made that taxing the polluters in this way is not revolutionary enough. This is a big mistake. It is true that this does not propose global socialist revolution as the immediate answer to the ecological crisis with the time scale we have – because such a call would be meaningless. What it does propose, however, that the forces that can in the end challenge the logic of capitalism are assembled in the course of a practical struggle to defend the planet in the here and now whilst capitalism still exists. Pushing the boundaries Whilst the various GNDs being proposed are diverse in their scope and objectives, what is clear is that they must push the boundaries of the situation they are in. We are in an evolving and radicalising situation and GNDs need to be at the cutting edge of it. They need to be a part of the broadest possible alliance in defence of the planet. This means reaching out to the trade unions with policies based on a just transition from carbon-based jobs to jobs based on renewable energy and an environmental perspective. It means a new energy system based on solar, wind, tidal, hydro and geothermal. It means developing green production and rejecting the throwaway society. It means demanding the public ownership of industry and land as the basis for the kind of fundamental restructuring of society that is urgently needed. It means rejecting policies that stand in the way of all this such as airport and aviation expansion, the dash for gas, fracking for more gas, nuclear energy, the use of biofuels and, importantly, industrialised agriculture with its dependency on artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and anti-biotics. All this means major changes not only to our energy superstructure but to how society is organised and to how people live their lives. Such strategic choices involved cannot just be left to governments, even a Corbyn government. Attempting to carry them through without mass support could be disastrous. These issues have to discussed by the whole movement since they will have to be implemented by the whole movement. Alan Thornett is the author of Facing the Apocalypse – Arguments for Ecosocialism, published by Resistance Books 2019.

Facing the Apocalypse reviewed

Facing the Apocalypse – Arguments for ecosocialism by Alan Thornett, Resistance Books 2019 reviewed by Hans A Bauer. This review was first published by E-International Relations in July 2019. Eco-socialism has been a topic addressed by an increasing number of books in recent years. In Facing the Apocalypse, Alan Thornett, a former trade union activist in the British automobile industry during the 1960s and 1970s, has written a readable and engaging argument for the need to turn to eco-socialism as a strategy to mitigate climate change. He supports the Red Green Labour network, an eco-socialist current within the Labour Party. Motivating factor The key motivating factor for Thornett in Facing the Apocalypse is his opinion that the left’s record on the environment has been ‘bleak’. Thornett laments that most left organizations across the world, including socialist and Marxist groups, give scant attention to the ecological crisis, often arguing that they have many other demands upon them. Thornett’s stated aim is to provoke discussion about strategies which will better enable the left to play a positive role in the current struggle to avert ecological apocalypse. He begins by covering a lot of material that will be familiar to eco-socialists, namely on planetary boundaries; water issues, agriculture, biofuel production, and urban water consumption; pollution, such as oceanic dead zones, air pollution, and plastic waste; and the 6th extinction of species, which is essential reading for leftists not as familiar with these topics. Turning to how the left can begin to make sense of these issues, Thornett provides an excellent overview of the ecological legacy of both classical Marxism, as exemplified in the work of Marx, Engels, William Morris, and Edward Carpenter, and later leftist thinkers concerned with the ecological crisis, including Scott Nearing, Murray Bookchin, Rachel Carson, Roderick Frazier Nash, Barry Commoner, Raymond Williams and Derek Wall. Shifting to the Global South, he also discusses the indigenous struggle for environmental sustainability as highlighted by the work of Hugo Blanco in Peru, Vandana Shiva in India, and Chico Mendes and Sister Dorothy Stag in Brazil. While the term eco-socialism has only appeared over the course of the past 35 years or so, Thornett makes it clear that eco-socialism draws from a line of thinkers extending back to Marx himself. Juxtaposed approaches In his analysis of the efforts that have been made to address the climate change crisis thus far, Thornett juxtaposes conventional and Global South approaches. In the case of the former, he argues that the Paris Agreement was ‘deeply flawed’ in various ways, particularly in that it ‘was based on non-legally binding pledges to reduce remissions’ (pp. 78-29). Nevertheless, while he acknowledges that the Paris Agreement operates within capitalist parameters, he maintains it provides a ‘new dynamic from which a new round (or stage) for the struggle could be launched’ (p.82). In my view this is a little too optimistic. I tend to view the Paris Agreement as a distraction, creating the false sense that the powers-that-be now take climate change seriously. Various analysts have argued that even if all countries were to meet their voluntary reduction targets, the climate is still slated to rise by 2.7 to 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. As such, the Paris Agreement fails to carry on the spirit of the 2010 Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth drafted in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which was led by indigenous people and recognized the role of global capitalism in exploiting nature, thus contributing to the ecological crisis and climate change. Unfortunately, to date, there appears to be no clear indications that either the earlier People’s Conference resolutions or the 2015 Paris Agreement have significantly reversed an on-going increase in greenhouse gas emissions, let alone mount a serious challenge to the growth paradigm of global capitalism that drives this increase. Ecosocialism: a political project After laying his foundations by summarizing the various facets of the environmental crisis and laying out the basis for a Marxist position on ecology, Thornett moves on to assessing recent attempts that have been made to further eco-socialism as a political project. The book discusses various eco-socialist developments, but particularly focusses upon the Ecosocialist International Network (EIN), which served as the platform for an eco-socialist manifesto drafted by Michael Lowy and the late Joel Kovel in 2001. He laments that the EIN ‘has failed to make progress in recent years, and eco-socialism remains a minority position on the radical left today’ (p. 92). Nevertheless, some European parties define themselves as eco-socialist, including the Red-Green Alliance in Denmark, the Left Bloc in Portugal, the Socialist Left Party in Norway, and the Parti de Gauche in France. From my position in Australia, I would also note that the Socialist Alliance, a small party in Australia, defines itself as eco-socialist and publishes the Green Left Weeklynewspaper. Conversely, Socialist Alternative, the largest socialist group in Australia, does not define itself as eco-socialist. Ringing true in relation to my own national experience, Thornett’s argument that too many socialists continue to ignore or at least downplay the environmental devastation created by capitalism, choosing to focus on exclusively on its exploitation of the working class, is a compelling one. What is to be done? Turning to the question of ‘what is to be done’ if these eco-socialist currents are to have a greater impact, Thornett draws attention to various matters that need to be urgently addressed, including the need to develop a strategy that forces capitalism to ‘make major change in the course of the long struggle for socialism’ (p. 100), whether carbon taxes can serve as a radical transitional reform, the Stalinist legacy vis-à-vis environmental degradation, and population growth, with the latter being a contested issue on the far left. While carbon taxes are in my view preferable to emissions trading schemes, thus far most countries that have implemented them, particularly the Scandinavian ones, have not established particularly high carbon prices that have resulted in significant reductions in emissions. In his analysis of population growth, which he defines as an ecofeminist concern, Thornett argues that the ‘stabilisation of the global human populations would create a better basis on which to tackle the ecological crisis’ (p. 161-162). Any effort to reduce population growth would have to address two issues: (1) improving the overall standard of living among the poorest people in the world, which would require creating an even playing field, and reducing the wealth of the affluent sectors of both developed and developing countries and (2) empowering women and girls by challenging patriarchy on all fronts, including in religious institutions. When considering Thornett’s emphasis on the need to address the Stalinist legacy of environmental degradation, it is clear that we must acknowledge that the Soviet bloc countries were forced to play catch-up with developed capitalist countries, particularly the United States, in the context of the Cold War. I personally witnessed this first hand during my stint as a Fulbright Lecturer in the German Democratic Republic, a country which relied on lignite coal for energy production due to short supply of alternative sources. Therefore, it is essential that those who take-on Thornett’s call to challenge Stalinist legacies take note of the much changed international context we face today. In his concluding chapters of the book, Thornett provides an assessment of the environmental struggle in Britain. Notably he praises the progress the Labour Party has made under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, which has pledged support for the Paris Agreement, a new clean air act, banning fracking, renationalizing Britain’s energy system, and promoting a renewables industry with unionized labor. Hopefully, however, eco-socialists within the Labour Party can push it beyond a largely ecological modernization agenda that can be incorporated within a green capitalist framework. He appeals to the left, given the gravity of the ecological and climate crises, to ‘become far more engaged with the environmental struggle’ (p. 222). I could not agree more. Hans A Baer is based at the at the University of Melbourne. He has published on a diversity of research topics, including Mormonism, African-American religion, socio-political life in East Germany, critical health anthropology, and Australian climate politics. Baer’s most recent books include Global Warming and the Political Ecology of Health (with Merrill Singer, Left Coast Press, 2009), Global Capitalism and Climate Change (AltaMira, 2012), Climate Politics and the Climate Movement in Australia (with Verity Burgmann, Melbourne University Press, 2012), The Anthropology of Climate Change (with Merrill Singer, Routledge, 2014; 2nd edition, 2018), Democratic Eco-Socialism as a Real Utopia (Berghahn Books, 2018).