Climate Change - Carbon Trading is no solution


In the last issue of Workers Solidarity we looked at how the causes of climate changes are deeply embedded in the economic and social structures controlled by the rich few. The increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being pumped into our atmosphere are primarily caused by the capitalist model of 'economic growth' and its accompanying miseries for millions around the planet.Capitalism and those who benefit from it retain the wealth, yet the environmental consequences are externalised. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the ongoing, and as yet unforeseen, effects of climate change. Those who suffer the most from this degradation of our planet, are those who contribute least to the problem, whilst those who are responsible, the petro-chemical and mining industrialists and the political parties they fund, will suffer the least. This is seen both in Rossport today and right across the global south for generations

The reality of latest figures from the International Panel on Climate Change suggest that the only way to mitigate climate change is the move to zero carbon emitting societies as soon as possible. Only this, alongside massive moves to remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere from the air offers a possibility of avoiding the worst damages of climate change.However it is right now, the time when it is most urgent to act, that the multinationals and governments are stalling and fighting genuine attempts to bring these necessary changes to life.

No where is this clearer that the area of pollution trading. Instead of tackling this problem as an issue of social justice, equality and sustainability, governments across the globe, at the behest of petro chemical lobbying dollars, have introduced an idea called carbon trading. If you wanted to read about carbon trading, you'd be forgiven for thinking that its extremely complicated, and perhaps its best leave it to the 'professionals'. That's exactly what they want you to think. However at is core carbon trading is about privatising the air we breathe, about putting a price not just on a tonne of pollution, but ultimately on each of our human lives. No prizes for guessing who's life is worth more under this plan.

The most polluting companies across the globe, including those in Ireland are being given our taxes, for free, to trade 'carbon emissions'. So for example Shell can continue to pump out carbon dioxide from its polluting refineries by 'buying', with our money, a new forest plantation in for example Minas Gerais in Brazil, that supposedly soaks up the same amount of carbon. However, whilst it it relatively easy to calculate the pollution Shell is pumping out, it is mathematically impossible to calculate to amount of carbon dioxide this new plantation will soak up, so you can't match like with like, never mind then put a price on it.

But the situation gets even worse. Whilst the pollution companies like Shell throw out will be in the atmosphere for good, this is not true of the carbon held in the plantation when the trees are felled. The most obscene thing is that for these plantations to to be grow across the global south, local communities are forced of their land. When they fight back and resist so that they can use the land as they have done for generations, they are met with the brutal power of capitalism, the police and military and corrupt governments. It is these struggles that we must link up with in order to build alliances to effect real change in how our world is run.

However, we don't have to look as far as the global south to see the brutal use of state forces, funded by our taxes, against a small local community viewed as irrelevant by both government and mulitnationals. Just look at what has been happening in Rossport, west Mayo for the past 6 years. In theory the local community and environmental and social justice activists from across the country and beyond should be getting free 'carbon credits' or the cash equivalent for resisting plans by Shell and the Irish state to build an onshore refinery. By their direct actions, they are slowing down, and will hopefully stop, the carbon dioxide that Shell intend to pump into the local skies. By disrupting the building of the refinery at the Bellinaboy site they are actively tackling a major cause of climate change. What do they receive for their courageous actions. Trumped up charges, police aggression, and media portrayal as anti progress, whislt the truth gets trampled under the batons and boots of 'public order'.

We live in a monolithic centralised fossil fuel driven society. Converting fossil fuels to marketable energy, eg electricity and heating gas, is highly centralised. A handful of multinational corporations such as Shell, and BP extract non-renewable finite fuels (coal, gas, oil, uranium) that are turned to electricity by another handful of corporations. It simultaneously puts power, quite literally, in the hands of a few.

Mitigating climate change in a genuine and meaningful way means that this centralisation of power needs to be broken down, and replaced with control by the majority, expressed through social ownership and workers’ control. Our anarchist goal offers us the possibility of re-imagining our communities being organised with accountable democracy and participation. That can’t be achieved without overthrowing capitalism.

But that is not to say that nothing can be achieved without a revolution. We can force concessions from the state and bosses when we build a movement big enough to be something that has to be reckoned with. When the balance of forces is in our favour we do it regularly (trade union action, stopping the Carnsore nuclear stations, etc.). We can do this again by building local and international alliances based anti-capitalism and direct democracy.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 100 Nov/Dec 2007

PDF of Workers Solidarity 100