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AS THE Labour conference meets this week, and with Conservative Party conference the following week, it is more urgent than ever that serious discussion and attention is devoted to the need for radical action to tackle the deepening global climate catastrophe.
With the 2021 United Nations climate change conference (also known as Cop26) to be held in Glasgow between October 31 and November 12, the eyes of the world will be on whether an agreement can be reached by international governments on the scale and speed of co-ordinated action that is needed to tackle climate change.
As UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said this Tuesday, every day “we see the warning signs in every continent and region — scorching temperatures, shocking biodiversity loss, polluted air, water and natural spaces.”
This means that world leaders must now act together, or humanity is on track for a “hellscape” of temperature rise that will bring “catastrophe.”
The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity, but Boris Johnson’s government and too many others around the world are still unwilling to face up to the scale of the challenge we face, instead diverting vital resources to nuclear weapons we can never use or refusing to stand up to the fossil fuel global corporations.
A recent report from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change outlines that current nation state commitments for Cop26 will lead to a 16 per cent rise in emissions by 2030, when they actually need to fall by a minimum of 45 per cent.
To be clear, the only targets that count at the Cop discussions are those that are science-based and can save our planet.
We have quite simply run out of time for presidents and prime ministers to be negotiating over what is “possible,” “realistic,” “affordable” and all the other euphemisms for not doing enough.
Too many governments are distracting from the urgency of the issue by talking about targets for 2050 or 2060, when this will be too late.
The time then for excuses is over — so what action do we need?
In the wealthiest countries in the world, such as ours, that have primarily caused the climate emergency, we need immediate investment, legislation, and innovation to start cutting emissions at least 7 per cent next year and every year thereafter.
The government should immediately budget for a green new deal that can deliver this, at the same time as creating good jobs and boosting living standards at this vital time for the economy.
As part of this immediate action, investment in and from the public sector must lead climate action.
As Labour’s last two manifestos and plans for a “Green Industrial Revolution” made clear, the market has failed to do what is needed to tackle the climate emergency, and it will keep on failing.
Ever since Margaret Thatcher came to power, neoliberal and Conservative economists have told us that if everyone — meaning the wealthiest — is free to pursue their own material self-interests then everyone will be better off.
Climate change demonstrates just how big a fraud that right-wing ideology is.
We’re in a climate emergency not because everyone has behaved irresponsibly, but because a tiny minority have indulged in such huge levels of consumption and waste that it has tipped the whole planet into a new geological age.
Political leaders have hidden for too long behind the fallacy that governments should only intervene to “correct market failure” and that only the private sector can innovate.
By ignoring climate change and following the profit opportunities of fossil fuels, the whole neoliberal economic model has led humanity to the brink of extinction.
In the wealthiest countries of the world, the first test of any government when it comes to what they are doing in terms of climate action is how they are spending Covid stimulus and recovery packages.
In many countries, levels of public investment in the economy are higher than they have ever been outside of world wars, but too much of this spending goes straight into the pockets of big private companies rather than being used to help people and planet.
If — instead of outsourcing and further enriching the billionaires — all stimulus and recovery spending was focused on the rapid expansion of a truly green and caring economy, we would have a serious chance of overcoming climate breakdown and tackling inequality.
But to date barely 10 per cent of stimulus globally is in any way green.
US President Joe Biden is trying to get through a multitrillion-dollar green infrastructure package in the US, but the British government is bailing out companies without any strings attached to ensure their future development is greener.
It is time, then, for a radical green new deal based on massive investment, with tackling inequality and injustice at its heart, both here and around the world. Investing in global healthcare must also be a crucial part of this.
Climate action can be key to making the more equal society we need. There’s no choice between climate action and fairness — they’re one and the same thing.
We must use the upcoming Cop26 talks in Glasgow as an opportunity to make the case for governments that are driven by the need to help people and planet, that set out the clear goals for society to overcome the climate crisis, and create a better future, reshaping a new economy and society.
Join the Winning Climate Justice – Call for Action session at The World Transformed, this Sunday September 26, from 1pm to 2.30pm at the Old Steine Gardens Big Tent, hosted by the Project for Peace & Justice, Momentum, the Cop26 Coalition and Labour for a Green New Deal, with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn MP. Register at www.theworldtransformed.org.
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