Citizen Action Monitor

Calls for radical emissions cuts may be popular but they’re not powerful enough says Naomi Klein

Klein lambasted mainstream environmentalists of 1980s for not taking on dominant pro-market ideology

No 950 Posted by fw, January 9, 2014

“Klein used her keynote address to the [Radical Emissions Reduction] conference to lambast mainstream environmentalists who had decided in the 1980s not to challenge the dominant political ideology of market fundamentalism. This had played into the hands of the powerful corporate interests driving the rapid rise of greenhouse gas emissions since then, and the politicians that do their bidding.”Gabriel Levy

In his overview of selected highlights of the Radical Emissions Reduction conference, held in London, socialist and writer Gabriel Levy devoted his first six paragraphs to the thoughts of keynote speaker, Naomi Klein. To capture the essence of Levy’s summary, skim the added subheadings and text highlighting in the repost below. To read Gabriel’s original piece, click on the following linked title.

By the way, Levy cited Neil McCabe’s Green Plan contribution as one that “stood out”.

Radical GHG emissions policies need radical social movements to back them by Gabriel Levy, People and Nature, December 12, 2013

Klein explains why advocates of radical action “are not winning”, suggesting what needs to be done to win

Policies to counter global warming effectively “will only advance if accompanied by radical social movements”, socialist writer and activist Naomi Klein has told the Radical [greenhouse gas] Emissions Reduction conference in London. “Transformative policies […] must be backed by transformative politics.”

Advocates of radical action have to face the fact that pro-market ideology is dominant in mainstream political fora and that “we are the marginal ones”, Klein said yesterday, on a web link from Toronto, Canada.

“It’s not that our ideas [about cutting greenhouse gas emissions] are not popular. But they are not powerful, not dominant. They are not winning.” The movement needs to “turn the popular into the powerful” by creating a “radical, enabling environment in which these policies can flourish”, she said.

Klein used her keynote address to the conference to lambast mainstream environmentalists who had decided in the 1980s not to challenge the dominant political ideology of market fundamentalism. This had played into the hands of the powerful corporate interests driving the rapid rise of greenhouse gas emissions since then, and the politicians that do their bidding. (For Klein’s recent interview on this, and responses, see here and here.)

“Bad timing” by history had played a part too, Klein argued. No sooner had the leading climate scientist James Hansen raised the alarm about global warming in the US Congress in 1988 then the Berlin wall collapsed and the neo-liberal ideologues of deregulated trade went on the offensive.

Klein detailed the way that WTO trade rules were being used to obstruct action on emissions – for example, by oil companies challenging fracking bans in Canada and the US challenging Chinese state support for wind farms. While the COP talks on reducing emissions have run into the sand at Copenhagen, and this year at Warsaw, the WRO had “come back from the dead, zombie-style” at the recent talks in Bali. This could only aid the most emissions-intensive type of cross border trade.

Too early to tell whether Conference will contribute to radical emissions reductions

The Radical Emissions Reduction conference was organised at the Royal Society in London by the Tyndall Centre, the UK’s foremost research centre on climate change, yesterday and today (10-11 December 2013). Potentially important alliances looked like they were being formed: activists and academics from the social sciences participated together with climate scientists and engineers.

It’s clear that Cameron government is not listening to calls for carbon reductions

The event came at a time when the UK government is reinforcing the centrality of fossil fuels to its energy policy – through a new generation of gas-fired power stations and tax breaks for fracking, for example – despite countless warnings by the Tyndall Centre and others that such policies are incompatible with UK commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Conference convenor Kevin Anderson pushes for “drastic action” to meet UN 2C target limit

Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre, said that he considered, hypothetically, that a 10 per cent per year reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by rich countries is “viable”. Such drastic action is required to meet the United Nations target of limiting CO2 emissions to achieve a 66% chance of limiting the increase in surface temperature to 2 degrees.

Radical emission cuts could be achieved by 2030 if only a small minority made “a Marshall plan-type effort”

“Radical emissions reduction between now and 2030” would have to be accompanied by “a Marshall plan-type effort” to build low-carbon infrastructure, Anderson said. The radical emissions had to be made by a small minority: he estimates that 1-5% of the population is responsible for 40-60% of emissions.

A 4C to 6C temperature increase would be “catastrophic”

Too many voices are questioning whether the emissions targets based on keeping warming to 2 degrees are viable. “Is 4 to 6 degrees a better option? No,” Anderson insisted. Most researchers – and even most governments – agree that warming of 4 degrees or more would be catastrophic for human society. (See papers and presentations from an earlier Tyndall conference on what 4 degrees of warming might do.)

Even a 2C temperature increase would be too much says Hanson and Friends of the Earth

Not only is the UK government missing its 2 degrees targets, but many developing countries argue that the target should be 1.5 degrees, Simon Bullock of Friends of the Earth later reminded the conference. Some climate scientists, including Hansen, say 1 degree.

Wide-ranging ideas presented and discussed by mix of attendees

This week’s conference ranged widely over the science of climate change; the technical, engineering and social problems posed by cutting emissions; and the role of political establishments and social movements in effecting change.

Regulation in road and marine transport could result in drastic emission cuts

Tyndall Centre researchers Dan Calverley and Alice Bows-Larkin described the drastic emissions cuts that could be achieved with a modicum of regulation in road and marine transport respectively.

European cities have achieved substantial cuts despite inaction at national level

Fred Steward of the University of Westminster reported on substantial emissions cuts by European cities that had pressed on despite the lack of political action at national level.

Neil McCabe’s Green Plan “stood out”, replacing “we-must-do-something” talk with actual actions

Among many presentations on local-level carbon reduction projects, one by firefighter Neil McCabe from Kilbarrack fire station in Dublin, Ireland, stood out: a Green Plan has saved 127.5 tonnes of CO2 per year by “replacing the ‘we must do something’ approach with actual actions and sustainable technologies”.

The conference heard widely differing views on the type of social change that a shift towards low-carbon living implies.

Call for a “green new deal” inspired by FDR’s “New Deal” of 1930s

Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation advocated a “green new deal”, inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s kick-start of American capitalism in the 1930s (£50 billion+ per year investment in low-carbon infrastructure, carbon taxes and trading combined with an overhaul of financial sector regulation).

Other participants advanced an “anti-growth” challenge to business as usual

Other speakers argued that dominant assumptions about the necessity of “economic growth” had to be challenged. Clive Spash of the Vienna University of Business and Finance said that ideas of “decoupling emissions from growth” and that “markets and corporations are the best way forward” were among current “myths” about emissions reduction. Angela Druckman of the University of Surrey put an explicitly anti-growth case.

Some warned of barriers to change — Radical emission cuts will be a tough sell to “citizens reduced to consumers”

While Rebecca Willis of the Green Alliance spoke of political change in terms of lobbying politicians, Jane Hindley of the University of Essex refocused on social movements. Neo-liberal politics is incompatible with radical emissions reductions, she argued, because it had “reduced citizens to consumers” and led to “a concomitant infantilization of the electorate”.

Advocates for radical cuts must seek out and forge new alliances

Larry Lohmann of the Corner House said climate scientists and campaigners for emissions reduction need to seek allies among those who it often overlooked. In response to those who had said it was difficult to win over trade unions to anti-global-warming causes, he said that South African metalworkers and international transport union representatives – all of whom work in carbon-intensive industries – had been among the most responsive and supportive groups he had engaged with on climate change issues.

Time to promote “science as solidarity” by reaching out to politicians and people in communities, north or south

Lohmann objected to the “algorithmic approach to rationality”, according to which scientists and climate campaigners see themselves as possessors of a rational argument, and despair of politicians who failed to grasp it. The politicians understood only too well, and there were deeper causes of their climate-damaging actions, he argued. He advocated “science as solidarity”, in which scientists learned from conversations with people in communities whether in the global north or south.

If the conversation between scientists, engineers, other academics, activists and others can be broadened, the conference will have been a welcome start. GL.

• This report also appeared on the Red Pepper and Climate Code Red. (Thanks to them. People & Nature is always happy for people to re-use stuff!)

Gabriel Levy is based in the UK and has been active in labour and social movements for many years. He is presently involved in the campaign to release the Kazakh oil workers.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: