Green Capitalism is a Myth

After the hottest September on record, the government of Rishi Sunak has recently announced broad reductions of the already tepid climate policies they inherited from the previous government. These include: pushing back the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035, relaxing the phasing out of oil-powered boilers by the same timescale, and removing plans to introduce taxes for uninsulated properties. In addition, they have given credence to a smorgasbord of conspiracy theories, fearmongering about “15-minute cities”, “meat bans”, and 20 mph traffic zones. It is part of the Conservatives’ electoral strategy to position net-zero commitments as anti-working class. And it certainly has been the case that carbon taxes and similar ways to disincentivise emissions have been attempts to shift the burden of combating climate change from the energy giants to working people. But any temporary respite from these costs can be massively outweighed by the impacts of climate change which are always felt most strongly by the working class.

More worrying than anything announced at the conference has been the approval of the 300 million barrel Rosebank oil field off the coast of the Shetlands. The 800 million barrel Cambo oil field, developed by one of the same developers as Rosebank, but previously blocked, is also being reconsidered due to the war in Ukraine, which has made Western European countries prioritise energy security after facing a massive “energy shock” over the last two years. Although this has abated somewhat, the recent turmoil in the Middle East could make this worse. Israel is not a major oil or gas producer. However, the conflict has the potential to spill over into nearby oil producers which use the Strait of Hormuz as a trade route. Iran, which arms Hamas and Hezbollah, can restrict trade through the Strait of Hormuz and ultimately lead to higher energy prices around the world.

The Labour Party, as representatives of the other half of the British ruling class, do not fundamentally oppose the trajectory of their political rivals on the issue of the climate. While they are planning to reinstate the petrol and diesel car ban from 2030, they are not planning to reverse the approval of the Rosebank oil field. The positive content of Labour’s climate policy is a £28 billion a year “Green Prosperity Plan” which is modelled on Joe Biden’s $369 billion a year “Inflation Reduction Act”. Both are massive investment plans for low-carbon energy and manufacturing projects such as “clean” steel mills and electric vehicle battery factories. Putting aside how “low-carbon” these plans really are, they are both blatantly protectionist and will only intensify global trade tensions. The aim is to provide security for British industry which is struggling to compete with Chinese production without Russian energy.

COP28: More Hot Air

This year’s COP, the annual UN climate change conference where emissions targets are debated and set, is being held in the UAE. That this is one of the world’s largest oil producers, is an excellent example of the blatant hypocrisy of the international political and economic ruling class. Oil and gas companies have an outsized presence at the COP events in order to show that the petrochemical giants take the problem seriously – and also to ensure that no resolutions are taken which could seriously affect their bottom lines. Governments are of course well-represented as well and will try to paint their activity as climate-conscious. However, the reality is that current international policy is converging to what may be called “war ecology”. OPEC have kept oil production low, bolstered by Russia’s need to raise funds to maintain its war effort in Ukraine. Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, has specifically stated that energy security is closely linked to the fight against climate change, and that as the West reduces its dependence on Russian oil and gas, it should not create new dependencies on Chinese rare earth metals.

The British government waxes and wanes on climate policy, but what it is steadfast on is shielding the profits of its capitalists through investment or imperialism. We should not let claims that the state is protecting the immediate living standards of the working class or our climate blind us to the fact that only international working class solidarity against the bloodthirsty ambitions of state and capital can preserve both. Capitalism is a system that requires continuous expansion of production for production's sake, without any thought for the real needs of humans and the environment. A rational relationship with our environment can only come from collective control of production by the workers themselves.

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 65) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.