Nov 262021

Workers have a world to win – and a planet to save!

Speaker after speaker at the COP26 conference in Glasgow pointed to the increasing frequency and severity of the effects of climate change, from droughts to hurricanes to floods to forest fires. These effects are devastating the developing countries of the global south, but they are also wreaking havoc in imperialist countries, as evidenced by the recent mass floods and mudslides in BC.

Yet despite the abundant evidence of crisis, the Glasgow conference was a festival of platitudes rather than a serious discussion of solutions.

There was no mention of militarism and war, the single most environmentally destructive forces – and ones that are overwhelmingly the responsibility of imperialist countries – that do enormous damage to the global environment. In Canada, the military is excluded from calculations of the country’s “carbon footprint” and therefore shielded from public scrutiny and accountability.

There was no discussion of the role that profiteering monopolies play in climate change and environmental destruction. While Western mainstream media eagerly pilloried India and China watering down the COP26 document’s commitment to phasing out coal use, they methodically avoided mention of the fact that three of the world’s largest capitalist economies – Australia, the US and Canada – account for over 50 percent of global coal exports. Furthermore, the almost exclusive focus on coal diverted the spotlight away from other carbon-intensive industries like oil and gas, agriculture, construction and automobiles.

There was certainly no conversation about the need for a just transition – led by the working class, Indigenous peoples and the poor peoples of the global south – to decarbonize the economy on national and global levels, implement comprehensive disarmament and deep reductions in military spending, and ensure sustainable economic development based on full employment and equity. The one glimmer of discussion about just transition was an acknowledgement that the 12-year-old promise by rich countries to provide $100 billion in annual funding to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change – a type of reparations reflecting the damage done by the most powerful capitalist economies – has fallen so flat that the UN concluded the pledge is now “out of reach.”

These discussions did not happen in Glasgow because capitalism – the economic and social system of the vast majority of the world’s countries, including the most powerful – cannot resolve these questions. The fact is that war, monopoly and inequality are problems that capitalism has generated, and continues to generate in order to maintain and reproduce itself.

This reality flies in the face of the picture painted by the Western media that countries like the US, Canada and Britain are leading the charge for climate justice, against the all-polluting socialist behemoth of China.

In the middle of the COP26 climate conference, a leaked draft of a new part of the Sixth Report of the IPCC sounded the alarm that capitalism is the main driver of the climate crisis and a barrier to protecting the environment. “Some scientists stress that climate change is caused by industrial development, and more specifically, by the nature of social and economic development produced by the nature of capitalist society, which they therefore consider ultimately unsustainable.”

This is a position that the Communist Party of Canada has advanced for many decades. At the time of the massive oil strike at Leduc, Alberta in 1947 – which signaled Canada’s shift from being an oil importer to one of the world’s largest producers and exporters – the Communist Party warned that without public ownership and democratic control, the oil industry would only develop in a manner that benefited monopolies at the expense of workers, farmers and the environment. History has proven the correctness of that position.

The necessity of public ownership and democratic control for sound economic, social and environmental stewardship has not changed. What has changed, however, is the urgency of decisive action for climate and environmental justice.

Real solutions to the climate and environmental crisis lie with the working class. Labour must unite and mobilize to advance a just transition strategy that meets the urgent needs of climate justice from a working-class perspective, putting curbs on monopoly power and demanding decisive intervention to implement radical reforms.

The Communist Party’s emergency climate plan includes calls for:

  • public ownership of energy resources and industries
  • ending corporate driven energy extraction and export policies, including cancelling pipeline projects that enable the maintenance and expansion of tar sands extraction, and halting and phasing out tar sands and fracking operations
  • replacing business-friendly cap-and-trade and carbon tax schemes with strict legal limits for pollution and hard caps emissions
  • cutting military spending by 75 percent and ending the military’s huge carbon footprint
  • implementing an overall plan to decarbonize the economy while ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities, by expanding renewable energy sources and guaranteeing displaced workers jobs with equivalent wages
  • expanding inter- and intra-urban public transit and providing it free of charge, and nationalizing auto plants to develop a publicly owned electric vehicle industry

Such reforms can facilitate the rapid shift needed to confront the current climate and economic crisis. They can also open the way for more fundamental change, which is necessary for guaranteeing climate and environmental justice.

The fiasco of COP26 demonstrates again that the struggle for climate justice and socialism are intertwined, with a common foe of capitalism. Only socialism, with planned economic and social development that serves the needs of the people rather than the drive for profit, can provide a framework for confronting the climate emergency, ameliorating and adapting to its effects, and guaranteeing sustainable development.

Socialism requires a livable planet, and a livable planet requires socialism. Workers have a world to win – and a planet to save.

Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada