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From: The Socialist issue 1042, 15 May 2019: Take the wealth off the super-rich

Search site for keywords: Climate change - Socialist - Council - Energy - Cuts - Carbon

Socialist policies needed to halt climate disaster

Climate change protest in London on 12.4.19, photo Mary Finch

Climate change protest in London on 12.4.19, photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge)

Simon Carter

After the United Nations said last year there is only 12 years left to avert a global climate catastrophe, people are rightly demanding that government and councils take immediate measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

MPs and increasing numbers of councils have declared 'climate emergencies' to achieve net zero emissions - by 2050 in the case of the UK parliament, while some councils aim to be carbon-neutral by the 12-year deadline of 2030.

Many people will be rightly cynical over these declarations when successive Tory governments have slashed taxes and increased subsidies worth billions on North Sea oil and gas companies (26 billion in 2016) while ending tax breaks on renewable energy.

Indeed, hypocrisy doesn't appear to be in short supply. Leeds Labour council declared a climate emergency in March while committing to spend a reported 100 million on the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport - despite aviation being a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

So what could local councils do to help stop catastrophic climate change? To start with they could disinvest their 9 billion worth of pension funds from companies engaged in the fracking industry. At the end of 2017 councils had investments of 16.1 billion in fossil fuel industries.

They could also implement policies on transport and housing that could make a huge difference - for example, replacing diesel buses with electric or hydrogen fuel powered buses.

Moreover, public transport services should be frequent and cheap to encourage people to reduce car usage. But this would mean bringing public transport back into public ownership and reversing cuts in council subsidies.

A programme of mass council house building using energy efficient materials and insulation would reduce energy consumption. Cheap housing near where people work, and likewise schools and health services, could significantly reduce travel time and hence people's carbon footprint.

Council cuts

These measures and more beside could make a huge difference in addressing climate change.

However, councils have suffered huge spending cuts by governments over the last decade and even longer. And instead of resisting these attacks and setting no-cuts budgets - by using their reserves and borrowing powers as a temporary measure and mobilising the support of council workers and the community to resist - they have, including all Labour-run councils, capitulated to Tory-led austerity governments.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Tories need booting out and an incoming Corbyn Labour government must implement socialist policies to fund green alternatives.

This means nationalisation, under democratic workers' control, of the big energy corporations, public transport, major construction companies and the banks, and so on. Then it would be possible to draw up an economic plan of production to meet people's needs on a sustainable basis and seriously tackle climate change.







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