Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Action plan for climate chaos

Although the Stern report on climate change is primarily concerned with measures that could avoid a catastrophic meltdown of the global capitalist economy, it has the merit of focusing minds on the need to act sooner rather than later. The question is: what actions are necessary and who is to carry them out? The answer to the second half of the question is obvious - not New Labour. Prime Minister Blair, while referring to global warming as the greatest challenge of them all, will restrict New Labour’s response to expanding the carbon trading market and negotiating a post-Kyoto treaty. These will not even begin to make an impact in time to stop sea levels rising and overwhelming the Low Countries, Eastern England, Shanghai, Bangladesh and Southern India, as well as Florida and New York. Hiding behind the fact that climate change is a global phenomenon should not be allowed to prevent emergency actions on a national scale that could open the way to alternative, longer-term solutions. A crash programme could, for instance:

  • ban car use in congested city centre areas
  • take rail and bus networks into public ownership and slash fares
  • create complete networks in cites open only to cycles and motorbikes
  • encourage car sharing and establish car pool schemes which people can use for free
  • have publicly owned and serviced cycles in cycle pools which people can take for free
  • ban the selling of private vehicles that average less than 60mpg immediately, and 80mpg by 2008
  • encourage people to work at home or at new local network centres
  • set up dial-a-ride for commuters to take them to transport hubs
  • organise children into walking groups that use roads closed to traffic to get to school
  • bring airlines into public ownership and set fares to reflect true costs
  • bring agricultural land back into use instead of subsidising it to lay fallow
  • install free solar panels where practicable in local communities
  • expand wind, wave power and bio-fuel resources
  • invest massively in research into non-carbon power sources
  • offer financial support to developing economies to avoid any unnecessary food exports
  • launch an international effort to protect the Amazon rain forest from further clearances
  • ban import of soya that comes from deforested Amazon sites
  • establish new systems for distributing and buying food and other commodities without unnecessary packaging, advertising and promotion
  • encourage new ideas and holistic types of production, consumption and disposal of all commodities taking into account the real cost to the planet
  • phase out the sale of electronic goods with built-in obsolescence
  • set up a not-for profit version of e-bay which allows people to exchange existing goods and products easily
  • end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and scrap Trident II to free up resources
  • ban hedge fund speculation on vital commodities like wheat and corn
  • take action to redeploy pension funds and other financial resources currently used as sources of speculation

Putting this crash programme into practice is clearly beyond the capacity of the existing political system. Yet without something like these actions, the catastrophe facing the planet is unavoidable. Therefore immediate steps to cut carbon emissions will have to go hand-in-hand with creating a democratic political alternative that will act while there is still time. Such a political change would create the possibility in the longer term to develop an integrated plan to tackle climate change. We need to harness all the potential that exists in science and technology, bringing it together across borders, and without interference from profit and commercial secrecy. Society could then, for example, move to not-for-profit production, improving the quality of goods so that they last for as long as possible, and building the recycling of components into the production process and pricing structures. Mobilising people to turn a looming disaster into an opportunity for social and political change would, just as importantly, inspire people in other countries to do the same and thus provide a global solution to a global crisis.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

Stuart said...

In addition to the list suggested I think the following need to part of any action plan:
1: Reduce energy demand in our homes & places of work. For instance research has shown (40% House project) that energy demand in the domestic sector could be reduced by 60% over the next 25 year with the right investment. Funds need to be made available for undertaking improvement to out exisitng housing stock - adding insulation, improving boilers etc.
2: Clearly the currently private/ profit based energy supply & generating companies can not address the need for the significant development of renewable energy supply. Not for profit energy generating/ supply organizations are urgently required to organized the required investment.
3: The creating of community based decentralized not for profit energy supply companies will reduce carbon emissions by generating electricity & heat close to the source of demand, avoiding grid losses etc.
4: An immediate programme to phase out the existing nuclear power stations in conjunction with the development of renewable energy generation.
5: The immediate closing down of carbon trading schemes - these are just being used by capital to commodify carbon so they can profit from pollution. This should be replaced by allocation of permitted carbon levels to all sections of industry. These allocations can be reduced progressively to ensure carbon emission are really reduced.
6: We will almost certainly have to allocate non-trade-able carbon allocations for all for travel related activities. This will allow some travel by air but can be used to gradually restrict un-necessary air travel & maybe we should even be allowed to save out allocation form one year to another so we can make longer trips.
7: Car companies should be tasked with developing low/ zero carbon transport options (there are already hydrogen buses being used in trials) as quickly as possible. Biofuels nay not be practicable in the long run.
8: All long distance freight should be transported on the rail network, with lorries only being used for local distribution.
9: All air transportation of food needs to be banned & should only be transported by sea.
10: There needs to be a planned transformation of UK farming from a mono-culture agri-business base to an organic baseline. This should be financed through the profits of the major food retailers
11: The levels of domestic & commercial waste need to be dramatically increased and all remaining waste to be converted into biofuel through anarobic digestion.
12: Internationally we need to develop agreements to adopt a contraction & conversion approach to achieving realistic levels of carbon emissions.

The taxation approach being proposed will only discriminate against the majority of people, leaving only rich able to afford air travel etc. The profits of the banks, oil companies, the food giants and diverting the money being spent on imperial wars in Iraq etc, & from replacing Trident need to used to finance the investment required to provide solutions for dealing with this climate crisis. The cost of dealing with this should be equitably spread.