A sadly mistaken and confused banner at the 6 November COP26 protest in London
The International Energy Agency (IEA) roadmap for net zero by 2050 would cost on average $4 trillion annually until 2050, or just 5% of the new value that the workers worldwide produce each year.
There is no indication that the current ruling class can make this happen. Mark Carney’s news of an alliance controlling $130 trillion “capital committed to net zero” sounds impressive, but is flimsy. Less an attempt to save the planet, more an attempt save face for fossil-fuel expanding capitalist business.
GFANZ is a group of 450 banks, fund managers and insurers controlling 40% of global financial assets. In the same year they signed up to the “alliance”, these organisations have made multi-billion dollar investments in expanding fossil fuel extraction and combustion. None has any plans to halt fossil fuel expansion.
These financial institutions are “committed” (voluntarily!) to setting five-yearly targets so that their fossil-fuel operations and asset bases reach net zero by 2050. As with the COP26 announcement that nations containing 85% of the world’s trees will halt deforestation in 2030, GFANZ promises to begin the first of the five-year decarbonising plans in eight years time.
As the biggest “alliance” of capitalist firms in the world, these banks and other financial institutions, hold a great deal of power over the Earth’s future climate. At present they determine what work we are put to and the future direction of the fossil fuel economy. Their deranged compulsion to invest in fossil-fuel expansion sets the tone for the governments at the COP26.
Norway, Australia, Canada and the UK have all trumpeted their commitments to be carbon neutral by 2050 whilst simultaneously licencing new coal, gas and oil extraction for export. A recent IMF report claimed that companies organising fossil fuel extraction and combustion are receiving $5.9 trillion in public subsidies. Rich nations have still failed to live up to a 12 year old promise to provide £100 billion in “climate finance” to poorer nations for mitigation and adaptation.
Yet wealthier nations are spending billions on militarising their borders. A recent report shows that in 2013-2018 seven of the wealthiest nations, responsible for 48% of historic emissions, spent twice as much on border controls as on climate finance.
Most of the impacts of climate change will be felt in the tropics. Those least responsible for the crisis will be the people who bear the biggest burden. Yet workers on the safer side of this murderous climate wall have a common interest with our sisters and brothers in the danger zone in forming organisations capable of seizing productive wealth and ending the rule of profit.
The capitalist class are unable to forgo the profits of fossil fuel expansion and unable to organise international bans that would limit fossil-fuel profitability. Instead they are preparing to prevent the victims of their civilisation-destroying decisions from reaching safety. The chaos of our unplanned, profit-driven economy will lead to political chaos and war. This is the future the capitalist class is currently preparing for us.
Carney’s alliance will not put a halt to the chaos. It only shows the profound limitations of capitalism’s ability to resolve this crisis. GFANZ is an admission that any plan to halt climate change will require the people who control and direct human work to cooperate and coordinate on a global scale according to a “science-aligned goals”. But an alliance of competing private capitalists, who prioritise their own self-enrichment over all else, is unable to enact “science-aligned goals”.
Capitalism’s own tendency towards expansion and monopoly means there is already a high level of centralised planning and international coordination. Yet 450 firms with 40% of the world’s financial assets on their books will always prioritise profit-aligned goals before the needs of people or planet.
Liberating these firms from private ownership is the only way we can hope to enact “science-aligned goals” for a just transition.
Last year, the world saw demonstrations under the slogan Black Lives Matter. If we are to make that a slogan a reality, we need to form our own alliance of workers’ organisations to fight for collective ownership of productive wealth and rational economic planning.
If GFANZ wealth were held in common and deployed by democratic decisions, then human labour could be directed for “science-aligned” transitions to minimise the risk of runaway climate change and limit the damage of the climate change already underway. The lack of profit-chasing and competition would permit a higher level of international coordination.
The only social force that has the interest and potential power to take this private property into social ownership and direct the economy towards “science-aligned goals” is the workers’ movement.
Workers’ organisations are in a bad shape after four decades of defeats but they remain mass organisations of hundred of millions of wage workers. The power of workers’ organisations is based on solidarity across divisions of race, nationality, gender, and sexuality, and on our collective ability to defy the bosses’ orders.
In the UK the Labour Party leaders fear even limited restrictions on fossil capital and support immigration controls. At its 2021 conference Labour voted to expand gas production, alongside a vote for greener policies.
But the leadership of the mass workers’ organisations is a thin layer of a few thousand bureaucrats and career politicians sat on top of a largely passive, disengaged mass membership.
67% of young people in the UK would prefer to live in a socialist society. When even a significant minority of those young people get organised as a socialist force, involved in weekly political activity, then we will be able to win the battle of ideas within the mass workers’ movement, orient it to the climate reality, and build a mass social force fighting for rational democratic planning and collective ownership.