Crack six big eggs to make climate omelette

Submitted by Matthew on 8 November, 2017 - 1:17 Author: Neil Laker

To limit the devastation of climate change, we need a rapid move to end dependence on fossil fuels. But what the Labour Party is currently advocating on this question is insufficient in urgency, scale and ambition.

Its present policy fails the working class employed in carbon-intensive jobs, as well as the millions from whom energy companies draw their scandalous profits. We need democratic control of energy as a measure both to fulfil our obligations to minimise climate change and as a positive step towards full socialist ecological planning.

During this year’s election, Labour said it would:
• introduce an energy price cap
• create manufacturing and energy jobs through large renewable energy projects
• “support the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers, with at least one if every region”
• legislate “to permit publicly owned local companies to purchase the regional grid infrastructure, and to ensure that national and regional grid infrastructure is brought into public ownership over time”. (For the Many Not the Few)

This was a major advance from the timidity of Labour’s previous policy. Yet it remains far from what is necessary to reduce fossil fuel consumption in time to avoid major tipping points in the Earth System.

One major issue is that Labour’s strategy will maintain a competitive market framework in both energy generation and supply. The new public companies will compete against the existing suppliers, allowing the Big Six companies [1] which dominate UK energy chance to continue profiting from climate change. It dangerously leaves emissions reduction to the dynamics of a market, rather taking control of that process.

These issues would be most effectively resolved through abolition of market relations in energy by taking energy infrastructure and those companies under democratic control.

We want their assets in public hands, and the workers in their employ to become responsible to the environment and to ending of fuel poverty, not the shareholders of the Big Six.

We don’t want to put those workers out of jobs by competing with them in an energy market. Luckily that is not the choice.

We could have a process involving the phasing-out of carbon and modernisation of infrastructure with re-skilling at the forefront. This would allow for the development of both large scale and community-owned renewable projects developing at the expense of fossil fuel energy generation.

Climate change underlines the need for the development of the British left towards unapologetic class politics and transformation of the economic relations which have led to ecological crisis. But the current approach from Labour on energy reflects the impasse of their wider economic strategy

Their policies avoid major confrontations with powerful interests (in this case the Big Six; in a wider sense the super rich and financial class) to appear amicable to both wealthy and dispossessed. But advancing workers’ interests and delivering on climate justice with the necessary urgency requires far more than that. It requires renewed initiative to organise workers in polluting industries, while supporting climate justice politics in their unions.

It requires ending the private ownership model which makes carbon emissions and the destruction they entail profitable.
And it means a shift to a new way of looking at the world based on the value of lives and ecosystems, starting with democratic ownership and ecological planning in industry.

We need to crack six big eggs to make a climate justice omelette.

[1] The big six: British Gas, EDF, E-on, Npower, SSE, Scottish Power. They own and run over 92% of operations in UK energy provision. Since 2007 their profits have increased tenfold.

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