Concerns about the environment and climate change have featured highly in news agendas throughout the past week as the United Nations IPPC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) declared a global ‘Code Red’ wakeup call and the need for immediate, urgent and decisive action.
A special meeting of the NI Assembly has been called also to discuss climate change and will be held ahead of the international climate conference organised by the United Nations in Glasgow during October.
Scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change have been ignored consistently by governments and multinational companies alike for decades. The current urgency has been prompted by a series of heatwaves, flash floods, forest fires and record high temperatures all attributable to increasing CO2 omissions.
The lengths to which some government’s, major companies and sections of the media will go to muddy the waters and deflect responsibility are significant. Placing responsibility on individuals – urging us all to use less aerosol deodorant for example – or diverting attention away from the polluters by listing the problem by ‘offending countries’ in a deliberate and dishonest attempt to shift the focus from where it should be.
Damaging changes to the atmosphere, and subsequently the global environment, are caused by the release of ‘greenhouse gases’ (carbon dioxide). The dangerous levels are the direct result of overproduction one of the key characteristics of the capitalist system. Capitalist production operates with one purpose in mind: creating maximum profits for individuals and multinational corporations, irrespective of the consequences for the economy or for the environment.
Capitalism tries to avoid responsibility for the damage it does to the environment. It pushes the responsibility and costs onto others. It is doing it now and it will continue if unchallenged.
Attributing responsibility for climate change to the actions of individuals or specific countries is a smokescreen.
Just 20 global companies are responsible for over 35% of all greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere in the last six decades. Most are oil or fossil fuel producers. The United States military and its global reach ranks 47th in the list of global polluters, and that is based only on its fuel usage.
For as long as the environment is treated as an expendable commodity it will always be at risk.
Unless the central and fundamental issue of the role of capitalist production is addressed, challenged and reversed, the problems for the environment will persist and worsen. Unfortunately, many ‘Greens’ and environmentalists fail to understand or accept this.
While the decision of the NI Assembly to hold a special debate on Climate Change is welcome, it must also come with a health warning. The very people who will be debating the future of the environment are the same MLAs who granted licences for drilling and the use of cyanide for mineral extraction in Greencastle, Co Tyrone an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a fracking licence using a cocktail of chemicals in the search for oil in an area in Co Antrim just a few hundred meters from a water reservoir supplying thousands of local homes.
The environment is not safe in the hands of the current Assembly. It is not safe in the custody of capitalist production.
The Workers Party will be making a formal submission to the Assembly setting out the socialist alternative to safeguarding the environment and the health and well-being of our citizens.