Sam Morden and Dave Carr
Boris Johnson grabbed the headlines with his announcement of a legally binding commitment to a 78% reduction in carbon dioxide gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2035 – some 15 years earlier than previously planned.
However, Johnson’s ‘green’ rhetoric largely consists of recycled headlines. He is trying to pose as a world trendsetter on averting damaging climate change ahead of the delayed COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later this year.
Indeed, Johnson sidesteps where the necessary investment to achieve this significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions is going to come from.
According to the government’s own Climate Change Committee, £50 billion extra investment per year is needed over the next 35 years to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a sizeable sum. But the cost of not doing so will be even greater to the economy. Moreover, it is roughly equivalent to the £900 billion in quantitative easing that UK governments have shelled out over the last decade to keep the capitalist economy afloat.
But the amount the government has pledged is paltry – maybe £3 billion extra in terms of new money. At the same time, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has committed to spend an extra £27 billion on expanding the road network, ie more vehicles pumping out more CO2 and toxic pollutants into the air.
Johnson is largely relying on the private sector to invest in green energy and technology. But it is precisely the capitalist system that puts profit ahead of the environment which has brought us to a ‘climate emergency’. Tory governments’ track record is one of underinvesting in green energy production while giving tax breaks and other subsidies to fossil fuel corporations.
Meanwhile, Britain’s oil and gas rigs burn off enough unwanted gas to heat a million homes a year. The resulting huge CO2 emissions from this ‘flaring’ are equivalent to the annual output from a coal-fired power station.
A recent report by the Cambridge Sustainability Commission shows that it’s the world’s richest who have the largest carbon footprint – not the world’s poor.
Johnson’s ‘building back greener’ post-pandemic hype was immediately overshadowed by news from the International Energy Agency that carbon dioxide emissions – the main driver of global heating in the atmosphere – are expected to rocket upwards this year by the second biggest annual rise in history.
This surge in emissions is the result of capitalist governments pouring investment into polluting fossil fuel energy production – mainly coal-fired power stations – in order to stimulate the global economy as it emerges from its Covid-induced recession.
Sustainable production of goods and services for all can only be achieved through democratically planned socialist economies which would eliminate the corrosive profit motive of capitalism.
- See ‘Building back greener – yet more Tory greenwash’ by Chris Baugh – socialistparty.org.uk
The Socialist Party is standing candidates in the 6 May local elections as part of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC – see back page). Chris Baugh, the former assistant general secretary of the PCS civil servants’ union, who held responsibility for developing the union’s policies for combating climate change, has written a briefing paper for TUSC on what councils can do with their existing powers to implement a green agenda. See tusc.org.uk