January 4, 2011
1. The failure of climate protection reflects the primacy of short-term competitive self-interest by nations and corporations.
2. Proposals to downplay the urgent necessity to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions for economic or political reasons only hasten climate catastrophe.
3. A real solution requires an independent global climate movement that can hold all countries and corporations accountable.
4. Such an independent movement can force countries and corporations to compete in a global race to cut greenhouse gasses, just as the global anti-nuclear movement forced countries to compete in a “peace race.”
5. While some deny or downplay the dangers of climate change, the climate protection movement must educate the public to understand that the climate threat is not just in some distant land or distant future but that it is a real and present danger here and now.
6. Climate protection can’t wait for national governments to act; it requires action by everyone from individuals to international organizations and at every level from local to global.
7. Climate protection requires using the market to “put a price on carbon,” but it must go far further than that, making the transition to a low-ghg economy as serious a social priority as war production was during World War II.
8. The effort to create “green jobs” for a transition to a low-ghg economy has stalled and is likely to revive only if there are binding requirements for ghg reductions and public policies that go beyond market incentives to make that transition a social priority.
9. Preventing climate catastrophe requires redefining the global economy from economic competition among rival nations and corporations to a “Global Green New Deal” in which the shibboleths of neoliberalism are replaced by global cooperation to rebuild the global economy on a low-ghg basis.
Late in 2010, the global climate coalition 1Sky asked a group of climate leaders to address the question:
What is needed over the coming few years if we hope to achieve reductions in carbon emissions at the necessary level?
2010 had been a rough year for those struggling to address the climate crisis. The long-anticipated Copenhagen climate change summit broke down in wrangling and discord. The US Congress abandoned efforts to pass climate legislation. A well-financed effort to deny global warming and block any restriction on fossil fuels seemed to be developing a powerful popular base.
Meanwhile, scientists reported that global temperatures in the 2010 climate year were the hottest since records began a century ago. An ice sheet four times the size of Manhattan broke off the Arctic ice pack. Los Angeles saw its hottest day in history.
Clearly the answer to 1Sky’s question is not “more of the same.” The effort to avert climate catastrophe needs to reevaluate its strategy. The Labor Network for Sustainability offers this discussion paper as a contribution to that reevaluation.
LNS is an independent network of individuals which seeks to promote an informed but freewheeling discussion in and around the labor movement of what it will really take to create a sustainable future. LNS regards sustainability as including but going beyond the environment to equally encompass social and economic sustainability as well. It views the fight against global warming as part of a broad shift in society’s principles and vision – a shift from honoring greed to honor- ing what’s good for the health of the planet and the people on it first and foremost.
LNS believes that climate change presents an existential threat to working people along with the rest of humanity. To avoid unimaginable catastrophe, we must reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions to the level that climate science says is safe. But as a matter of justice and of political reality, we must do so in a way that provides an acceptable future for working people around the globe. The strategy proposed in this discussion paper reflects those convictions.
The fact that the climate crisis is developing in the context of on-going global economic crisis is currently impeding progress on climate protection. The strategy proposed in this paper is designed to create a broad base for change that will provide synergistic solutions to both crises.
As global climate negotiations at Cancun fail to establish binding science-based cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and as US President Obama backs away from even mild climate protection legislation, we hope this paper will contribute to the search for a new way forward.