Climate change is here – we need to act

Fran, who addressed a major climate strike rally in Newcastle last week, explains why our union believes we need to make the case for radical action on climate change.

The summer of 2019 has broken records on heat, we have experienced the hottest July ever. In response to the 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calling for a rapid and radical transformation of our economies by 2030, PCS, on 25 June, declared a climate emergency.  

The same neoliberal forces that have brought about gross inequality and poverty have played a crucial role in poisoning the planet.

This year we have seen further climate disasters. Hurricane Dorian which recently ravaged the Bahamas was made bigger, wetter and more deadly by global warming.

We have seen an unprecedented number of wildfires in the Arctic with the most severe in Alaska and Siberia, alongside flooding.

The burning of the Amazon rainforest is the most graphic and violent display of the corporate greed that is fuelling climate change. Because climate change isn't just an environmental issue, it's a class issue.

Slow progress

Capitalism has only existed for a tiny fraction of the Earth's life, but the continual growth at its core is totally incompatible with the drive to reduce carbon emissions. The slow progress made by some of the world’s most powerful nations shows that the political status quo simply will not do.

In the US, Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, is a devastating step backwards. Here in the UK, the Tory government has spent less than 10% of the money allocated to clear up our country’s air.

The Brazilian trade union confederation says that the attack by the Bolsanaro government on the Amazon and the policies that helped to protect it is clearly linked to the interests of Brazilian mining companies and large agribusiness, who promote various forms of precarious work.

Tackling climate change

Tackling climate change is not just about political will though, it is ideological. The policies that have led to stagnant wages, zero-hours contracts, foodbanks and extreme inequality, are the same ones that are preventing serious action on climate change – profits for the few, generated by privatisation, liberalisation, and deregulation policies.

The idea that market signals will lead us out of this crisis is a fantasy. We need a national plan across the whole economy, coupled with a just and transformative transition for all workers to rapidly decarbonise our economy by 2030. Some say this is not achievable; PCS believes this view is not an option.

Growing movement

Support for the Green New Deal movement is growing fast all over the world, in Canada, in the US, In Spain and In Greece.This is great. And whilst the drive for people to change their habits is welcome, what we need is a fundamental shift, and unions across the globe should be at the forefront.

School students have clearly said they are in fear for their future. They, and generations after them will have to deal with any further inaction by us. They have reached out to the labour movement to join them on the streets and we have shown them that climate change is a trade union issue and a social justice issue.

PCS believes it is therefore incumbent on us to lead in making the case for radical action to avoid the impending catastrophe for working class people both now and in the future.

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