Tony Blair promised that his friend George Bush would sign up to “at least the beginnings” of action to cut carbon dioxide emissions at the forthcoming G8 summit in Rostock, Germany.
That was not exactly true. Even as Blair spoke, the White House was working flat out to water down a proposed statement on climate change to be discussed at the summit.
US officials scrawled “simply cannot agree” in red ink next to modest proposals to limit the global temperature rise this century to 2 degrees Celsius and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to half 1990 levels by 2050.
It doesn’t stop there. The US wants to block any serious decisions being made at the United Nations conference that will discuss a successor to the Kyoto treaty in Bali this December.
Despite this, Blair keeps up the fiction that he will “secure his legacy” by converting Bush to the cause of climate change. This week Blair jetted off on a tour of Africa that officials claim will “build momentum for progress” at the G8 summit.
All this underscores the importance of the grassroots protests that will greet the G8 leaders in Germany. It is this sort of action, not Blair’s delusions of grandeur, that can save our planet.
Labour deputy leadership
Vying to face leftward
The Labour Party was once compared to a rusty wheelbarrow – if you pushed hard enough, you could eventually force it to shift. The New Labour project was designed to immunise the party from any such grassroots pressure.
Yet suddenly the six contenders for the Labour Party deputy leadership are vying to present their left credentials. All except Hazel Blears criticised Margaret Hodge’s recent attack on immigrants. Peter Hain attacked plans to grant police “stop and quiz” powers as “the domestic equivalent of Guantanamo Bay”. Alan Johnson and Jon Cruddas both promised to challenge the charitable status of private schools.
The Financial Times has described Cruddas as being the least pro-business candidate. He is the only candidate to now oppose the war in Iraq, having recanted his previous support. Three million trade union members will have a say in the deputy leadership contest. Cruddas is the only candidate worth supporting.
The failure of John McDonnell to even secure a place on the leadership ballot showed that hopes of reclaiming Labour are fatally flawed.
But the fact that the mass campaign against war and widespread opposition to neoliberalism have impacted into the deputy leadership contest shows that movements from below can shift the unlikeliest of mountains.
Drowning in plastic
The government’s new recycling strategy centres on fining households who are deemed to have produced too much rubbish and rewarding those whose bin bags are light.
But it would be much more effective to challenge the mountains of excess packaging imposed on us all by supermarkets. Some now sell peeled garlic in plastic bags – a product that sums up how fresh items are suffocated in plastic rather than sold in their natural state.
We do need more recycling, with more collections and more collection sites. But we also urgently need to break the supermarkets’ hold on food production.