Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2137

Trading in the planet

Carbon trading is one of those ideas which has always proved a sticking point with socialists involved in environmental campaigns.

Those who hope that it will be used as a mechanism to level the playing field giving no one the right to pollute excessively clash with those who believe that it would be used to reinforce the status quo.

The European Trading Scheme – one example of carbon trading – hit the news last week, with reports that it is making the big corporations richer while doing nothing to help the planet.

This is not the first time that we have heard of the failings of this particular scheme.

The European Union has already faced the embarrassing fact that the scheme, which is designed to reduce the amount of carbon produced, handed out more permits than were needed.

This meant that companies could increase their carbon emissions, and still proudly maintain their “green” status. And Britain even managed to miss that particular target.

Incredibly, the current economic slowdown has meant a soaring trade in emissions. As Bryony Worthington put it in the Guardian last week, “What should have been a way to kick-start investment in much-needed low carbon, efficient technologies is now a cash redistribution exercise.

“Power companies are buying spare permits from heavy industry, and we, the electricity bill payers, are footing the cost. And the additional environmental effect of the scheme is reduced to almost nothing.”

With the current reduction in production we should see a knock on drop in carbon emissions – but the carbon permits are being bought and banked for future use. This should not be allowed to happen.

Instead the jobs lost in carbon heavy industries should be replaced with better, environmental ones.

In an interview with the Observer newspaper at the start of this year, Gordon Brown echoed a line of argument that environmentalists have been pushing for years.

This is that dealing with climate change will create new jobs. Brown said, “Rather than pushing the environment into a lower order of priority, the environment is part of the solution.”

It’s not often that I agree with him, and he has said little of this since, so we should make it clear that we heard and that we expect action on this.

We should be fighting for jobs to help improve the environment. New jobs to insulate our home, build our renewable capacity and improve public transport would just be the beginning.

The Campaign Against Climate Change trade union conference on 6 March is a great opportunity for trade unionists to debate the huge social and economic changes that are needed to dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Mary Peterson, Cornwall

‘Extremists’ at school

I work in education and recently attended a training course on racism awareness at work.

Staff were informed that Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, had put together a tool kit.

This would enable schools to protect “vulnerable” children from violent extremism. The speaker was not referring to the fascist BNP, but of Al Qaida and its supporters.

This local government strategy, we are told, will “help build a safer, stronger community based on ‘our’

core British values” (see » ).

You would expect then, that head teachers would welcome debate in their schools over the question of Palestine.

You would think they would like the chance to engage with the many children and their families who have demonstrated locally and nationally for liberty, tolerance and respect of the law.

Sadly, many heads are denying this request.

This highlights the inadequacies of this strategy and a total reluctance of those in power to address the real concerns of Muslim families – racism, war and poverty.

Louise Harrison, Doncaster

Ed Balls is calling for more training for directors of children’s services in light of the Baby P case. He thinks they have been concentrating too much on schools and not on social services.

The point he is missing is that the people being promoted to these positions of power lack the operational experience required to know and appreciate what is going on beneath them.

Most have dodged the sharp end at the earliest opportunity and progressed by courses, academic qualifications, attending meetings and talking a good job using as much management jargon as they can muster.

Unfortunately we are now paying for this.

There is no substitute for experience and there never will be.

Bob Miller, Chelmsford

We must raise funds for the people of Gaza

The BBC’s refusal to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for aid to Gaza is shocking and disgraceful.

This happened as Palestinians are picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and aid agencies are desperately trying to help.

The DEC is an umbrella organisation for charities such as Action Aid, Oxfam and Islamic Relief.

Lives in Gaza are in acute danger, through lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies – basic human needs.

Most people by now are under no illusion as to the extent of human suffering by the Palestinians – and want to help.

In Huddersfield, at Market Cross, in one collection alone, £620 was kindly donated by people for Medical Aid for Palestine.

It is a responsibility, and a duty, of the media to do their utmost to inform and engage with the general public about world issues.

By not broadcasting the appeal, the BBC is in effect deeming the situation in Gaza as being unworthy of help.

It is making a very political stance.

Far from being impartial it is showing where its allegiance lies. It is siding with Israel.

You can still contact the BBC to lodge your complaint by phoning 03700 100 222.

Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield

System’s crisis made me socialist

I have been self employed for 20 years. I ceased to trade on 20 November last year as a direct result of the economic crisis, and the immediate future looks gloomy.

I now focus much more closely on my politics and have moved from being a Labour Party member to being a socialist.

I don’t think capitalism works.

Most of our world’s problems stem directly from the capitalist, class system.

We are struggling with the ineptitude of the benefits system. The state gives a pittance with one hand, only to take most of it back with the other.

The crossed wires,  confusing forms and misinformation make the entire desperate situation worse for people unemployed and on benefits.

It seems that we are to lose the roof over our heads through the slowness of the housing benefit system.

This is shocking and disgraceful.

I only hope that many others feel the same as me and that we can all move towards seeing the end of capitalism once and for all.

Randolphe Palmer, Essex

Guadeloupe general strike

Thousands of workers in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have been on indefinite general strike since 20 January.

Their demands include benefit increases for low paid workers, pensioners and claimants, tax cuts on essential goods and services and an emergency programme of house building.

Together with a parallel dispute in petrol stations, the strike has virtually paralysed the island.

Water, food and especially petrol are in short supply. Schools and public services are closed and strikers have blocked roads.

More than 20,000 demonstrators have marched through the main city, Pointe-à-Pitre, the equivalent of three million in Britain.

The French president has dispatched a minister to the island with promises to satisfy some of the strikers’ demands.

At the same time, additional police have been sent to intimidate the strikers.

Colin Falconer, Saint-Denis, France

Phillips and the empire

Trevor Phillips and others involved in the Equality and Human Rights Commission (» Police are still racist , 24 January) retain titled positions of social hierarchy relating to the British Empire, contrary to their aims of achieving “equality”.

Giles Gordon, by email

Mobility needs more equality

Former cabinet minister Alan Milburn is due to head an inquiry into why working class people find it hard to break into the “professions”.

His investigation will contribute to a government white paper on social mobility – or the lack of it – in Britain.

We need to find out why social mobility in Britain is so static for so many. It will be interesting to see the results of the government’s research on this social justice issue.

We know from previous research that social mobility is strongly related to income equality.

While mobility is weak in Britain and the US, it is better in more egalitarian Denmark.

I just hope the government report accepts that more equality will make life fairer for working people, and then acts on it.

Graeme Kemp, Shropshire

I’ve cancelled my TV licence

As I was outraged at the BBC’s decision not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) appeal for humanitarian aid for Gaza, I emailed and phoned the corporation to complain and wrote to my local papers.

My TV licence was due for renewal on 1 February so I’ve contacted my bank to cancel the direct debit and will be sending an equivalent amount to the DEC.

How can director general Mark Thompson claim that he needs to be impartial and balanced between humanity and inhumanity, between saving lives and allowing people to die?

Sarah Cox, North West London

We all need right to work

Thank you for Radical Wales (» Raising the red flag for workers’ rights in Wales , 10 January). You are the only newspaper in my working life that has inspired rank and file workers to keep on keeping on!

We are angry in Wales with the misleaders in our movement who misrepresent the struggle from below while they mediate between labour and capital.

The Right to Work campaigns with direct action are part of the memory of our class. These can be used to secure unity between the employed and the unemployed.

Let’s do it.

Colin, Swansea

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Article information

Tue 3 Feb 2009, 18:26 GMT
Issue No. 2137
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