Socialist Worker

How we can fight for a carbon-free society

A carbon free economy will mean a fundamental reorganisation of society

Issue No. 2631

Extinction Rebellion demands a rapid total decarbonisation of the economy

Extinction Rebellion demands a rapid total decarbonisation of the economy' (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A report released last week was yet another reminder of the scale of the climate crisis—and our ruler’s deadly inaction.

The Brown to Green report, produced by the Climate Transparency research group, assesses action on climate change by the G20 group of richest countries.

The report shows that, since the Paris Agreements in December 2015, 15 nations reported a rise in carbon emissions. Some 82 percent of energy in these countries still comes from coal, oil and gas.

Increasingly alarming research from climate scientists is contributing to a renewed resistance on the streets.

Brown to Green was released just days before last Saturday’s Extinction Rebellion protest. One of the direct action group’s central demands is a “rapid total decarbonisation of the economy”. At the campaign’s launch in October, activists said they wanted a carbon-free Britain by 2025.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last month said carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 50 percent in the next twelve years.

It also said that the Earth’s temperature must not be allowed to rise above 1.5 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels.

Global temperature rises are largely caused by increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

We are currently on track for a 3.2 degree increase. If this happens sea levels will rise, species will become extinct and coastal areas will be decimated.

The rich and powerful have an interest in delaying action on carbon emissions as much as possible.

Because competition is built into capitalist society, bosses resist changes that could harm their profits. An energy fat cat that decided they wanted to stop polluting the atmosphere and prevent their firms from generating dangerous emissions would quickly be replaced by shareholders.

Capitalism is a blinkered system based on short-term profits

But ordinary people can stop the people at the top from wrecking the planet.

Protests are an important part of that. We can also fight to get the issue taken up by trade unions, some of which argue for nuclear power to replace carbon-based power.

Their argument focuses on protecting their members’ jobs building and running nuclear power stations, for instance.

But work which builds renewable energy sources should be the priority.

Extreme weather will become more likely, leading to more droughts and flooding, which in turn will affect agriculture. But it’s only a small number of firms responsible for polluting our planet.

The Carbon Disclosure Project said that 71 percent of greenhouse gas emissions between 1988 and 2013 have been produced by just 100 companies.

Oil companies aren’t looking to curb their emissions, they’re fighting to maintain their profits at all costs.

A “decarbonised economy” would mean more than flipping a switch—it will need a massive reorganisation of infrastructure.

There would need to be a nationalised transport industry providing properly run services so people don’t have to rely on fossil fuel-powered transport.

There would need to be a programme of building energy efficient homes, and retrofitting houses with insulation.

Capitalism is a blinkered system based on short-term profits.

A more democratic society could end the chaos which could destroy life as we know it—just so a few billionaires can stay rich.

The problem has never been more urgent, and will require all of us to fight for a future that doesn’t cost the Earth.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.