Socialist Worker

Debate: climate change and nuclear power

Issue No. 1978

“It’s just how you like it George — deep fried, plenty of oil, sunny side up”.  (Pic: Leon Kuhn. Available as a postcard from

“It’s just how you like it George — deep fried, plenty of oil, sunny side up”. (Pic: Leon Kuhn. Available as a postcard from

The discussion around Respect’s policy on climate change was a lively one, dealing with issues such as nuclear power, renewable energy and carbon emissions trading.

The session was opened by Elaine Graham-Leigh, who is a member of the Respect national council. She said, “Blair has made it quite clear that he is unwilling to do anything to prevent climate change that might damage the economy.

He has said that we will not see investment in renewable energy unless it is profitable. We have to force the government to put the climate before the economy.”

Brian Collier, a college lecturer and Respect member from Bradford, spoke about his local campaign.

He said, “By 2050 half of Bangladesh could be underwater if we don’t take action now. We’ve held a sponsored walk and raised £300 which we used to book a coach to London so that students can make it down for the climate demo on 3 December.”

Nuclear power was one of the issues up for debate. Greenwich and Lewisham proposed an amendment that asked Respect to take a position that nuclear power would be a solution to the problem of carbon emissions — if the programme was not used to produce nuclear weapons.

The amendment was defeated. Conference instead passed a motion which stated that Respect would actively oppose all forms of nuclear energy.

Martin Empson from Tower Hamlets Respect said, “20 years on from Chernobyl we cannot have a policy that leaves any space for interpretation in favour of nuclear power. Instead we need to take part in the discussions that surround renewable energy and its viability.”

The idea of using “contraction and convergence”, or carbon emissions trading, as a way to tackle the problem of emissions was also up for debate.

An amendment was passed removing the line that was in favour of the idea. Paul McGarr from Tower Hamlets Respect said, “What contraction and convergence would mean is creating a market on the right to pollute.

“It is a solution that relies on the market. The market is not the answer and the solution is enforceable cuts in emissions.”

As the discussion came to a close Phil Thornhill from Campaign against Climate Change was asked to contribute to the discussion. He said, “We must bring down carbon emissions and in order to do that we need international binding treaties.

“And in order to get the governments to act we need an international campaign — so please support the demo.”

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