Socialist Worker

Climate change conference: debating how we can save the world

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 2004

Droughts will become more common as weather patterns grow more extreme

Droughts will become more common as weather patterns grow more extreme

The Campaign Against Climate Change’s second annual conference last Saturday was a resounding success. Some 350 people attended a day of meetings and discussion about climate change and what we can do about it.

The conference was three times larger than last year’s.

Discussion centred on building for the national climate demonstration on 4 November.

A speaker from the Stop Climate Chaos group – a coalition including Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and Christian Aid – spoke about how it and the Campaign Against Climate Change should work together.

It was a very productive day, bringing together a wide range of people from a variety of political strands who are united around the issue of tackling the problem of climate change.


But there were also interesting debates about the way forward.

In a discussion on whether living standards must be sacrificed in order to curb the effects of climate change, the room was largely united in the belief that the problem had to be discussed in terms of the system rather than individual changes.

Respect national executive member Elaine Graham-Leigh spoke from the platform. She asked, “Whose living standards are we talking about?

“The way this debate is generally framed doesn’t recognise the reality of most people’s lives. Eating organic, local food is just not an option for most working people because of the cost.

“We can’t make climate change an individual issue, because people are not completely responsible for their lives within the current system.

“The market can deliver some things, such as organic food, but only where there is a profit. The nuclear issue is an example of this. The government looks as though it is set to support new nuclear power stations because they are profitable. And Tony Blair chose the CBI, the business group, as the audience to announce this to.

“We know that we need to encourage more people to use rail, but privatised rail firms cannot deliver this because profit gets in the way.

“The only sensible answer is to renationalise the rail. You can’t address the problem without addressing the system.”

But John, one of the participants in the workshop, said, “We need to be careful about blurring green and red. I think that we could deal with climate change under capitalism.

“We should not alienate people by saying that we need socialism in order to deal with the problem.”

Kate, a campaigner from the West Midlands, said, “I think that we need to move away from an environmental prudishness that lays responsibility at the feet of individuals. That makes people feel guilty if they can’t afford to live a carbon neutral, environmentally friendly life.

“This is a problem that can only be dealt with by forcing governments to take action internationally.”

One of the more contentious issues of the day was that of carbon trading or “contraction and convergence”.

This term covers a range of plans to equalise the carbon emissions per head for each country, or to set slowly reducing emission levels for each country.

Aled Fisher from the Young Greens said, “A system where all nations are given a carbon quota that is then reduced year by year is a real solution.”

In a discussion on the subject, one campaigner from London said, “If each country is given a quota that is then divided up between the adult population I can just see how the BNP and other right wing groups would use it.

“They would say that we can’t allow any more immigration because then everyone would get less of a share.

“One of the problems with this solution is the question of how these quotas would be allocated. It is not a simple question.”

Last December saw demonstrations take place around the world. Goksen Sahin from the Istanbul Climate Campaign in Turkey told Socialist Worker about plans for this year’s demonstration.

She said, “The 3 December march was a real turning point. We had thousands of people on the streets, and it made us realise that this was a real issue in Turkey.

“We have been doing a lot around the nuclear issue, because the government wants to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station.

“On the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster we held an event where we created a human chain.

“We thought a few hundred people would turn up, but over 1,000 came.”


The final plenary session was lively, with nine speakers from various groups addressing a packed theatre.

Former environment minister Michael Meacher told the conference, “The message that has to come out from today is that time is running out. We need action, not rhetoric.

“We have to stop kowtowing to the US – and not just over climate change. Both Bush and Blair believe that this is a problem that can be fixed by big business and technology.

“But big business is the cause not the solution. Britain is blessed in terms of renewables, and we should be using that potential.”

For more information on upcoming events, or to listen to podcasts of sessions, go to

Climate Change: Why Nuclear Power is not the Answer

This new Socialist Worker pamphlet by Martin Empson explains why nuclear power is not the answer to climate change, shows why governments are so keen on nuclear power and looks at the real solutions to the climate crisis.

Available for £1 from Socialist Worker sellers or Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848

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Sat 10 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2004
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