The Tories are savaging “green polices” in a desperate effort to dredge up votes. It is part of the same strategy that ministers have launched over migration and refugees, trans rights and other issues.
Any success they achieve is also because the Labour Party is defensive, draws back even from its meagre environmental pledges, and offers so little to working class people. On a trip to Scotland, Rishi Sunak this week confirmed he would sign off on up to 100 North Sea oil and gas licences.
He is also reviewing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, questioning “Net Zero” policies and seeking to “liberate” car owners from any restrictions. This follows the Tories hanging on in last month’s Uxbridge by‑election after they targeted the Ulez charge that affects older, dirtier vehicles in London.
Labour mayor Sadiq Khan is extending the charge’s reach this month. Campaign group Just Stop Oil said the North Sea announcement was “100 crimes against humanity”. It added that Sunak and the Tories are “addicted to power and illegal donations from the fossil fuel industry”.
“They are shamelessly stoking ‘culture wars’ and spinning endless lies to keep themselves in power. Every new oil and gas licence makes it harder for the world to reach net-zero emissions and to stop global heating. Every delay in stopping global heating means worse climate impacts and more suffering.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland said, “New oil and gas licences equals climate breakdown denial. “The world is on fire and the Britith government is helping the arsonists look for more fuel.”
Just last month in London a high pollution danger alert was issued. The office of London Mayor Sadiq Khan asked residents to consider walking or taking public transport to try and ensure air pollution wouldn’t get any worse. The air quality was made worse by temperatures that rose to 27 degrees Celsius and unusually high winds that blew in more pollutant particles from Europe.
Both main parties think ordinary people are too stupid or consumed by economic concerns to care about the planet. But as fires have swept Europe, more people are waking up to the reality of the climate crisis. Dealing with the emergency means fighting the Tories’ policies.
But it also requires much more than tinkering with the present system or small reforms. According to the Carbon Majors Report, which was updated in 2020, the top 108 fossil fuel firms are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions since 1751.
This is the year often used as the baseline for global warming. Half of those emissions have been emitted since 1990. And just 20 of those companies are responsible for 30 percent of global emissions. This is the power structure that has to be confronted.
The Tories are making bogus claims that carbon capture could be the antidote for reducing emissions. Rishi Sunak promised the government would provide £20 billion of funding to develop carbon capture, utilisation and storage.
But carbon capture is an entirely unrealistic solution to the climate crisis. It’s only real function is to keep fossil fuel profits flowing. Environmental writer George Monbiot said, “Carbon capture and storage has been promised for 20 years. It has never materialised and never will.
“Its sole purpose is to create the impression that oil and gas drilling is compatible with a habitable planet. Any politician promoting it is working for the fossil fuel industry.” The aim of carbon capture and direct air capture is to harvest carbon dioxide emissions at the point at which it is made.
It is expensive and would have to be rolled out on a far greater scale than anyone has yet managed to have any hope of reducing emissions. Sunak is only pushing carbon capture because it suits his agenda. He can appear to care about keeping emissions down while also showing the bosses who will keep the fossil fuel industry alive.
Bosses will be able to pollute Britain and make extra money doing it, thanks to the Tories. This month the government made changes to the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, which was set up in 2021 following Britain’s exit from the European Union.
The scheme claims to ensure that companies are charged for producing vast amounts of carbon emissions, but it has always contained loopholes. The government gave big producers of emissions allowances to cover the cost, known as free allocations. This allowance was reduced over time, incentivising businesses to reduce emissions.
But this month the Tories dialled back on this scheme by expanding allowances and making them more available to the bosses of big firms. The change in the scheme has had a knock-on effect of momentarily reducing electricity bills.
Sunak believes it could boost investment and reduce inflation. Once again the government is making it easier for the bosses to produce as many tonnes of deadly emissions as it takes for them to make a profit.
People who voted Tory in 2019 but are thinking of switching to Labour think bolder environmental policies are needed. A poll last week showed 57 percent thought Sunak had not done enough about the issue, and just 9 percent believed he had gone too far.
Yet Labour cringes whenever there is any suggestion it might be over-zealous with its green agenda. This is backed by some union leaders who portray green policy as an attack on jobs. We need policies that are pro-working class, and that includes the urgent task of protecting the environment and halting climate change.
Protesters told Socialist Worker why they were marching