Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Climate Change Action? Hmmmm.....

A Climate Change Action Camp has been set up on squatted land near Drax Power Station in England. The camp is to draw peoples attention to the contribution of dirty old coal fired power stations to global warming and give a space for activists to meet, discuss and plan. So far, so good. There are plans apparently to blockade or invade the plant to symbolically "shut it down" for a period of time. Spokespeople for the protestors have been quote on the media as saying they want Drax immediately shut down and this in turn has been attacked by the National Union of Mineworkers amongst others.

Coming in a week where two big environmental stories in Britain have been "spy chips" in wheelie bins and the New Labour think tank IPPR arguing for something which sounds suspiciously like Ireland's notorious "Bin Tax" on waste, the Climate Change action raises further questions about what is meaningful action for Greens, and what is counter productive. As a libertarian ecosocialist I have problems with all these proposals.

The media are able to present the climate change action as unreasonable, with no practical proposals - as the NUM representative pointed out that rapidly closing Britain's coal fired power stations at the moment would cause the "lights to go out". Aggressively calling for industrial closures has bad memories for miners and others in the energy industry. It drives a wedge between campaigners and workers. From an ecosocialist perspective, miners and energy workers are potential allies in calling for technical changes that will make a "fossil fuel bridge" to a largely renewables based energy system possible. Clean coal and carbon capture technology must be a common demand. Of course energy consumption and demand must also be reduced and there is much scope for energy efficiency, micro/local generation, fast expansion of renewables etc. But the question is, how do we counter the demand for a new generation of nuclear power, or avoid the import of nuclear or fossil fuel generated energy from Europe? There must be planned conversion, under democratic control, from dirty fossil fuel (and Drax is amongst the dirtiest) and nuclear energy to renewables, with help and protection for displaced workers and their full involvement in the process.

It must be added that I have no problem with the form of the action at Drax, direct action is an important weapon in our armoury, nor with the criticisms of the plant's pollution record - it is the presentation and stated demands I am questioning.

Back to the other stories - The less said about the IPPR the better, and it was interesting to see the "big business friendly" so-called 'Green' Alliance chiming in, in support of them. Here is some of what I have posted on Urban 75 on the issue:

Without indulging in excessive ad hominem we have to look at the source of this idea and the talking heads called in to back them. It is I understand an idea of the new-labour friendly IPPR. The talking heads called in in support are from Green Alliance - the big business greenwashing outfit that works alongside Porritt's collaborationist Forum for The Future. It is of a piece therefore with the rest of the neo-liberal, nulabour corporate agenda. Charges and profit making potential are a favourite to make 'services' more appealing for private sector take over (PFI, contracting out etc etc)
Friends of the Earth also back this sort of idea - I have criticised this. In our local campaigns we crossed out the bit in FoE's recent standardised letter on the waste stratgy review that called for this sort of thing.
The "Bin Tax" in Ireland was a similar shameful initiative.
It seems that the neo-liberals only have to paint some marketising, punitive or regressive initiative in terms of some essential 'green' aims for some on the 'progressive' left to roll over and stuff the workers and those on low incomes.
The fact is, there are at least three major reasons for the low UK recycling rate IMO -
1/ Councils have not developed doorstep collection of a broad enough range of materials yet, leading to in many areas 50% plus of the waste stream being classified as non-recyclable or compostable even in the best case scenario. Whilst this is the case, talking of charges for non-recyclables is just a smoke screen as suggested above. Many councils still have pathetic recycling/composting rates, made worse where incineration is an option - see the effect in places like Sheffield where they see no reason to exceed minimum rates that are set.
2/ The government, in hock to the waste companies and their greedy desire to convert much of the waste stream to profitable (for them) mass burn incineration are quite happy to let 40-50% plus of the waste stream go up in smoke. (And recyclables create more calorific value in burning for "Energy from waste" plants etc than some other parts of the waste stream)
3/ Packaging is one of the most profitable of industries. It made the fortune of the Rausing family who regularly used to top the rich lists. Despite their protestation that Tetrapaks etc are recyclable, these companies know that two or three-ply type materials like these are damned hard and expensive to recycle and account for a large amount of residual waste. Governments have shown a marked reluctance to confront these powerful vested interests (surprise surprise)


All this is just more proof of the need for an ecosocialist perspective to become more broadly held and known in both the green and labour movements and facilitate prctical and co-operative action for economic, ecological and social change.

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