Climate Crisis and Environment

Left Unity reaffirms itself as an ecosocialist party, active in environmental movements and in social justice campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties. Left Unity thus advocates policies that are both red and green, and is internationalist, feminist and anti-racist/anti-fascist, and works with all organisations and movements – in the UK, in Europe and in the wider world – which share our broad values and aims.

Today, humanity faces the unprecedented threat of an ever worsening series of catastrophes, caused by the interlocked economic and environmental crises brought about by our current economic system. It is now clear that an increase in global average temperature of several degrees means that 50% or more of all species – plants and animals – will be driven to extinction.

The Climate Crisis is woven through all the other issues we tackle. Increasingly frequent extreme weather events, food and water shortages, sea water rises, mass extinctions, economic crises, waves of patriarchal violence (and the hyper-oppression of women in the spheres of economics, social policies and practices, and sexual violence,) pandemics, power shortages, all link to the climate crisis.

In the time of disaster capitalism, and the role of primitive accumulation, Capital will attempt to exploit all these crises for short term gain.

Ecological devastation, resulting from the insatiable need to increase profits, is not an accidental feature of capitalism: it is built into the system’s DNA and cannot be reformed away. International policies like carbon ‘cap and trade’ that allow companies to buy the ‘rights’ to pollute, or an ecotax that ends up punishing the poor, are all measures that will not work in the long term to save the planet – instead giving the rich and powerful nations and individuals the right to continue to pollute legally.

Mass extinction, accelerating at an unprecedented rate, is caused by the capitalist system’s abuse of nature. Our human civilisation depends on the eco-system services provided by healthily functioning natural systems: clean water, clean air, healthy soil for crops, and insects for pollination.

A combination of factors – the impact of global heating because of the dirty fossil fuel companies, the intensive global meat and dairy agri-businesses, the trade in wild animals, deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats – has resulted in dangerously disrupted ecosystems. As a consequence, an increasing number of viruses are crossing over to humans from both wild and farmed animals. Covid-19 is the fourth pathogen since 2002 to have spilled over to humans – of over 300 new diseases that have emerged since 1960, at least 60% have originated with non-human animals.

Left Unity therefore calls for support for low-impact and sustainable agriculture, and for more localised systems of food production and consumption – both of which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of the natural world.

We also campaign for significant reductions in the global meat and dairy industries – because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions, the massive use of freshwater, and the on-going deforestation (especially of tropical rainforests) associated with it. As another response to this, Left Unity also welcomes the growing trend towards veganism and vegetarianism – especially amongst young people – as one way to reduce the destructive ecological impacts of the industrialised meat and dairy industries, though recognising that, on their own, individual lifestyle choices will not solve the problem.

Left Unity also calls for radical changes to land ownership and usage – in particular, Left Unity would end taxpayer handouts to the owners of grouse moors, ban the burning of blanket bog, and ban grouse shooting, thus putting an end to such unsustainable land uses. Instead, we would open up access to those moors, and encourage landowners to bring wilderness back to our uplands. As part of this, Left Unity would also ban all forms of hunting wildlife with dogs (including fox hunting), all other blood ‘sports’ (including shooting wildlife for commercial reasons or for fun), the use of snares, and put an end to the badger culls. Where necessary for ecological reasons, humane culling will be licensed and carried out by trained professionals’.

Agribusiness, concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, pollutes air, water, and soil, reduces biodiversity, and contributes to global climate change. Nowhere in Britain is power more concentrated than in the countryside. It is estimated that almost 69% of the land is owned by 0.6% of the population, and the biggest 174 landowners in England take £120m in agricultural subsidies between them. In addition to ending the secrecy surrounding landownership, we advocate the imposition of a limit to the area of land any private individual or commercial company can own and the expansion of public and social land ownership.

To this end Left Unity advocates the following policies:

(a) the imposition of a limit to the area of land any private individual or commercial company can own (which will vary from area to area based on soil type and other factors of production)

(b) the defence and expansion of public and social land ownership which incorporates public values (sustainable farming, democratic access to land, wildlife and heritage conservation, public access, etc), such as local council ownership (such as the County Council Smallholdings Estates), conservation trusts, sustainable farming trusts, etc.

(c) the introduction of a strong ‘Community Right To Buy’ law, similar to the one recently introduced in Scotland – this will give local communities a stake in the country and allow them to ‘take back control’.

(d) the use of the agricultural subsidy system to help small farmers who are animal-welfare and nature-conservation friendly, stay and return to the land. This should include means testing, capping and statutory targeting of all agri-environmental subsidies.

(e) an end to the fire sales of public land, and to subsidies to wealthy landowners simply for owning land.

(f) the imposition of a set of environmentally-sustainable and democratic responsibilities on landowners – including rewilding in order to protect bees and other pollinators.

(g) an end to all tax avoidance schemes for landowners, and steps to stop landowners from hoarding land and leaving homes empty – these actions would help solve the housing crisis.

Zero Carbon by 2030

We need to rapidly replace polluting ‘sunset’ industries with alternative green energy and production systems, in order to achieve zero carbon by 2030. Such steps would also curb the aviation and ‘fast-fashion’ industries. The organisation of the working class is essential in our response to this. This needs to be done via a just transition to secure, well-paid and unionised jobs with good conditions of employment. Investment in a radical Green New Deal, and the ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ campaign, will allow new ways of working to emerge, using the skills of working people.

Part of such a transition will include reducing the working week, without loss of pay, to allow more leisure time and to reduce unemployment – especially amongst young people. Trade unions thus need to recognise that this must be a time of change and, in particular, launch a campaign to recruit young people and those in ‘precarious’ employment.

Left Unity recognises the many and varied organisations springing up around the twin climate and ecological crises, and especially welcomes the emergence of youth-led campaigns calling for rapid and effective responses to the climate and ecological emergencies.

Left Unity will endeavour to work in harmony with these groups, whilst maintaining a ‘System Change’ approach that, ultimately, aims at replacing capitalism with a socially-just and ecologically-sustainable ecosocialist society.

Left Unity recognises the need for mass organisations and campaigns to win immediate interim concessions and reforms from big business. Such demands to include an end to subsidies on fossil fuels and those funds to be used for massive investment in green energy systems. Less than 100 corporations are currently responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions: such polluters to be made to pay for the damage they do: for instance, by a carbon ‘fee and dividend’ scheme, where dirty energy companies are taxed at the point of production, and the money to be distributed to citizens, with the poorest people receiving the greatest payments.

We are against any plans for fracking, with its potential for triggering earth tremors, polluting water supplies and causing massive damage and disruption to local environments and communities, or any other unconventional oil, gas or coal extraction methods. We also oppose a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Reduce energy use

It is possible for us to dramatically reduce our energy demands through the energy-efficiency retrofitting of homes, offices and industrial premises, and by improving transport systems. We need an energy conservation strategy involving a massive infrastructural investment and reconstruction programme to make all existing homes and workplaces energy efficient. Such a programme has been proposed in the pamphlet One Million Climate Jobs and we fully endorse its proposals.

Transport accounts for 24% of our greenhouse gas emissions and demand is predicted to continue to grow. But simply providing for anticipated demand is wasteful, damaging and unsustainable. A publicly owned and democratically controlled public transport system would not only be able to integrate its various transport modes into a seamless service but would be able to experiment with new and more environmentally benign transport solutions. Local transport systems should be free at the point of use.

End fuel poverty

Fuel poverty is a major social crisis in the UK. There are over five million households in fuel poverty – needing to spend more than 10% of their income on energy in order to keep warm. We are for the public ownership of the public utilities: water, electricity and gas.

Under the current pricing system, the more energy you use, the cheaper it gets. This means that those with the lowest incomes pay the most for their energy, because they use the least, while the luxury consumption of the rich is subsidised by the rest of us. A fair pricing system would reverse this, making the first units of energy used cheap or even free, with prices increasing as usage grows.

Some climate change is now inevitable, the question is how much and for how long and how much damage will it do. For us, socialism is the best way to manage the resources of the planet and ensure their democratic distribution in such a way that we are not destroying the environment to make a profit – as the corporations and energy companies are.

GM

In principle, genetic modification of plants (GM), a very powerful though potentially very dangerous technology, could play a useful role in developing more productive plant strains that are resistant to particular pests and diseases, more drought resistant or which require no artificial fertiliser. However, the big agrochemical companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow are more interested in using the technology to make farmers around the world dependent on their other products – fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides.

Therefore, while we support continuing research in genetic engineering, we also support a moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms in commercial agriculture.

Animal welfare

Factory farming is a major cause of cruelty to animals. It is also the cause of significant harm to human health, to the environment and to communities throughout the world.
Factory farming must be abolished and caring, sustainable farming methods put in its place.

We would abolish cruel factory farming systems such as cages and crates, stop feeding farm animals human-edible crops and stop the routine use of antibiotics on farm animals to prevent diseases that are caused by crowded and stressful conditions.

Left Unity recognises the huge opportunities for a better life for all that can come from tackling the climate and ecological catastrophes, and we will continue to campaign for that better world. Central to this would be much more local and democratic control of energy and food systems which would also help to reduce fuel and food poverty.

Left Unity recognises that as times get harder and life far less certain, people can adopt strange ideas, explanations, and religions, spread both by manipulated social media and by the mass media. Left Unity will work to developing increased popular understanding of science.

Ultimately, Left Unity recognises that ecosocialism is the only answer to a dying planet, and thus works internationally with the Party of the European Left, and other comrades across Europe and beyond, on this campaign.

 


Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.

About Left Unity   Read our manifesto

Left Unity is a member of the European Left Party.

Read the European Left Manifesto  

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