Climate justice, jobs and peace – parts of the same struggle

After a summer marked by oppressive heat, devastating forest fires and, above all, by the alarming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), September 24 saw worldwide mobilizations by environmental organizations, youth and students, unions and others to demand action for climate justice. In 2019, Quebec was the site of massive mobilizations – including 500,000 who marched in Montreal – and this year, the Parti communiste du Québec (PCQ-PCC) called for even larger demonstrations to defend the environment and build class struggle.

We are encouraged that strike votes have been held in CEGEPs and universities, showing the commitment that youth have for climate justice. We also hope that the trade union movement – key to this fight as in all social and political struggles and the advancement of all progressive demands – will be present to remind “climate skeptics” that there is no contradiction between employment and environment as long as we escape the narrow paradigm of capitalism which is based on exploiting the working class and plundering natural resources.

The IPCC report published this summer notes that climate change is worse than we thought. In particular, Canada is warming 2.5 times faster than the global average. Its first victims are Indigenous peoples and nations, who benefit the least from industrial development in Canada.

This injustice is exacerbated by the fact that the Liberal government has not hesitated to pay billions for a pipeline that no one wants (except the oil industry moguls) and which is, moreover, unprofitable. This same government also did not hesitate to send the RCMP to subdue Indigenous land defenders.

In Quebec, GNL Québec’s Énergie Saguenay LNG (liquefied natural gas) project has been abandoned. This is partly due to the mobilization against this project which would have put Quebec back several decades in terms of CO2 emissions. Without this opposition, it’s a safe bet that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) would have continued with it. But the battle is not over. The Legault government is one of the least sensitive to the environment, so other projects are to be expected.

The “green” plan that CAQ presented last year seeks only to commodify the defense of the environment. However, neither carbon exchanges (which are only pollution rights sold to the highest bidder) nor subsidies to “green” companies are the solution to the environmental crisis.

We know that 100 companies are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. We also know that the military-industrial complex is the most polluting sector of activity. The US military (to which Canada is linked through NATO) pollutes more than 140 countries and the Department of National Defence is the largest CO2 emitter in Canada’s climate budget with 59 percent of emissions.

We have no interest in muddy theories that prioritize individual behavior. These are petty bourgeois theories which disregard the fact that if a worker does not consume organic food or is obliged to take their car to go to work, it is because low income or high housing prices or poor public transit mean they cannot live close to their workplace because their low wages mean they cannot afford food grown nearby or because they are consumed by their work and simply have neither time nor energy. Big Business is responsible for the destruction of our environment – not workers. As with any other crisis generated by capitalism, it is not for us to pay for their crisis.

Several such individualistic theories are used to attack “third world” countries, particularly as a pretext for escalating the new Cold War against China. But China is so far the only country to have reached its COP21 targets – and it did so ahead of schedule. Moreover, these attacks against the countries of the “third world” are unjustified because their per capita CO2 emissions are significantly lower than those of Canada.

It is hypocritical to speak of climate justice without speaking of social justice or the struggle against imperialism and militarism. As long as natural resources – the key sectors of our economy – are not placed under public, democratic control and as long as the key sectors of our economy are tied to the logic of capitalism, then defense of our environment will only be illusory.

It is in this same vein – where we see the environmental issue as a means of strengthening the struggle of the working class against Big Business rather than reconciling them – that we fight for the imposition of criminal sentences for polluters, including imprisonment.

Ultimately, safeguarding the environment, defending working and living conditions as well as promoting global peace and solidarity are parts of the same struggle against large transnational companies and the military-industrial complex. It is a struggle which demands that the ruling class of imperialist countries pay their fair share first. It is not a struggle limited by scientific constraints – it is a struggle limited only by this putrid system based on the exploitation of workers and nature: capitalism.

Parti communiste du Québec (PCQ-PCC)

Translated from French by PV staff

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