September 15-17 March to End Fossil Fuels – “Decarbonize and demilitarize!”
As we head to press, preparations are underway for an historic global mobilization calling for a rapid, just and equitable end to fossil fuels. Across Canada and around the world, people will be in the streets from September 15-17, as part of the student-driven March to End Fossil Fuels ahead of the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 17.
This summer was one of drought, record heat waves, flooding and huge storms. These events are not anomalies – rather, they are part of a disturbing trend toward more frequent and severe weather conditions, and they confirm a consensus among the scientific community that the deepening climate crisis presents a serious and imminent threat.
Clearly, we are quickly approaching a junction – either take concrete action to end carbon emissions or face disastrous consequences. “The clock is ticking loudly, but a change of direction is still possible,” stated Communist Party leader Elizabeth Rowley. “Every genuine effort to cut emissions is important – and we may yet develop useful strategies through scientific research – but we need to be decisive and move away from gimmicks like offsets, carbon capture and storage, or geoengineering which are not solutions to the climate crisis.”
Rowley also notes that militarism and war are a huge part of the problem and must be addressed by climate activists. “Waging imperialist wars to seize natural resources in other countries – like grabbing lithium to use in batteries – is a violation of climate justice.”
At the heart of the climate crisis is decades upon decades of capitalist expansion. An economic system based on the maximization of private profits is fundamentally incompatible with a safe, livable natural environment. With its roots in the exploitation of human labour and the extraction of natural resources, capitalism cannot be reformed into “green capitalism.”
But Rowley insists that simply criticizing capitalism is not enough. “We have to replace this for-profit system with a socialist one that prioritizes the needs of humanity and the natural environment – and this means we need to build the class struggle,” she said. “To finance a just transition away from fossil fuels, we must slash global military spending from the current $2 trillion annual levels. So, environmental movements need to put demilitarization front and center in their demands – there is no future for life on earth without ending the arms race.”
Rowley told PV that the Communist Party has been mobilizing its membership to help build the climate justice movement, including the September 15-17 global actions. Party efforts including promoting a working-class approach to the environment that includes:
- Public ownership of energy resources, which puts the needs of people and the environment ahead of profit and can help dramatically reduce carbon emissions.
- An end to energy extraction and export policies which expand corporate profits and power at the expense of Indigenous rights and people’s health and safety – ending these policies means cancelling all tar sands-related pipeline projects and halting all fracking operations, while guaranteeing jobs at equivalent wages for affected energy workers.
- Replacing cap-and-trade and carbon tax schemes, legislating strict limits for pollution and hard emissions caps to reduce them to zero by 2050, along with heavy penalties for corporations which break the law, including jail time for corporate executives.
- Cutting Canada’s military spending by 75 percent, to end the huge carbon footprint related to deployment of fighter jets, the naval fleet and other military purposes.
- Creating an overall green jobs plan to tackle social, economic, transport and environmental priorities – this includes investing in sustainable industrial processes and expand renewable energy sources, especially solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power.
- Building and delivering free urban public transit and affordable interurban rail transit and bus services, including a much higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and a publicly owned Canadian auto industry to build affordable and fuel-efficient electric vehicles.
- Building one million units of publicly controlled and environmentally sustainable rent-geared-to-income housing, and upgrading existing housing units to be safe, secure, affordable, accessible and environmentally sound.
- Transitioning to a zero-waste economy, with higher standards for product design, reduced packaging, labelling and collection after use to improve waste diversion rates.
- Reducing energy costs by promoting sustainable domestic agriculture and farmland preservation.
- Building an east-west power grid based on publicly owned and democratically controlled provincial electrical utility systems which include production, distribution, transmission and a bulk electricity system market, to ensure an affordable, safe and reliable power supply for industrial and residential use.
Rowley says that a successful struggle to implement these kinds of policies requires a powerful coalition that includes people’s movements. “Environmentalists, unions, Indigenous peoples and all who defend the interests of people and planet need to unite to build a ‘People’s Coalition’ that can lead the fight for decarbonization and other reforms,” she stated, adding that such a coalition would have the potential to build a broader political challenge against the domination of corporations and their political parties.
“Ultimately, a People’s Coalition could win a parliamentary majority and open the door to fundamental changes including economic and social reforms to shift from private ownership of wealth and resources towards a socialist society based on democratic public ownership and working-class political power – this is the way to tackle the climate crisis and win a world of peace, freedom and social justice!”
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