3 Feb 2008
Wrote this last year on unions, the market and climate change.
See you all at the Trade Union Climate Conference next week! And yes I am taking on the points from Merrick about criticising unions who continue to promote flying!
I went on the RMT lobby of Downing Streets over the metro net collapse, it was great fun and with a huge turn out of tube workers and supporters whistling and shouting, it boasted morale. Bob Crown and John McDonell took a letter into Gordon Brown demanding that the tube be brought fully back into public ownership, insisting that long suffering tube staff and commuters should not pay the price of market failure.
It struck me how in so many ways market based economics is making climate change more difficult to deal with and how Gordon Brown is likely to worshipp the market even more than Blair. This is an unfashionable thought, after all many in the labour movement are happy to see a new PM and hope for a more 'progressive angle'. I think that from all his hints that he wants to break from the Blair legacy, Gordon Brown is the neo-liberals neo-liberal who will remove any barrier to capitalism he can find, so as to make the economy more 'competitive', 'efficient', etc. The very phrases are chanted like some kind of secular religion, indeed to criticise them is to offend the orthodox priests of finance and the city.
The consensus is that climate change is a form of 'market failure' and can be tackled using the market. Very few people understand that the Kyoto agreement is based on an attempt to buy and sell carbon dioxide on a global scale. Each country in the agreement can produce a certain amount of CO2, if they produce less they can sell the rest of their 'quota' to another country. In the European Union, individuals companies and organisations like the NHS operate in a parallel market, they are again given a slice of CO2 allowance and can sell anything they don't produce. In the Stern report produced by Gordon Brown, it was argued that such carbon trading would create £bns of extra profit for the financial city of London. Because of corporate pressure, firms in the EU emissions trading system can produce more CO2 than they do at present. Trading even if limits are imposed is less effective than simply limiting CO2 production, the potential for both fraud and profit is huge.
Even dodgy carbon trading is too much for some corporations. George Bush the petroleum president went to war for oil and tried to open Alaska to the oil companies, who ofcourse funded his various mega buck election contests. They have made oppose even the watered action of Kyoto, Exxon until recently funded climate skeptic groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who ran adverts saying that carbon dioxide was beneficial. In the 1950s, 1960s and 70s cigarette producers like Phillip Morris poured money into similar research bodies and lobbyists who tried to argue that there was no proven link between smoking and cancer. The result was that thousands of unecessary deaths resulted because consumers were persuaded that they could puff away.
Metronet is one example of how privatisation, which is a dogma for Brown and the three largest political parties, makes it more difficult to cut CO2. Instead of tax consumers to the hilt and introducing hair shirt policies, the solution to rising CO2 emissions, is for policy makers to make it easy for us to go green. Rail, most buses and increasingly the tube are run not for our benefit but for profit. Thus fares keep rising, services are poorly coordinated and as Bob Crow has made clear when private firms crash, as with metronet, consumers and workers pick up the tab.
Posted by Derek Wall at 11:35 am