Millions of people will take to the streets on September 20, demanding urgent action to deal with climate change. Protests are being planned in more than 150 countries as part of a global student climate strike.
This is a welcome follow-up to the last global day of action on March 15 where 150,000 Australian students joined an estimated one million people in an international day of protest.
There is no doubt that humanity faces a climate catastrophe and time is running out. Scientists recently found that Arctic permafrost is thawing 70 years ahead of projections. If it keeps thawing, greenhouse gases trapped in the permafrost will be released and the speed of climate change will be greatly accelerated.
Scientists are now saying that we only have until 2030 to change course. If major changes have not been taken by then it is possible a tipping point will be reached. This will send the planet into a spiral of irreversible climate change with dire consequences.
These new findings make the Paris climate agreement look like a joke. The targets agreed by the world’s capitalist leaders are nowhere near enough to stop a catastrophe. They refuse to do anything that undermines profits. With that being the case, it is no surprise that young people are taking matters into their own hands.
While we need to build for the biggest possible turnout on September 20, we also need to develop plans to keep ongoing pressure on the powers that be. In Australia, sustained actions should be organised against the worst environmental criminals, primarily those in the fossil fuel industry. At the moment the big energy and mining corporations produce 75% of Australia’s carbon emissions.
If allowed to go ahead one of the biggest culprits will be the Adani coal mine. Companies with a stake in the Adani project should have their offices targeted with mass blockades during business hours. These types of actions can have a big impact by disrupting business as usual.
In order to organise actions like this the climate movement should aim to build active campaign groups at every school, TAFE and university. These groups could organise regular meetings to plan actions and to build support in local communities.
Drawing more people into the movement will give us much more strength. In particular the climate movement needs to win the support of workers. While students give the movement a youthful energy, workers have a lot of power because of the role they play in the production process.
If workers were to join the climate strikes en masse the economy would grind to a halt. Governments and big business would be put under immense pressure to make more significant changes.
Appealing to workers – particularly workers organised in unions – should be the focus of our campaign. This will be much more effective than appealing to weak politicians who are in the pocket of the fossil fuel companies.
Drawing workers into the movement can also help us counter the argument that saving the planet is at odds with creating jobs. The truth is that tens of thousands of jobs could be created through public investment into renewable energy, research and production, as well as socially useful public infrastructure.
On the basis of public ownership and control we could plan to retrain and re-employ those who currently work in carbon intensive industries. Capitalism resists this type of approach because it prioritises profits before all else. We need to take decision making out of the hands of the capitalists and prioritise the needs of people and the planet.
We need a new socialist system based on democratic public ownership and sustainable planning. This is the only way a zero emissions economy could be introduced. Socialism would remove the profit motive and instead use the wealth created for the public good. Averting irreversible climate change would be a top priority, as would repairing the environmental damage that capitalism has already caused.
We need to fight for these ideas to be taken on more widely by both the climate and workers movement. The future of the planet is at stake and we have no time to lose.
By Triet Tran