Labour and climate movements must unite to defeat Liz Truss’ climate vandalism


“It will take the united strength, imagination and organisation of the labour and green movements to stop Truss’ climate vandalism in its tracks and to tackle the cost of living crisis.”

By Eleanor Broome

Liz Truss couldn’t have made it clearer which side she’s on. Just weeks after temperatures breached 40 degrees in the UK and as ‘climate turbocharged’ floods devastate Pakistan, she has announced an oil and gas frenzy. In one of her first acts as Prime Minister, she made it clear she will approve up to 130 new licences for offshore oil and gas and has given the green light to fracking.

This is obviously reckless. It will do nothing to bring down energy bills and new fossil fuel projects are simply incompatible with a safe climate. Emissions must be halved globally over the next 8 years, not ramped up.

Given her record, her leadership campaign pronouncements, and her decision to put climate ‘sceptic’ Jacob Rees-Mogg in charge of the business, energy and climate change department, it’s fair to assume Liz Truss is an even bigger threat to the climate and nature than her predecessors.

The very same companies and billionaires most responsible for the climate crisis are also responsible for soaring gas bills and an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the majority to the few.

It will take the united strength, imagination and organisation of the labour and green movements to stop Truss’ climate vandalism in its tracks and to tackle the cost of living crisis. As the unions gear up for an autumn of strikes, the climate movement too is gearing up for an autumn of action against the oil and gas giants and for every home to be insulated from the cold.

There is growing unity between both movements. Climate campaigners have already been joining the RMT on picket lines and on the hottest day ever in Britain, the RMT put climate at the centre of its call for investment in public transport. Mick Lynch has been outspoken in saying that climate is a class issue and calling for the labour movement to lend their voice and platforms to those struggling for climate justice to make those connections.

A series of battlegrounds ahead will give many opportunities to deepen those ties, and to learn from and build on the best politics and tactics from each movement. Together, we can create a united force capable of winning the support of the majority and forcing the Government’s hand.

There will be big campaigns against the new oil and gas fields including Shell’s Cambo and Jackdaw and opening the country up to fracking. The labour movement must stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Any new production would come too late to help the UK’s energy supply and even then gas will be sold into a global market at global prices. Instead of getting further hooked on expensive fossil fuels, we should be investing in much cheaper and faster renewable alternatives.

Equally, the climate movement must loudly insist on a just transition for workers in declining high carbon industries and for the unionisation of new green industries if we are to win mass support for this rapid change.

Another point of unity for the labour and climate movements can be over the need for public ownership of energy, rail and water. It makes no sense that Keir Starmer refuses to back the nationalisations of these industries. It would be overwhelmingly popular and is crucial to ensure they put people and the planet before profits. As the TUC has highlighted, we won’t be able to organise the energy transition we need by relying on the market.

With more flooding likely this winter due to a combination of underinvestment in infrastructure and our deteriorating climate, Liz Truss will come under renewed fire for deregulating water and slashing the funding of the Environment Agency as Environment Secretary. This has allowed bills to soar and sewage to be dumped into our rivers and seas. We now need to force the Government to bring the water companies back under public control as they have been in Wales and Scotland.

A campaign to hike the windfall tax on oil and gas producers instead of bills is another obvious point for joint campaigning. We should demand that these companies should not be allowed to make a single penny in excess profits off the back of struggling households or be given tax loopholes to continue investing in climate-wrecking production.

The vast sums that would raise could also fund a huge programme to insulate the country’s cold draughty homes and help people switch from gas and oil boilers to low-carbon heating. Pressure is already building from across the fuel poverty and green movements for Government action that would create tens of thousands of skilled jobs, especially in the communities most in need.

There is plenty to unite and campaign over in the coming months and despite Truss’ reckless agenda, the fight is not lost. She has shown herself to be quite the political chameleon. She had to bend to public pressure to provide emergency support over energy bills, and she can be forced to bend on other issues too.

Featured image: Tens of thousands march through central London ahead of the Paris Climate Conference, November 29th 2015. Photo credit Rob Pinney/Avaaz under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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