by Steve Ryan
Held on 7th March this Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) trade union event was the second such conference of its kind.
The conference was structured in a similar way to the first one with an opening plenary, workshops, forums and a closing plenary. The turnout was however far lower than at the first conference: showing how easily such a subject falls away in recession, when it should, properly argued, be at the forefront.
The opening plenary featured speeches from Phil Thornhill (CCC), John McLean (GMB), Graham Petersen (UCU), Chris Baugh (PCS) and a financial appeal from Tony Staunton. The speeches were interesting, with a common theme of the acceleration of climate change, the need to confront it and the role of trade unions in this. However this seemed to mostly centre around calling on the governemnt to act – though all recognised just how much in hock to capital New Labour are!
There were calls to support the Green Party’s “green new deal”, to set up a commission of all interested parties to tackle climate change, “green” the curriculum and liaise with local communities.
These were all laudable aims but, whilst touched on, most speakers did not draw the obvious conclusions: that the effect of capital on the climate and the recession should be linked, and that you cannot rely on governemnt for solutions – these have to come from the workers’ movement, from below
The workshops were many and varied. The one on food production gave interesting facts on why we should eat less meat, how supermarkets fleece producers and how poverty affects distribution of food.
The forums included a very interesting one on the future of coal , very apposite in the 25th year since the miners strike. Both the Friends Of the Earth and NUM speaker spoke well, illustrating the role of coal and how difficult it was to make sense of how clean “carbon capture” was. The big lesson seemed to be that the market must be removed from the production and distribution of energy and nationalised. Clearly this chimes with The Commune, though of course we would go further and have energy properly self-managed under workers’ control rather than just hand it over to the state!
The conference was interesting and well intended but simply not radical enough in its demands. It is a subject that needs further work to form a real green/red manifesto for a sustainable, self-managed communist society.