‘Green is good’, chirps Johnson, riffing on the ‘greed is good’ of the ‘Wall Street’ film. Speaking to top industrialists and financiers on Tuesday, that’s his pitch: if you want to follow the money, go green.
The Tory government’s strategy, such as it is, is to persuade big business to fund the new green technologies. The trouble is, they’re still up to their necks in the dirty old ones. They will want very hefty subsidies to switch to green technologies. There’s certainly precious little in the way of subsidies for consumers in Johnson’s just-released ‘Net Zero Strategy’.
Heat pumps get the headlines. Great idea. They will eliminate emissions, and they’re simple pieces of kit so they don’t break down like gas boilers. But the Tories are offering subsidies to only 90 000 households when there are 27 million households in the UK. And they only work properly in fully insulated homes! Weeks of motorway protests by ‘Insulate Britain’ and the Tories still have no plan for improving insulation in the UK’s housing stock.
On transport there are the usual targets about phasing out petrol and diesel cars. There have lately been some moves on the ground towards electric vehicles with brownfield sites being prepared for battery factories and the recent decision of Fords to re-tool their Halewood plant for e-cars. But there is nothing precise in the ‘Strategy’ on the key question of how the infrastructure of charging points will be rolled out. Remember: the Tories have been in power for 11 years and there is not even a proper support infrastructure for lorry drivers!
Lurking behind Johnson are the Tories of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, which might be better named the ‘Not Zero Group’. They have been described by academics at the London School of Economics as ‘a small group of MPs (who) have launched a media campaign that is spreading misinformation about the Government’s climate change policies.’ Prominent among them is Steve Baker who associates with climate change deniers and is quoted as saying: ‘The cost of net-zero could deliver a political crisis greater than the poll tax.’
Socialists – who fought and beat Thatcher over the poll tax – are not prepared to see the burden of climate change crush the working class. At the same time workers will suffer from sea level rise, flooding – London-on-Sea??? – and other extreme weather events if nothing is done to arrest and reverse climate change.
Johnson’s plans represent a prayer to the market to solve the problem. Actually climate change is the biggest market failure ever, as capitalism rips through the planet, indifferent to the irreparable damage it causes.
Johnson appeals to multi-millionaire Bill Gates and his ilk: “I can deploy billions … but you in this room, you can deploy trillions.” That’s the point. Huge wealth exists in society – more than enough for the massive investment needed to fund a truly ‘just transition’ away from fossil fuels and environmentally destructive industries. The problem is it’s overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of a super-rich few.
This means huge power lies with the capitalists, world-wide. We need to expropriate them – by nationalising the big monopolies that dominate the economy under democratic workers’ control and management – and plan production for the needs of the planet and its inhabitants.
Join Socialist Alternative at Cop26 where we’ll be part of an international ‘red bloc’ on the demonstrations fighting to put the socialist ideas that are needed centre stage in the climate movement! We say system change, not climate change!