Socialist Alternative

War in Ukraine reveals capitalism’s reliance on dirty energy

While the world is barreling from one global catastrophe straight into the next, the capitalist media has shifted focus rapidly away from the escalating climate crisis, in the hopes it will be pushed into the back of our minds. But with deadlines rapidly approaching to avoid hitting the disastrous 1.5°C increase, we cannot afford to allow capitalism to continue with business as usual. 

In 2021, the annual COP event was held in Glasgow. Politicians and leading businesspeople from all over the world came together to set targets that are firstly, too small and insignificant to undo the damage caused to the world by capitalist production, and secondly, unachievable in a system that hungers for profit above all else. This impossibility has been proven in the four months since COP, where coal use globally, instead of declining, has surged to record levels over the winter.

The UK promised to phase out coal production and hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Through the Ukraine crisis, this promise is being revealed for what it really is: a promise to continue with the same methods of production and energy usage that caused the climate crisis until some distant politician or technology solves the issue for us.

Johnson doubling down on fossil fuels

With the situation in Russia and Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russian oil, we’ve seen significant rises in fuel prices across the globe. An opportunity is presenting itself to kickstart the process of shifting away from fossil fuels. 

Instead, Boris Johnson has said that domestic gas and oil production will have to increase in order to wean the UK off Russian resources. Plans to increase the output of fuel production in the North Sea (an action that could take up to two decades to ramp up significantly), calls by Jacob Rees-Mogg to reopen the Aberpergwm colliery in Wales which will extract up to 40 million tonnes of coal over the next 18 years, or plans to restart fracking in the UK, and to introduce a ‘climate pass’ to allow more UK oil and gas exploration, clearly show the brutal reality of British capitalism’s response to the war in Ukraine.  

Not only is domestic production of gas and oil almost definitely set to increase, but imports from other countries are also looking to be increased. Boris Johnson just the other week visited the bloodthirsty dictator, King Salman of Saudi Arabia to ramp up the oil supply from Saudi big business. This is a regime, which on Saturday 12 March executed 81 people, and has been committing war crimes against the Yemeni people since 2015. An imperialist war for power and profit that the UN predicts will cause 161,000 people to experience famine. The moral, social reasons for cutting out Russian fuel and gas appear a lot less valid when it means increased import from countries such as Saudi Arabia.

The system will not ‘go green’

The issues created by the situation in Ukraine are immediate. The increase in prices of gas and fuel around the world is impacting working class people right now. The solutions being put forward by the Johnson government, however, are anything but immediate.

In the first period of the pandemic, with rapidly escalating infection and death rates, alongside collapsing health services under the weight of decades of backdoor privatisation, the capitalist media spoke of a better, ‘greener’ future. With clear skies, and roads that were next to empty, this utopian idea of capitalism going ‘green’ under the weight of the pandemic began to spread somewhat. 

Socialist Alternative knew this wasn’t the case. Any significant change in society will only be brought about by the efforts of the working class. 

Anti-capitalist fightback for the climate needed

According to the International Energy Agency’s net-zero goals, coal use must fall by half this decade, and electricity generation needs to increase by 40%. With the difficulties involved in quickly transitioning to sustainable energies (especially in regards to batteries and energy storage), any action to realistically hit these targets must be taken urgently and immediately. Government decisions to increase domestic production of fuel and gas, its shopping around different foreign exporters, as well as plans to give gas companies a ‘climate pass’ shows the total disregard for these targets from Johnson and the profit-based system that he represents. 

We urgently need to rebuild a fighting, anti-capitalist climate movement – one based on the strongest solidarity with all workers and young people in struggle. From workers striking against the wage squeeze and fire and rehire, to students and youth climate activists fighting for divestment from fossils in education, we need united mass struggle to fight for a sustainable green and – most importantly – socialist future. 

Organising around a set of clear demands aimed at fighting against the rotten rule of profit that this system is based on, we can fight for a revolutionary change, to overthrow those responsible for the climate crisis. A new generation of young people must live in a world full of hope and feel safe to one day have children of their own, instead of a world plagued with the fears of impending climate disaster. 

Socialist Alternative demands:

  • Urgent action to curb pollution now – no waiting for 2050. We need an immediate end to all new fossil fuel exploration and pipeline projects, including fracking and coal field reopenings! 
  • Mass investment in free, high-quality, public transport. Under capitalism, transport remains underfunded, meaning people rely on polluting cars. This is why we need a socialist movement to fight for an integrated and greatly expanded public transport system, widely available and publicly-run for need, not profit.
  • Make the capitalists pay for the transition! Tax the super-rich, close the tax loopholes. Nationalise the banks, energy companies and big monopolies to fund a mass programme of green job creation in building sustainable hospitals, schools and homes. This would also allow us to provide alternative and good quality employment for those currently working in the fossil fuel and arms industries. Fight for publicly-funded mass insulation of homes. 
  • Internationalism, not imperialist rivalry! The climate movement must be built across borders, uniting workers, students and others in fighting for a world based on the planning and sharing of resources and technology, which the major capitalist powers stand in the way of. Build a mass, anti-war and anti-imperialist movement!
  • International socialist change! Capitalism means climate destruction, economic crisis and war. We need a society based on democratic planning and international cooperation, where our planet’s resources are used sustainably based on needs not profits!