Changing solutions

Tony Stevens says broadness for its own sake will achieve nothing, as the June 3 Campaign against Climate Change conference showed

Called as part of the preparation for the November 4 global climate change demonstrations, the aim was to reach out to a wider audience than previously. And indeed some 400 people attended.

The conference was split into two sessions consisting of eight workshops each. In the morning I attended the workshop entitled 'Building a global campaign', with Phil Thornhill (Campaign against Climate Change and Friends of the Earth) and Jonathan Neale (also CACC and Socialist Workers Party).

Phil Thornhill said that, while we can all do a lot individually, the goal is to bring down the global total of greenhouse emissions. One country cannot address the issue on its own because using energy has a worldwide impact. "We" have to do this by cooperating on a global scale otherwise we are "all doomed", he said. So those who do not sign up to the Kyoto protocol are against us and if nothing was done there would be an uprising in places such as Bangladesh and other affected countries. "They will never forgive us."

Jonathan Neale said that he became drawn to the CACC after listening to Thornhill at the London European Social Forum in 2004, and since then he has been involved in mobilising for the annual demonstrations - in fact you could say he is the SWP's climate change face. He said the CACC was not going to be like the Tolpuddle Martyrs, forced to work secretly, separate from the mass movement. In negotiations with activists from other countries, he was aiming to get as many people and groups to agree on one thing in particular: a reduction in carbon emissions. How such a reduction could be achieved was a different question, although personally he was against nuclear power.

Phil Thornhill was called upon again to replace an absent speaker in the afternoon workshop, 'Is there a corporate enemy and if so who?' As with the previous workshop, there was a total absence of class in the speeches and debate that followed.

Graham Thompson, formerly of Stop Esso, gave a long, rambling speech on corporate enemies Ford, Exxon and Ryanair. He said these are the companies that "mess with the political process" because they lobby parliament, try to influence policy-makers and fund pseudo-think tanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute that deny the science of climate change. The flights put on by Ryanair are unnecessary, he said, and our job is to target these sorts of companies.

In the afternoon there was a plenary session which featured former environment spokespersons for Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively, Michael Meacher and Norman Baker, along with Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP, and Mark Lynas, author and journalist. The audience were regaled with words of doom and gloom: ice caps melting, biodiversity loss, reversal of the Gulf-Stream ... The answer was that there are solutions out there, such as solar panels, wave and wind power.

What about the underlying problem - the system of capital itself? The overwhelming message from this conference was that a stable, environment-friendly capitalism could be achieved.