On Friday, September 20th and Friday, September 27th, millions of people will take part in a global climate strike.
The climate strike movement, initiated by students walking out of schools to demand action against climate chaos, is now spreading to our workplaces and wider society. This is potentially a moment of real significance.
Jeremy Corbyn ensured that ours was the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. Now Labour should throw its full support behind the climate strike and put itself at the forefront of mobilising for it. With our mass membership, Labour has the ability to communicate the politics of the climate strike in working class communities up and down the country. And crucially, with its link to the unions, our party can boost the conversation around a Green New Deal and plan a radical transformation of the economy with a just transition for workers.
We also need to make sure there is a strong anti-Brexit message at the climate strike. Not for opportunistic reasons, but because Brexit clearly represents a significant step back in our efforts to tackle the climate crisis. In his letter to Donald Tusk this week, Boris Johnson has made it clear that the UK will diverge from EU environmental regulations post-Brexit. While he wrote that he wishes to uphold ‘world-class’ environmental protections, everything points to Brexit being a major hit for the environment.
There is of course lots of work to be done on the environment across Europe, but working within the EU’s structures we have already made progress and pushed it up the agenda. The 2019 manifesto of the Party of European Socialists, the grouping Labour belongs to, has bold ideas to make Europe the world leader in renewable energies, a just transition fund to green the continent and a new EU-wide tax to make the big polluters cough up. There is a growing awareness in the EU about the urgency of the threat we’re facing, and while we are moving much too slowly, we are at least moving in the right direction.
The same can’t be said of the countries Brexit Britain is mooted to strike new and comprehensive trade deals with, such as the US and Brazil, which have often pushed back against efforts to tackle climate change. What’s more, the key sectors on the table in any future trade deal are among those with the biggest impact on the environment, such as agriculture. While the EU is able to raise concerns about deforestation and has significant leverage as a huge bloc, a weakened Brexit Britain will be desperate to strike deals and will likely skip over issues of environmental justice entirely, with looser regulations to boot.
Another link with Brexit is migrant justice, which needs to be at the heart of any socialist response to the climate crisis. Migration is certain to rise as a result of global climate chaos and the severe pressures that will be placed on many densely populated parts of the world. The question is how we respond over the coming decades: will it be with the brutality of the hostile environment, detention centres and deportation charter flights, or with humanity and solidarity, coordinating with neighbours to plan a fair system across Europe and beyond?
Instead of closing the borders with Europe on November 1st as Priti Patel has announced she will do – potentially creating thousands more undocumented migrants on day one of Brexit – we must stand up for freedom of movement within Europe and across the world as a socialist, anti-racist and yes, environmentalist principle.
That’s why the Love Socialism MPs will be supporting Another Europe is Possible’s upcoming days of action on September 14th and 15th to build for the climate strike. Up and down the country, left-wing, anti-Brexit and pro-free movement activists will be running stalls and campaign events to draw attention to the strikes, making the link between Brexit and the climate crisis.
We hope you can join us then, and on the days of the strike itself. Another world – fairer, greener, and more sustainable – is possible, but we must fight for it.
Love Socialism is a group of socialist Labour MPs fighting to stop Brexit. We will be writing a column for LabourList every week until the Brexit crisis is over. You can find out more about us here, and follow us on Twitter @LoveSocialism.
James Kelly is editing LabourList while Sienna Rodgers is away.