December is the month of plastic baubles and technological must-haves, when politicians look to boost flagging growth figures with consumerist intemperance. It is always a fitting month to host the ‘conference of procrastinators’, as Patrick Bond has dubbed the UN climate talks. On this occasion the tired gaggle of government and business negotiators assembled in Durban, South Africa.
2012, the year when the first phase of the Kyoto agreement ends, is upon us. Instead of replacing it with more ambitious targets, the principle of mandatory emission reductions seems about to be abandoned. Climate change is rapidly falling down the list of political concerns, replaced by the crisis of finance – the integral role of capitalism in the climate disaster is conveniently ignored. As always, the vested corporate interests of northern countries will be a major stumbling block. Increasing consumption is the only logic that will hold any sway in Durban.
Richer countries also have the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ in their sights. The now infamous US state department negotiator Todd Stern, whose bullying tactics at Copenhagen 2009 were revealed in the Wikileaks diplomatic cables, expressed his contempt for any claim that there is historic responsibility for climate change. He stated: ‘The sense of guilt or culpability or reparations – I just categorically reject that.’
The facts are, still, terrifying. In 2010, carbon emissions rose by a record amount. We must start to reduce carbon emissions by 2017 if we are to avoid water shortages and mass migration. Current pledged cuts would put us at a 5 degrees celsius temperature change. This would mean large parts of the planet becoming uninhabitable.
Our political elites are so in thrall to private finance that they will not act to save their own citizens. Nowhere is this democratic deficit clearer than South Africa itself. One in six South Africans live in shacks (see our interview with Bandile Mdlalose this issue). Some 2.5 million homes do not have electricity, and companies predict a 125 per cent price increase in the coming years.
Yet despite its energy-poor majority population, South Africa is the world’s 13th-largest carbon emitter. It is part of a bloc of rapidly industrialising countries that have skilfully, if cynically, set up their economies to make carbon trading work for them. You won’t see South Africa fighting for binding emissions targets.
Of course, most of South Africa’s carbon emissions are created by mining and manufacturing commodities for the global North – only 16 per cent of South Africa’s total energy consumption is used by its residents. Both the products and the profits are syphoned off for northern countries, leaving the nation’s citizens with depleted and polluted resources.
This is a government that is failing its people. The ANC, as Vishwas Satgar argues this issue, have become overseers of Afro-neoliberalism. Accompanying this is a narrowing democratic vision: opposition voices are marginalised, politicians are market servants and participation is limited to voting – a particularly inadequate option in a de-facto one party state.
The campaigns of the African climate justice movement find themselves oddly disjointed from the climate negotiations – their demands on jobs, energy poverty and extraction will not even be discussed at a summit concerned with quantitative targets. The climate discussions have always been framed in terms that suit northern elites, though even within these narrow parameters an adequate solution evades them.
The domination of politics by corporate interests extends far beyond the climate talks, as neoliberalism brings its limited market democracy to every arena. In Europe, the IMF, assisted by Europe’s ‘inner core’, is once again asserting its right to dictate national polices. Some solutions politicians refuse to discuss: taxation on the rich, significant losses to banks or credit easing for the poor.
But there is a rising tide of resistance. The largest UK strike of my lifetime took place on 30 November – one organised by unions that are starting to address the dual crises of economy and environment by demanding the creation of one million climate jobs.
And from Romania to Peru, the Occupy movement has spread to 82 countries. Beginning with the indignados in Spain and Greece, the reclaiming of public space for debate and deliberation has been a crucial aim. The participatory politics practised by protesters is far removed from our tick‑box democracies.
In a political system dominated by corporate finance, creating more participatory forms of democracy, although crucial, will not be enough. We also need economic democracy. The challenge to Occupy activists and trade unionists alike is to begin a move towards a democratic economy by collectively organising our own productive forces and striving for cooperative workplaces. To become a regenerating force that creates real democracy, we must also create real economic change.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill