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Bríd Smith: At least Nero fiddled while Rome burned - some in government here just hide

The People Before Profit TD says the fact it took the country’s leading politicians 24 hours to react to the IPCC report is telling.

Bríd Smith People Before Profit TD

ALMOST ALL COMMENTATORS agree that Monday’s IPCC report on global climate change is a “wake up call”: that we must take decisive, radical action and that we are running out of time.

But this narrative is not entirely new and a plethora of reports preceding this IPCC report have been likewise stark in their warnings.

Our government and virtually ALL the governments and systems are deeply guilty. They have known for decades how serious climate change is and have done nothing to halt the planet from overheating.

Climate change has largely been presented as being about rising sea levels in the future but not extreme weather in the here and now. This report shows a clear link between floods, droughts, fires etc and climate change.

At this late hour, we still have a chance to do what is required and science is screaming at us to act decisively and immediately. We cannot continue to act in the same old way and expect different results.

We cannot continue with the failed model of capitalism and its profit induced markets to deliver rapid and meaningful climate change measures. We must move to a not-for-profit, planned economic model to get results and stop global temperatures from rising beyond what is humanly tolerable.

Moving forward

As part of such a strategy we will need:

  • To create a State-led, controlled and delivered Renewable Energy company that can produce renewable energy on scale and on time (similar to the ESB in the past)
  • Massive investment in public transport that can deliver publicly controlled free, frequent public transport throughout the country and in all cities and towns
  • End the extraction of all fossil fuels and ban existing as well as future licensing
  • Place a legal ban on the importation of fracked gas and the establishment of LNG terminals
  • Change planning laws to stop the proliferation of data centres
  • Create Green New Jobs in retrofitting homes and public buildings, in health, education, public transport and renewing the natural environment.

If we do this, at a minimum, we can make our contribution to buying time to save the planet and stop it overheating beyond 1.5 degrees and we can do it in a way that also improves peoples’ lives by delivering better public services and decent employment.

But we will face determined resistance from big business and vested interests, as we did over public health and the lockdowns. (Global corporations are still resisting the idea of a People’s Vaccine that would help end the pandemic across poorer countries)

Government strategies have been based on placating the multinationals across all industries, including the biggest polluters in the global food production business, fossil fuels & plastics industry, aviation & shipping, and the global tech giants.

At least Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The Government’s silence for the 24-hour period following the publication of the report was broken only by the tired and very disingenuous lines that the Government has repeatedly fallen back on rather than confront the responsibility which the fossil fuel industry and associated corporate interests bear for climate change.

For Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, it was the stated belief that after years of failing miserably on climate, now it’s going to be okay because they have started taxing ordinary people who have no choice but to use fossil fuels.

The Taoiseach’s statement that “we understand the scale of what needs to be done and… are equal to the task” was nowhere underwritten by any evidence of the radical actions that are required if genuinely committed to “translating science and urgency into policy and action.”

Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, confined his reaction to a 27-word tweet and two hashtags. But then they can relax, happy in the knowledge that Eamon Ryan will act as their Green mudguard.

The only plan the Green Party in Government have is to continue the reliance on private investors and the market system; the Climate plan’s late amendments were specifically about developing some form of a carbon market in agriculture and we know from past experience this is a way to build an opt-out clause for big polluters and we know it will fail to curb emissions.

The Green Party also relies heavily on some hoped-for future technological development for carbon capture and storage. They have failed the Climate Movement.

In the last few weeks, we have seen the obscenity of billionaires racing into space…. two of whom have in recent years pretended to be concerned about climate to the extent of offering rewards for anyone who can figure a way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One owns an airline and the other a global distribution service. Both have made billions based on the use of fossil fuels and cheap labour.

The system based on facilitating these billionaires has to be challenged and changed, COP26 in Glasgow in November presents us with a real opportunity to rebuild the Climate Movement from below and challenge the priorities of the system that put the profits of global corporations before the needs of people, planet and environment.

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On 5 November there will be global strikes for Climate Justice and Climate Change and on 6 November across the world, there will be local and national protests, as well as major mobilisations in Glasgow itself. We need to start building now to Stop Climate Chaos.

Bríd Smith is a People Before Profit TD for Dublin South Central.

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Bríd Smith  / People Before Profit TD

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