Poor People Gonna Rise Up

Talking About a Revolution : Tracy Chapman

When are the intellectual and political ranks going to stop trying to apply universal guilt ? The real question to ask is not, “how are we going to get average emissions down ?” You can’t treat all the people in the United Kingdom as one blurred lump. Around 20% of consumers are conscious. Another 20% to 30% are going to be hit directly by any measure designed to put an environmental tax on Carbon, and will have no choice about responding.

Climate Change worldwide is affecting the poorest first and hardest – an expression used by everyone from Nicholas Stern through to Christian Aid. But it’s a stratification of impact that isn’t just global. The poorest in the industrialised countries are suffering hardship too : people who cannot get their homes renovated after floods, people who have to apply for Fuel Poverty assistance.

The key issue must be to ask how we are going to get down the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the biggest Energy users, somehow properly implementing the “Polluter Pays” principle and not allowing the big polluters to pass the charges on as “supply chain” emissions.

For example, while Drax power station chooses to continue to burn Coal, the Emissions are made the responsibility of those buying the Drax electricity – and they’ll feel any Climate Change tax immediately in their domestic energy bills.

Somehow, Drax needs to be made to care about its bottom line if it continues to burn Coal.

The current Department of Energy and Climate Change solution is the Carbon Reduction Commitment, or CRC :-

http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/business/crc/scope.htm : Carbon Reduction Commitment: Am I affected?”

http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/business/crc/about.htm : What is the Carbon Reduction Commitment ?”

This measure should take in Local Authorities, Supermarkets, Power Stations not covered by the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme and large companies in their large office blocks. And naturally enough inflation of private and public goods and services will thereby increase to compensate for the Energy Efficiency improvements.

The CRC reiterates the commonly-held policy view that : “emissions trading schemes such as CRC provide a financial incentive to reduce emissions by placing a price on carbon emissions.” And yet, as long as CRC players can shunt the expense of Carbon Emissions onto their clients and consumers, there will be no incentive to “de-Carbonise” their business practices.

It begs the question : what would have the greatest impact in reality ? A law to insulate or a law to price Carbon ? A regulation to enforce Energy Efficiency or a trading scheme for failure to comply ?
Do pricing mechanisms actually work ? Do they create the desired effect ? And can a traded value keep its price high enough to effect change ?

And when you’ve finished looking at large corporate and social organisations, what about the exceptional Energy habits of the rich citizens, particularly their home heating mantra and their private transport religion ?

How do we extract the outliers from the mass of the population and target them ? By television advertisements urging them to Act on CO2 ? I think not. They will channel hop or skip the messaging via technology.

No amount of peer evaluation is going to help. The more comfortably-off like to live more comfortably, and can afford to do so. End of.

I think that the concern to try to rope in the high Energy users with everybody else is not helping. The “are you doing your bit ?” messaging, the collective “everyone can save Energy” sweet talk, is trying to hit too wide an audience, and failing to net any.

What do the poor and poorly-resourced of Britain think ? Have they followed the debate ? What are they going to be forced to endure as conditions change ?

Those who already suffer “precarity” will just be pushed further to the edge. We need social workers in each forum and workplace to talk about this, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise when Carbon pricing, or Carbon rationing hits :-

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23736980-details/John+Prescott+slams+’nimby’+councils/article.do

“John Prescott slams ‘nimby’ councils : 26.08.09 : Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott today launched a savage attack on wind turbines ‘nimbys’ – people who say “not in my backyard.” He criticised people who opposed wind turbines being set up near their homes and planning committees who uphold their objections. Mr Prescott announced the inaugural Age Of Stupid awards – named after a hard-hitting environmental film which criticises those who fail to act on climate change – were ‘won’ by planners in Bedford and the Isle of Wight…Mr Prescott said it was very important that a low carbon economy was developed around the world and said some form of carbon rationing would be necessary at some point. He warned: “Securing a deal at Copenhagen will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto. “Social justice and the reduction of poverty must be at the very heart of any agreement. It also means equalising greenhouse emissions per head in each country. “The climate change we are experiencing across the world has been caused by the richer developed countries. They must now recognise the central principle that the polluter pays.”…”

New Earth Deal Blog
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/08/copenhagen-kyoto-climate-change-talks

Ordinary, low-income families need to be made aware of the possibilities of a “Great British Refurb” insulating homes, affecting everybody, not just those needing Social Security benefits.

Union people need to organise in more workplaces to help prevent bad choices when companies find their budgets stretched by Carbon legislation and regulation – and feel they need to decide between labour wages and Energy/Efficiency bills.

As far as unemployment and poverty goes, you might not have seen anything yet.

Have you ever wondered about the synergistic connections between Tracy Chapman singing a song about social revolution at the Live Aid famine relief concert in 1985 ? There is now strong evidence that African drought began to get worse in the latter part of the 20th Century due to Climate Change. Global Warming makes more people poor, and more poverty in industrialised countries risks social unrest.

Climate Change needs to be answered with Social Change, but Ed Miliband and his colleagues asking the Great British public for campaigning support, to give the Government a “mandate” to act strongly on Climate Change is barking up the wrong kind of tree.

Ed Miliband is never going to get his mass public support in the way he wants it – every Climate Change policy imaginable is potentially a vote-loser. He is heading for democratic disengagement by ignoring the needs of the poor and using the notions of standard Economic theory. The poor cannot adapt easily to higher Energy prices, the obvious end result of many of the measures so far proposed.

The poor are not responsible for Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the Big Energy companies are. Don’t tell the poor to adapt – regulate for the Big Energy suppliers to switch fuels and invest in green.

Instead of saying “British households waste…” recognise that the Big Energy suppliers are doing the waste, either directly or in the products they sell to the British households.

Ask the right question : why are the systems of delivery of Energy and goods so waste-producing ?
Instead of pointing the finger at those you intend to tax, saying “Save Energy by turning the thermostat down”, what about saying “we will provide insulation, biogas and biomass if you vote for us !”

It cannot be the responsibility of individuals, families or householders or landlords to set up biomass burning systems, biogas delivery or insulation and airtightness and localised Renewable Energy.

It needs a green workforce on every street, paid and fed and skilled. Working people, working for their fellow citizens. Not providing profits for Big Energy companies.

Not financed by charity, or voluntary work, or specialised fundraising, no. Instead an honest collective or trades cooperatives.

It is time for the working people of Great Britain to rise up and take what’s theirs and make this country a green and pleasant land.

Not for the benefit of banks, shareholders and pension funds, who love the thought of Carbon Trading, but a community tax for community labour – local green tax for local green enterprise.

None of this international “Carbon Bank” stuff. Local Authorities should take back the power to organise financing and labour at the very local, efficient level. The “Carbon Army” rides tonight.

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