Green Mistakes on the EU Trail

Members of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who are presently campaigning to leave the EU have always made our socialist reasons for exit abundantly clear. In this respect we have been totally opposed to campaigning in coalition alongside right-wing politicians who carry through the same austerity agenda at home as the EU carries out across Europe.

The same is not true for the Green Party, who are apparently eager partners with Labour and the Tories within Britain Stronger in Europe. Caroline Lucas’ two accomplices at last week’s pro-EU event in Leicester were none other than Liz Kendall and Vince Cable (“Vince Cable, Liz Kendall and Caroline Lucas set out Remain arguments in Leicester,” Leicester Mercury, June 2)

Bizarrely the Mercury reported the latest Kendall mistruth with her saying: “There is not a single credible organisation that thinks we will be better off if we left the EU.” This of course is nonsense, as there are many credible organisations campaigning to leave the EU, like for instance the Baker’s Union, which is affiliated to the Labour Party. One can only hope that during the discussion Lucas took the time to correct Liz Kendall for this scaremongering oversight.

How times change, when Lucas was interviewed about her views on Vince Cable just last year she said people shouldn’t vote for him for the following reasons:

“Because his party’s record on upholding the values he says motivate him is pretty abysmal. When you think of the role they’ve played in propping up a government that has rolled out the most brutal austerity measures to some of the poorest people in society, it’s hard to square that with his values.”

Despite the Green Party’s progressive policies on many issues, much good work is being undone by their ongoing collaboration with the very political institutions that seem dedicated to destroying the planet and promoting austerity.

For example, Lucas recently put her name to Britain Stronger in Europe’s eco-pamphlet titled “10 Green Reasons for Remaining in Europe”; the other co-authors of this ill-informed pamphlet were Ed Milliband, Ed Davey, and the Tory environmental secretary, Liz Truss.

Not a very green EU

Controversially Truss has regularly affirmed her personal commitment to the immensely destruction practice of fracking, seemingly at any cost to the environment, and:

“In 2009, as deputy director of the free-market thinktank Reform, Truss said energy infrastructure in Britain was being damaged by politicians’ obsession with green technology: ‘Vast amounts of taxpayers’ money are being spent subsidising uneconomic activity,’ she said.”

More worrying is the content of “10 Green Reasons for Remaining in Europe,” which boasts about the EU’s openly pro-business commitment to protecting the environment, something of which the Green Party is usually highly critical. For example, Lucas’ co-authored pamphlet boasts:

“The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme is a key tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industries across Europe at the lowest cost.”

But despite Lucas putting her name to this misleading statement, the Green Party’s own energy policy is dismissive of this scheme, bluntly and accurately referring to it as the “discredited EU-Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) that has been so ineffective at reducing emissions”.

To take just one other obvious problem with the pamphlet, it notes that the EU “has been at the forefront of environmental milestones, from the UN Climate Convention, the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement last year.”

But as Caroline Lucas wrote last year, the Paris Agreement can be considered just so much hot air given Liz Truss’ vocal commitment to fracking. As Lucas explained:

“If the government is to match its rhetoric on the climate deal struck in Paris then ministers must urgently rethink their entire approach to energy policy. To have any realistic chance of keeping global warming to well under 2 degrees we need to ban fracking in the UK.”

The Green Party have of course been highly critical about the toothless nature of the agreements previously reached by elites at the UN Climate Convention and the “weak and feeble” Kyoto Protocol (as noted by the Alliance for Green Socialism). Or as the Green Party chairperson wrote in 2002:

“New Labour’s flagship environmental policy has been its promotion of the Kyoto Protocol. Yet Kyoto is patently inadequate to the task of reducing CO2 emissions globally by 60% by 2050. In essence, Kyoto provides a good framework with absurdly low targets.”

So was the UN Climate Convention (otherwise known as the Earth Summit or UNCED) really an “environmental milestone” and exemplar of the EU’s commitment to the environment? Well, not really.

As Pratap Chatterjee and Matthias Finger conclude in their 1994 book The Earth Brokers: Power, Politics and World Development:

“Rather than developing a new vision in line with the challenges of global ecology, UNCED… rehabilitated technological progress and other cults of efficiency. Rather than coming up with creative views on global governance, UNCED has rehabilitated the development institutions and organizations as legitimate agents to deal with new global challenges. These include the Bretton Woods institutions and the UN, as well as the national governments and the multinational corporations. And, finally, rather than making the various stakeholders collaborate and collectively learn our way out of the global crisis, UNCED has coopted some, divided and destroyed others, and promoted the ones who had the money to take advantage of this combined public relations and lobbying exercise. (p.173)

Or as Michael Goldman wrote in his edited book Privatizing Nature: Political Struggles for the Global Commons (1998):

“If we are to learn anything from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio… it is that the objective of the Summit’s major power brokers was not to constrain or restructure capitalist economies and practices to help save the rapidly deteriorating ecological commons, but rather to restructure the commons (e.g. privatize, ‘develop,’ ‘make more efficient,’ valorize, ‘get the price right’) to accommodate crisis-ridden capitalisms. The effect has not been to stop destructive practices but to normalize and further institutionalize them.” (p.23)

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