Why do we need Economic Justice for Climate Justice?

Our Festival of Debate event filled the main hall at Quaker Meeting House with people bringing different social justice perspectives to this question. Some of the answers I heard were:

“Because climate change is affecting black communities and women first and worst”

“Because we don’t want climate change to be tackled in ways that don’t address, for example, the emerging global debt crisis”

“Because workers in fossil fuel industries are not the ones to blame for climate change”

“Because fossil fuel companies are perpetuating inaction on climate change and we need to tackle this power”

“Because we can’t have an economic framework without a social framework, and we can’t have a social framework without justice”

Our panel of speakers was Sarah-Jayne Clifton of Jubilee Debt Campaign, Shahida Siddique of Faithstar, Chris Saltmarsh of People and Planet, Shakira Martin of NUS, and Philip Pearson, trade union campaigner. The debate was chaired and introduced by Councillor Ben Curran, who talked about how Canada’s Leap Manifesto inspires a new vision linking social justice issuesClimate Justice 17 May.  Ben’s post on the debate can be found here.

The debate explored a range of ideas, including:

“Should we educate the public, or just the leaders?” We might say yes, make the public part of it – but if they are living in fuel poverty they will have more pressing concerns than thinking about climate change, so debt and poverty, finance and credit issues need to be on our agenda too – we need to educate the elite to see how austerity and poverty are affecting people. We need a movement of citizens, not consumers. Most people understand climate change, but are not empowered to act.

It may be a question of who we listen to, more than who we educate. Who are the real educators?

Can Britain show leadership internationally, or is it part of the problem? We should take a lead from indigenous communities. Nigeria has shown great resistance to oil. TTIP and ISDR will mean secret courts destroying democracy. We need government intervention and regulation to constrain companies. The UK is not ‘normal’ – Danish wind is 87% state owned; the French state owns EDF, the UK nuclear contractor.

“Does climate action mean reducing the UK standard of living to closer to that of Ghana?”

Young people are key to climate change, recognise the inequalities that affect them, notice how austerity plays out. FE students are in the front line of hardship, there is a link to democracy here.

It’s been argued by Kevin Anderson that the richest 10% are key to reducing demand – a reduction for them to an average level would make a massive change. Rich and prestigious Universities are not meeting their carbon targets.

How would you sum it up?

Inequality is key and political action is needed. We need to take power as civil society.

Sheffield has led on social justice change before – why not now? Why not create our own Leap Manifesto to build a movement?

Democracy is learning, awareness and taking action. Work across faiths and generations. It’s DIY time – be assertive, time is running out!

Let’s not argue where we don’t agree – let’s work where we do agree, on so much that’s progressive.