The assertion that the biggest driver of climate change is part of the solution is based on a false premise
Capitalism is ‘part of the solution’ to solving climate change, according to Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
In an interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Carney launched a staunch defence of the economic system, but argued companies needed to manage to risk of climate change or go bankrupt.
The governor of the Bank of England looking at the issue of climate change under the lens of the potential risk to business profits is an entirely predictable development.
There is nothing wrong, on the face of it, with companies aiming to be more sustainable, even if their motivation is often just the PR-friendly concept of ‘corporate social responsibility’.
But industry action as to offset climate breakdown still requires accepting the premise that capitalism is a, if not good, then neutral system in its impact to the environment.
The goal of capitalism is, by definition, constant and frequently unchecked growth, which is fundamentally incompatible with preserving our draining natural resources or offsetting the climate crisis.
Nothing illustrates the impact of unchecked capitalism on our climate than the 2017 report which showed that 100 companies where behind 71% of the world’s fossil fuel emissions.
Any ‘capitalist’, ‘business’ or ‘industry’-led solutions to climate breakdown are motivated by maintaining the current system and protecting profit.
But those actions are wholly inadequate on the fact of the unprecedented existential threat we are now facing.
The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report sounded the alarm, stressing we only had 12 years to reduce emissions in order to prevent a climate catastrophe.
Some scientists are more pessimistic, arguing that window for action is closer to 18 months.
On the face of such sobering and dread-inspiring numbers, hoping the solution to the problem will comes from those who created it seems about as effective as re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The actions demanded by groups such as Extinction Rebellion have been called unrealistic and radical, and they may well be, but nothing short of radical change will give us a fighting chance as a species.
What activists like Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and the children taking part in school strikes understand is that the time for theoretical and drawn-out discussions around the table is long past.
We need the imagination and will to take the whole table apart and come up with a better solution.
Individual actions to mitigate climate change are admirable and should be encouraged, but nowhere near enough without a radical policy shift on a global scale.
For all the lip service many British politicians pay to climate change, a Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report showed the government is failing to meet its own targets.
Actions like taking on the CCC’s recommendation for the UK to plant 1.5 billion trees to meet the zero emission target can certainly have a tangible impact.
But if we are to tackle this problem in the long term, we need to start striving for an economic system that is not led by growth at the expense of everything else.
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