Ed Miliband, in common with a number of other people in and around politics, is hitching climate change to social justice. We can’t help but think that this is a significant error. It’s going to mean we do ever less about climate change itself.
Leave aside, for our purposes here, whatever anyone actually thinks or believes about climate change itself. Just for the sake of argument let us start from the idea that the IPCC is right and then examine the logic from thereon.
A new approach must connect the climate crisis with inequality to offer a compelling and attractive way forward for society
But there are plenty of people who don’t think there is an inequality problem, and others who wouldn’t want to take action about it even if there were. Some of whom still remain open to the idea that climate change could be a real problem that we should do something about. The linkage would seem to reduce support for climate change action therefore.
Tackling the climate and ecological crisis requires urgently reimagining how we live and work. A Green New Deal – conceived of in the UK, popularised by US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and now powered by social movements here – should not just decarbonise today’s economy but build the sustainable and just economy of tomorrow.
But the number who share that definition of “just economy” is rather small.
The way we do this is by connecting the two great long-term crises that confront us today: the climate emergency and inequality. This is how we construct a broad and durable coalition that can sustain this unprecedented transformation. As well as truth-telling about the disaster that will confront us if we do not act, with the costs falling on those least responsible, ours must be a story of how we build a more equal, prosperous, democratic society.
The number who share that vision of what society should be like is, we suspect, rather smaller than current Labour Party voting intention and most unlikely to be greater than it. Meaning that no more than 18% of the adult population share it.
The number who think that perhaps something should be done about climate change is rather higher than this. Which is why we think this is a mistake. Hitching doing something about Flipper boiling in those vapours of the last ice floe to some demand about radical equality seems to reduce, not increase, support for the plan of action.
But then as the short Frenchman said, never disturb your enemies while they’re making a mistake.