By David Hammerstein
This political climate silence has to be broken as soon as possible if we are to deal with some of the most damaging social and ecological consequences of climate change with any certainty. The present and future announced by the best scientific data regarding the chronic scarcity and depletion of the most basic environmental goods, cannot continue to be left in the hands of the market and the commercial profit motive that drives it. Well anachronistic, unsupportive and wasteful turns out to be the political consensus practiced, both by the political left and right, anchored as they are in the dogma of giving priority to the growth of the physical economy on a finite planet. Which is an impossible dream to be realized in the end, since it can only happen for a short period of time and at the cost of irreparably degrading many of the basic bioregenerative capacities and metabolisms of the biosphere, which also support human survival. The reductionist indicators of this ecologically and socially suicidal economism are no longer useful, which systematically hides from its calculations the enormous environmental damage generated by growth policies.
Climate change constitutes a local and global socio-ecological emergency that demands political responses of a great magnitude, consistent with the serious situation in which we are collectively trapped. The excuses for externalizing responsibility for the problem are very diverse, although it is not true that the climate tragedy should be faced only by others, such as the Government, the European Union, the UN, multinationals, technicians and experts, individual citizens… Contrary to the idea that “social needs” must first be prioritized and the fight against climate change postponed, the truth is that the possible advances in welfare and social justice in the present, both here and elsewhere globally remote, they are closely related to profound changes in climate policies. Joint improvements in well-being and the good life will only be possible if rapid changes are made in the ways in which we produce, consume and communicate, something that implies profound changes in the policies of our cities, autonomies and nationalities. The so-called "quality public services" that we often ardently defend will only be possible if they are accompanied by "climatic quality" in many areas of political intervention, such as energy, transport, housing, industry, education, health, consumption, agriculture , food ... Precisely the changes guided by "ecological sufficiency" in the face of unlimited abundance and waste, are those that at the same time would allow greater amounts of justice in the North-South distribution and also lower inequalities here.
The ultimate reason is that on a planet with finite physical resources and increasingly degraded by entropic action of human origin, the imperative of the growth of the physical economy pie as a previous step to achieve a more equitable distribution and greater joint well-being, it is simply a dangerous chimera. On a materially finite planet it will only be possible to reduce poverty and misery through the concomitant relief of wealth in overdeveloped and overconsuming societies like ours. For example, ending the energy poverty suffered by many individuals and families would require simultaneously alleviating the irrational and joyous wealth of energy overconsumption that surrounds us.
In addition to being a fundamental ethical responsibility to conceive the climate as an essential common good on which human societies and the rest of biodiversity depend, climate policies can also be the backbone of social change. They constitute a historic opportunity to transform the outdated productive model inherited from growth by growth to promote joint well-being and more just, participatory and decentralized lifestyles, while being compatible with the preservation and ecological repair of our common and battered planetary home. . Far from being a luxury for future times of economic boom, climate policies, many of which cost nothing or require little economic investment, would pave the way against the current economic crisis and its unjust social consequences.
None of this will happen if we continue with the timid and weak initiatives in favor of efficiency or environmental savings, which have been implemented so far. Small and isolated energy efficiency or saving initiatives are only a few drops in the sea, such as measures to change lighting bulbs, reduce the speed of traffic or install a few solar panels in public buildings. Despite constituting positive advances, they are still light years away from the structural and transversal shock measures that climate change demands.
We are faced with a dilemma of options, in which we must choose between the growing catastrophic disorder caused by climate change or the “change everything”. In sight is the resounding failure of sectoral policies for the "environment", with measurable and evaluable results. It is too late and the embryonic climate policies locked in the "environmental ghetto" are not worth it, well limited, marginal and far from the economic and social political priorities of growth in the historical context in which we are. What is at stake is the change of our individual and collective practical habits of waste and overconsumption. Unfortunately, there is also no time ahead to just rely on cultural learning and mentality change, as cultural and educational change is very slow and can hardly be programmable or controllable. Furthermore, climate destabilization and its many terrifying repercussions on ecosystems are already very visible and more intense and accelerated than previously believed, as confirmed by the latest forecasts from the best-informed scientific communities. This temporary condition reduces the possibilities we have to make the necessary turns, the time gets shorter and shorter. Consequently, courageous political decisions and structural changes here and now, commensurate with the height of the enormous climate challenge, become more essential. It is about anticipating the worst and adapting as much as possible to what is coming our way without remedy.
The new political teams formed in the municipalities and the autonomies have a clear responsibility ahead of them: to get out as soon as possible from the declarations of rhetorical principles regarding the concern about climate change. They must set ambitious and binding CO2 reduction targets that are publicly and objectively assessable. At least achievable goals must be between 25% and 35% reductions for 2020 and compared to 2005. They must be supported by specific plans in each and every one of the management areas, affecting institutions public and private. Policies of sufficiency against those of waste are necessary and essentially mean doing much more with much less. For example, a desirable goal for 2020, such as reducing road traffic by at least 30% in urban centers, can be achieved through pedestrianization and great restrictions on the space assigned to private cars, through urban tolls and tax rates. Strictly finalist circulation and parking (when the resources thus obtained are dedicated to the improvement and expansion of public transport and the specific environmental damage generated).
Agreements with institutions of all kinds are possible and desirable, such as universities, commerce, companies, unions, for the adoption of concrete commitments in the necessary reduction of car use, energy consumption, water consumption and of many polluting products generated throughout the entire cycle of activities. The drastic and exemplary reduction of public and private dependence on electricity produced with fossil fuels is urgent and achievable. In addition, city councils and regional governments must join the growing international movement in favor of financial disinvestment in funds and banks that invest in fossil fuel companies. Climate justice policies can be many and very innovative, such as the establishment of finalist tourist rates dedicated to climate projects, the creation of tax advantages for the ecological rehabilitation of buildings, bioclimatic designs in facilities of all kinds, roofs urban gardens and gardens, strict urban planning criteria that put a stop to the wheel of urban expansion, the conservation and increase of the permeability of the soil and green spaces in urban centers. There are many other measures that can be objectified with indicators and quantifiable, that through concrete commitments enter the fields of bio-construction, ecological production and consumption, sharing and "open access" to knowledge and climate technologies, or as they are other diverse social initiatives of the participatory economy of the common good.
If a clear commitment to the harsh reality of climate change is committed, to facilitate the path to climate justice, the new municipal and regional leaders will be forced to make difficult and conflicting political decisions. Public and social debate is necessary to mobilize broad citizen support. To begin with, it would be necessary to break the silence and the media censorship established on this civilizing problem that affects us all, human and non-human, born and new generations who will inherit the worst consequences of our actions in the present.
Political change will be climate or it simply won't be.