Climate policy is a result of a scientific conclusion that we should protect the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a subject of an ideological discussion, which may do harm to the cause – Wojciech Jakóbik writes.
Activism with a tinge of leftism
On 20 August, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet with Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer who are climate activists. Germany currently holds the EU presidency and has declared support for an ambitious climate policy. Climate activism is having a hard time because of the coronavirus epidemic, which makes it impossible to organize the Fridays for Future, weekly support marches for climate policy. Thunberg and Neubauer have assured they would call on Merkel to take specific actions to protect climate. A Day of global action for climate will take place in German cities on the 25th of September. The protests will take place online. Neubauer is engaged in climate protection as well as ideological disputes. She argues that the right is promoting sexist and misogynistic policies. She also fights for feminist causes.
This is a good moment to reflect on the ideological background of climate protection, which may be diverse. Climate policy is a result of a scientific consensus, which says that human activity has impact on climate because of GHG emissions, including CO2, which has been penalized in the European Union through the introduction of the CO2 trade emissions system. However, leftist social movements are adding to this agenda ideological postulates about the society and the economy.
The slogan of the Climate Camp organization “Feminism for climate, climate for anticapitalism” is an example of this. Whereas the public generally agrees about the scientific basis of climate policies and left- and right-wing politicals admit that climate needs to be protected, an ideological discussion on the roots of this policy may generate disputes that are similar to the conflicts over minorities, especially sexual ones. “In the reality of a climate disaster there is no social justice. In the reality of a climate disaster the rights of women and excluded people are at a higher risk,” Zofia Marcinek from Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca (Women’s Agreement 8 March) cited by Oko.press, a leftist portal that writes about politics and social issues, said. “The climate disaster will not impact everybody equally. Its first victims will be non-heterosexual people, poor people, people with disabilities and non-white people. Not heads of corporations who caused the disaster,” she explained.
“Climate change and the patriarchy are intertwined, especially in the Polish reality. When the rights of minorities, including women, are ignored by the state institutions it creates a toxic climate around them. Women’s rights, at least since 1993 when the ban on abortion was introduced, are not respected. We combined ignoring the rights of minorities, including women, with climate, which is also exploited. Animals and resources are being treated as if they were given to us once and for all, and as if man could freely use them. Whereas, they are very connected with us and their exploitation results in the incoming political and natural disaster,” Zofia Nierodzińska, co-author of the placard “Climate change – patriarchy’s fault” cited by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, said.
The Minority Rights report from 2019 explains how climate change harms indigenous people in the tropical rainforests and the Arctic, and strengthens inequalities. The population of the so-called global North has more resources and will handle climate change better. This is an ideological justification for co-funding the global climate policy in less-developed countries, a postulate that is part and parcel of the discussions on climate change. This is where the “climate justice” proposal comes from. It corresponds with social justice, which in the past was supposed to have been embodied by the communist movement. The authors of the report want to “establish clear mechanisms to monitor and assess climate change-related impacts affecting minorities and indigenous peoples: this should include a particular focus on women, children, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities and other groups who face intersectional discrimination on account of their minority or indigenous identity.”
One could look for Marxist inspirations in a climate policy understood as a fight against social inequality. Capitalists split the resources unequally, and it will become increasingly harder to acquire them as climate will continue to change. Therefore, we should reintroduce social justice to remove these inequalities, a goal that is being pursued by feminist and other equality movements. However, the right can also find its ideological inspiration for climate change, which is the Catholic social teaching, which also calls for wise allocation of resources given to men by God.
What will drive climate policy?
Is it actually worth it to open an ideological debate on climate policy? Opinions vary. My pieces on how the Church uses the Laudato Si encyclical to talk about climate policy have been criticized for mixing climate science with ideology. Similar criticism could be targeted at leftist postulates. Therefore, the left and the right may find their own justification for climate policy, but the best driver for change should be scientific data, which are (?) free of any ideological debate. That debate is becoming increasingly intense and doesn’t always generate constructive results. I write this as a white male from the global North, but despite that I hope that I have the right to speak my mind on this issue.