Young climate activists offer hope that another world is possible

17 March 2019

Young climate activists offer hope that another world is possible

On 12th March a delegation of young climate activists – they call themselves 'the truants' – came to the meeting of our group, the GUE-NGL or United Left, in Strasbourg. It was impressive, and not only because because the youth movement is growing ever bigger and ever more international, but above all also because some of these young people had worked out that a transformation of the system would be needed if a fist is to be made of the fight against the warming of the earth's climate. “Of course we's rather not travel by plane, but as long as the train is many times dearer, what do you want us to do? Our whole economic system is unfit for purpose.”

For the SP, the central idea has to be climate justice. We want to see major polluters footing the bill, and perhaps the government will yet impose an effective CO2 tax on these polluting corporations. But the problem lies deeper. Tomorrow is world consumer rights day. Consumer groups worldwide are marking the event. The main rights are the right to safety, to information, the right to choose and the right to be heard out. It is the last of these which is of most interest. Increasingly, people are looking to reject products or packaging which directly or indirectly contribute to CO2 emissions. They want to see the back of the international food industry, of the value chain which mean that different parts of products are made all over the world in order to hold costs as low as possible. Italian shoes which are merely assembled in Italy but whose heels, soles and other components are manufactured far away. Of course we all want affordable products, but the present world production system has gone completely haywire.

Young people are absolutely right to attack the system. With every second that passes, we're encouraged to consume more. Every minute we're faced with temptations to buy products which have to be transported from all over the world. If we really listen to these critical young consumers, then we need to take a good long look at the entire economy. Firms whose rush for growth is accompanied by a search for ever more markets. And so consumers find they need ever more, and more, and more, while products manufactured closer to home, and in an environmentally friendly manner, are becoming unaffordable for the average person. That's how the free market works, seeing all organic and ecological products as ideal for a market made up of people with well-filled pockets. The challenge is to break this marketisation via targeted subsidies and taxes, and via a brake on the ever more lurid advertising in order to relieve the pressure on the consumer. For this, the market must be restricted, which is what the young climate activists are asking us politicians to do. Next week in our political group we'll be discussing our follow-up. My view is that we should host a demonstration for climate justice. Climate justice would not only tackle the polluting industries, but also ensure the supply of affordable sound and wholesome products.

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