Social Forum on Climate Change and Peak Oil

by Johanna Dind

The Social Forum on Climate Change and Peak Oil which took place in Edinburgh over the weekend 18th / 19th October 2008 was a success on all counts.

150-200 of people came from all over the country to discuss and exchange ideas on three particular questions;what are the causes of climate change? How can we reduce carbon emissions? And how far can we take the issues under a Red/Green partnership?
The forums and workshops were lively but always respectful, diverse but focused on the target issue, and political but with different emphasis.

The Forum began as an initiative at the end of last year when Justin Kenrick from the Portobello Transition Town contacted SSP members with the idea of forming an alliance for next years European Elections. Although that plan was, for a variety of reasons, soon put to one side the idea of a red/green political alliance working together to tackle environmental issues was seen as a project which was warmly welcomed.

Members of the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Green Party and the Democratic Left soon met thereafter to discuss how to highlight the climate change issue, attract public attention and to start discussions with other concerned groups.

For me as one of the organisers, the two-day Forum event was a success on all counts of the people who came over the weekend 1/3 were SSP members, 1/3 were Scottish Green Party members and the final 1/3 from other groups or non affiliated people. Even though the organising committee shared similar views on the main causes of climate change, capitalism, it was helpful to find out how many who consider themselves ‘Green’ or ‘Socialist’ still believe it is possible to correct the market economy system by making it greener or fairer. Consequently, many discussions over the course of the weekend were about capitalism and the market economy.

Forming networks and working with people from other groups means of course listening to various analyses of the situation, but for SSP members, it was important to highlight our position as socialists by putting the working people and the most vulnerable of the world at the heart of our decisions and underlining the fact that capitalism is killing the planet and us with it through reckless squandering of finite resources on which it depends, the rush for profits destroying all on its way and its culture of over-consumption and accumulation. Capitalism, for me, cannot deliver sustainability for the simple facts that it needs continuous economic growth – something that the planet can no longer support –, because it is based on the market economy, it will always externalise its environmental costs, and finally, the whole system is dependent on the use of fossil fuels.

Four points were highlighted for further debate going forward : a just way to reduce carbon, the renewable process, the realignment of the economy and community initiatives. A statement of intent is being prepared from the event for circulation and for comments. It was also decided to continue the process of red/green alliance with committee meetings on a monthly basis alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

As an SSP member, I was proud of the SSP presence. Many comrades came from across the regions showing their interest in the subject, their desire for actions and sharing their ideas…that we cannot save the planet without socialism!