Asbjørn Wahl

Asbjørn Wahl, Norge er sociolog og forfatter til en række bøger om velfærdsstaten.

The role of labour in the fight against climate change

The climate crisis is steadily coming closer. At the same time, we face a deepening economic crisis, as well as social and political crises. This creates an increasingly serious situation for the future of humanity. However, given that the various crises have many of the same root causes, going to the core of our economic system, this can contribute to strengthening the mobilisation of social forces needed to break the current trend – in favor of a democratic and planned development of society.

If we are to stop the most dramatic climate changes, a deep transformation of the way we produce, distribute and consume in our societies is required. Thus, it comes down to what kind of society we want. The climate crisis can be prevented. We do have the knowledge and technology we need. What we lack is the political and economic power sufficiently to shift the balance of power in society.

Thus, the trade union movement is decisive in the fight against climate change – because of its strategic position in society. To activate and mobilise trade unions, the climate change struggle has to be unified with the social struggle, which means a fight for a radical redistribution of wealth in society. Further, this means that climate policies cannot be reduced to a question of sacrificing, as parts of the environmental movement insist. The struggle has to be developed within a narrative of creating a better society for all – based on different values than the consumerism of late capitalism.

The fight against climate change is not an extra struggle for the trade union movement in addition to fighting austerity. It is, and will increasingly be, an important part of the same struggle, not least because climate change will become job-killer number one – as well as a threat to welfare, livelihood and for many people, life itself. However, while unions have developed ever more consistent policies against austerity and global warming over the last years, there is still a lack of effective strategies and understanding of what is required in terms of mobilisation and forms of struggle to achieve their goals. The political and ideological crisis on the left is part of this problem.

The most important challenges for trade unions is to bring the powerful corporations and institutions, which benefit from the financial-industrial fossil fuel complex, under democratic control – with the energy sector standing at the forefront. This will require the mobilisation of enormous social and political power. The trade union movement will not win this struggle alone. It therefore has, more than at any time before, to build broad alliances – with the environmental as well as other social movements. Initiatives like the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) and Global Climate Jobs are important developments in this regard.

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