Ecosocialism, Climate Change and Left Politics

Climate change is the most serious and acute threat currently faced by humanity. What is the left approach to the issue? Different aspects of ecosocialism were discussed in the international seminar “The Climate Change and Left Politics”, hold in Helsinki on 24 October. The seminar also functioned as a publication event of the book “The Politics of Ecosocialism – Transforming welfare”.

The Left Forum think tank (Vasemmistofoorumi), in collaboration with transform! europe, organised this international seminar to discuss left solutions to the problems of climate policy. There were three keynote speakers in the seminar: Rikard Warlenius is an author, PhD student in human ecology and Left Party city councillor in Stockholm. Andreas Ytterstad is a scholar of journalism and one of the leading figures of the Norwegian climate movement. Shora Esmailian is a journalist and has written a book about climate refugees. 
Firstly one of the editors, Teppo Eskelinen, presented the above mentioned book. He told us that the idea of the publication was based on two things: making a book about red-green political issues and also having a strong Nordic viewpoint. The book uses elements of the both main leftist fiscals of thought: Marxism and Keynesianism. Also transformation is an important concept of the book; a process which analyzes what kind of political measures can be used to create realistic “utopias”.  These starting points gave out 11 articles.
Rikard Warlenius concentrated on the concept of “transition”. Firstly he talked about the reasons why we do not act enough to fight global warming. He mentioned K.M. Norgaard’s idea of socially organized denial and Steven Gardiner’s perfect moral storms. Warlenius introduced a list of main barriers of capitalism to fighting global warming: vested interests; The Lauderdale paradox; spatio-temperal fixes, fear of centralized energy production and Naomi Klein’s idea of bad timing in the viewpoint of neo-liberalism. Warlenius also introduced socialist enticements as a counterpart to these barriers.
Andreas Ytterstad concentrated on climate jobs. He established that getting the masses mobilised is essential to fighting global warming. He sees work as a focal point of mass mobilisation. Ytterstad told us about the “100 climate jobs”-book, which he launched in 2013 and the vast climate jobs movement following that. The biggest trade unions, the Norwegian church and the environmental NGOs are all along in the movement, which is crucial because the market has already failed solving the climate crisis, said Ytterstad, quoting Nicholas Stern. As an ideal form of action Ytterstad stated out the example of a strike, inspired both of climate and work. That would force business to cut down emissions.
Shora Esmailian was the last in turn of the keynote speakers and she spoke about climate refugees. Shora told us about the book she wrote, researching the idea of climate refugeity in Pakistan, Egypt and Kenya. She elaborated the idea with two examples; Aisha’s and Fatoma’s. Aisha, living in Pakistan, had fled because of flood, Kenyan Fatoma because of drought. She pointed out that climate crisis affects worstly the people who are already very vulnerable, because living in the global South. She called out the responsibility of the rich countries; Australia and New Zealand are currently blocking the issue of climate refugeity to be addressed in the Paris Climate convention 2015. Climate refugeity is currently not defined by the international law and that makes it possible for the richer countries to not pay the climate debt by accepting climate refugees.
Shora Esmailian was followed by a panel discussion. There Rikard Warlenius and Andreas Ytterstad were joined by two Finnish climate activists, Elina Turunen and Minna Sumelius. The main topics of the panel discussion were co-operation, mass movements, the role of party politics and economic growth.
Video from the seminar

The book

The Politics of Ecosocialism. Transforming welfare

Edited by Kajsa Borgnäs, Teppo Eskelinen, Johanna Perkiö, and Rikard Warlenius
London/New York: Routledge 2015
212 pages
Published with support of transform! europe
For book order and further information click here.