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Gilet Jaunes

Blueprint for Europe's Just Transition: The Green New Deal for Europe (Edition II)

By various - The Green New Deal for Europe, December 2019

Europe today confronts three overlapping crises.

The first is an economic crisis, with rising levels of poverty, insecurity, and homelessness across the continent. The second is a climate and environmental crisis, with severe consequences for Europe’s front-line communities and even more perilous ones on the horizon. And the third is a crisis of democracy. Across the continent, people are disconnected from the locus of political decision-making not only in Brussels, but also in the communities where they reside.

These crises are products of Europe’s political decisions, and they are closely bound together. The promotion of extractive growth has driven environmental breakdown, and the devotion to budget austerity — over and above the democratic needs expressed in communities across Europe — has constrained our capacity to respond to it.

A radically new approach is necessary to reverse this destructive trend — and to deliver environmental justice in Europe and around the world. We call this approach the Green New Deal for Europe, and the following report is a comprehensive policy pack-age charting a course through Europe’s just transition.

Read the report (PDF).

Broadening Engagement With Just Transition: Opportunities and Challenges

By Robin Webster and Dr Christopher Shaw - Climate Outreach, September 2019

The idea of just transition first emerged in the 1970s, when US union leader Tony Mazzocchi1 proposed that people whose jobs were threatened by nuclear disarmament should be compensated for the loss. In the 1990s Mazzocchi broadened the argument to refer to workers in environmentally damaging jobs, whose employment is affected by new policies aiming to reduce pollution.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) now defines just transition as reducing emissions while ensuring “decent work, social inclusion and poverty eradication.” Its basic elements, according to ITUC, include public and private investment to create green jobs, advance planning to compensate for the negative impacts of climate policies and opportunities for retraining for people whose jobs are affected.

A wide range of groups - including environmental NGOs, labour justice groups and policymakers - have since adopted the idea and it is codified in international climate policy. The preamble to the 2015 Paris Agreement requires the international community to take into account “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs” and the European Commission aims to bring more focus on “social fairness” in tackling climate change.

Just transition is an important concept; a tool for facilitating dialogue between different stakeholders and challenging the discourse of ‘jobs versus climate.’ As one report puts it, it has the potential to be “at the heart of a powerful narrative of hope, tolerance and justice; a narrative that is grounded in people’s actual lived experiences and aspires to guide collective action while simultaneously giving rise to tangible alternatives.”

It is also important from a pragmatic perspective. Recent events - including the Gilets Jaunes protest against a government proposal to raise fuel prices in France and President Trump’s championing of jobs in the US coal industry as a reason for pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement - demonstrate the need to seek social consent for the low-carbon transition, or risk it being undermined.

The term itself, however, is little used outside the policy and technical literature, and hardly used at all in the global South, where it may conflict with other strong cultural narratives - for example the need for poorer countries to develop and use more energy.10 In countries where the idea is more current, only a limited amount of research has been carried out exploring what the idea of just transition means to the communities it is meant to help.

Yet the idea of ‘social dialogue’ between governments, businesses, trade unions and civil society is at the core of just transition, according to many unions.12 Social dialogue means engaging in discussions about what transition means for people’s lives and sense of identity; for jobs, communities and place.13 If just transition is to move from pages of policy reports into reality, then attention needs to be paid to how to frame the dialogue between advocates of a low-carbon economy, and those who are likely to be most fundamentally affected.

Read the report (PDF).

Manifesto for a new popular internationalism in Europe

By various - ReCommonsEurope, May 26, 2019

In the last ten years, popular anger has expressed itself without interruption against discriminatory and anti-democratic policies in favour of the rich and big companies - policies implemented by national governments and often coordinated by the European Union (EU). It has taken the form of initiatives by trade unions, but also by new movements such as ‘15M’ in Spain (also called in other countries the movement of the ‘Indignados’), the occupation of the squares in Greece and the huge demonstrations in Portugal in 2011, the movements against the “Loi Travail” (Labour law) in France and against the Water Tax in Ireland in 2016, the great demonstrations for autonomy and against political repression in Catalonia in 2017. Feminist struggles gave rise to the historic demonstrations in Poland (« Czarny Protest » against the anti-abortion law in 2017), Italy (« Non Una di Meno » movement since 2016), Spain (feminist general strike of 5 million people on the 8th March 2018), as well as a victory over the political influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland with the legalisation of abortion by referendum in May 2018, and are at last succeeding in imposing their centrality in all social struggles.

The year 2018 also saw the emergence of new social movements against the dominant economic and political order, with the movement against the « slavery law » (neoliberal reform of labour laws) in Hungary, the demonstration and development of the « Indivisible » antiracist movement in Germany, the Yellow Vests movement in France and French-speaking Belgium against unjust fiscal policies and the lack of democracy in political institutions. Nor should we forget the climate demonstrations, driven mainly by young people who have gone on strike in many countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, France and Great Britain. All these social movements, and others, have challenged the austerity measures and authoritarianism of the policies being implemented in Europe, by posing directly or indirectly the question of a radical alternative social project to capitalism, productivism, ecological devastation, racism and patriarchy. This Manifesto sees itself as an integral part these movements and shares their objectives: the struggle against all forms of domination, for universal rights, for equality and for a democracy to be invented – a democracy which would not stop at the gates of companies and the threshold of working-class areas, and which would necessarily be radically opposed to the logic of a capitalist system (whether the latter claims to be ‘protectionist’, and so against ‘foreigners’, or ‘liberal’) which is destroying social rights and the environment.

Read the report (PDF).

Yellow Vest Movement Struggles To Reinvent Democracy

By Richard Greeman - Popular Resistance, April 13, 2019

Act 21 While Assembly of Assemblies Meets, Macron Cranks Up Propaganda and Repression

After five months of constant presence at traffic circles, toll-booths and hazardous Saturday marches,  the massive, self-organized social movement known as the Yellow Vests has just held its second nationwide “Assembly of Assemblies.” Hundreds of autonomous Yellow Vest activist groups from all over France each chose two delegates (one woman, one man) to gather in the port city of St. Nazaire for a weekend of deliberation (April 5-7).

After weeks of skirmishing with the municipal authorities, the local Yellow Vests were able to host 700 delegates at the St. Nazaire “House of the People,” and the three-day series of general meetings and working groups went off without a hitch in an atmosphere of good-fellowship. A sign on the wall proclaimed: “No one has the solution, but everybody has a piece of it.”

Their project: mobilize their “collective intelligence” to reorganize, strategize, and prolong their struggle. Their aim: achieve the immediate goals of livable wages and retirements, restoration of social benefits and public services like schools, transportation, post offices, hospitals, taxing the rich and ending fiscal fraud to pay for preserving the environment, and, most ambitious of all, reinventing democracy in the process. Their Declaration ends with the phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I often wonder if they know who coined it.

A new chance for climate justice?

By Nathan Thanki - Open Democracy, April 12, 2019

In the past year, concerns of civilizational collapse and unprecedented transformations of society and the economy have gone from being fringe ideas of eco-socialists to populating the mainstream debate in the Global North. The “Green New Deal” is gaining traction both amongst US Democrats and the UK’s Labour Party. There’s a growing desire for positive and visionary ideas, and a growing recognition of the scale and time frame of the challenge.

We can see the same desire in the explosion onto the scene of “Extinction Rebellion” and the phenomenal School Strike for Climate. While these initiatives represent different and internally diverse politics, they all speak to the same tendency: a profound sense of panic among people in the Global North.

There is much to praise and be heartened by in the shifting politics of the North, but there is a danger of missteps which could roll back the modest advances climate justice movements have made in the past few decades, and even contribute to the political forces we oppose. We need to debate the strategic value of the choices being made. We cannot afford to be uncritical, nor nihilistic.

An Ecosocialist Green New Deal: Guiding Principles

By the DSA Ecosocialist Working Group - Democratic Socialists of America - February 28, 2019

The IWW has not endorsed this document; however, individual members of the IWW EUC have helped shape it.

Humankind has reached a moment of existential crisis. Human activity is causing disastrous climate disruption and Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, triggering critical losses of biodiversity. We are already locked in for global warming that will have catastrophic effects, and we are on a slippery path to our own extinction. The 2018 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns unequivocally that “without societal transformation and rapid implementation of ambitious greenhouse gas reduction measures, pathways to limiting warming to 1.5°C and achieving sustainable development will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.”

Yet, the crisis we face exceeds ecological breakdown. Deepening inequality, suppressed democracy, precarious jobs, racial and gendered violence, border hostility, and endless wars make up the terrain on which climate destabilization will be unleashed. The most vulnerable members of society will be hit hardest, first, and suffer most.

We must solve the climate crisis and the inequality crisis together. Climate remedies in the context of austerity will produce a popular backlash, as we see in the yellow vest protests against a fuel tax. Corporations profiting from fossil extraction have long worked to turn workers against environmentalists, claiming that clean energy would be a job killer. But working class and poor people’s quality of life, gravely threatened by climate disruption, would greatly improve in a just transition. Because corporate capitalism rewards extraction to concentrate wealth, it must be replaced by a sustainable economy. A Green New Deal can begin the transition from exploitative capitalism to democratic ecological socialism.

The urgency and scale of the crisis we face demand solutions that meet the magnitude of this moment. The ineffectual gradualism and corporate obedience demonstrated by the U.S. government’s climate response has proven to be a dead-end for humanity. We need rapid, systemic transformation that heals the stratification of wealth and power while putting decarbonization and justice at the forefront.

We need a Green New Deal. We demand a Green New Deal, and we demand that it serve people and planet—not profit.

Read the report (PDF).

Gilet Jaunes: tackling climate change means addressing inequality and building resilience to climate change

By staff - Fossil Free, December 14, 2018

The climate crisis is hitting unevenly- those who are least responsible for causing it and who are already affected by other forms of injustice, suffer the most.

The Gilets Jaunes movement sprung up in France, responding to a decision by the French government to increase taxes on fuel starting in 2019, officially to finance incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. In reality, only a fraction of the money collected from the tax would have gone to finance green programs: most of this tax would’ve been used to bridge the gap in the budget that the cancellation of the tax on the highest incomes has created. Rather than holding accountable those most responsible for causing the climate crisis – for instance, French fossil fuel giant Total – the French government seemed to want to force the less privileged to pay for the consequences of climate change.

While the situation in France is still very volatile, the Gilets Jaunes movement carries the potential for a much deeper learning and change, one that truly addresses the roots of many intertwined problems. There is an urgent need to bring about a rapid transition away from the fossil fuel economy and to address the disempowerment and disenfranchisement of vast parts of the population in many democracies, as well as an economic paradigm that governments have so far been unable or unwilling to challenge. The first lesson to learn from the Gilets Jaunes is that tackling climate change cannot be a matter of simply taxing fossil fuels.

At times it is very unclear what the Gilets Jaunes movement stands for. Day after day, the demands shift, as does the composition of the movement and its relationship with established political forces. Some of the first local protests were led or facilitated by right wing extremists inciting racist, islamophobic and homophobic acts. Some sectors of the Gilets Jaunes are still turning this into an excuse to scapegoat migrants and other minorities – this needs to be forcefully rejected and denounced. There can be no place in any truly popular movement for acts and words that exclude, marginalize or discriminate people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation.

At the same time, while the ultimate shape that the Gilets Jaunes are going to take is still unclear, and a risk of it being hijacked by far-right narratives is very present, we still need to investigate and understand the ultimate causes of this uprising.

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