While the climate crisis worsens, the so-called ‘green transition’ is producing tensions and uncertainty for many, deepening divisions and conflicts: factories are shifting to electric production, coal mines are threatened with closure, and the energy efficiency improvement is transforming the already strained housing sector and real estate. Different rules and regulations are producing new ‘green hierarchies’ among countries and sectors. These hierarchies are then reproduced among workers, fostering further class fragmentation and the outsourcing of production to navigate the constraints of environmental regulations, resources, and labor costs on the production of value. Paradoxically, all this seems to pit demands for a decarbonised society against workers demands. The question is, how do we break from an opposition between “workers’ interests”, framed exclusively around issues related to working conditions and wages, and environmentalism, to bring them both together?

Overview

The greatest trick that the ruling class has achieved is cementing the notion of “personal carbon footprints”. From reducing plastic bag use, buying paper straws, purchasing electric cars, taking fewer flights, or paying an extra pound to compensate for your carbon footprint, to the presentation of emerging products with lower carbon footprints like “plant-based” meet and diary low carbon recipes and dietary changes, or the veganuary challenge as solutions to the crisis. 

Common to all these so-called “solutions” is an intense focus on changing consumer patterns, which seeks to justify the neoliberal myth of consumers’ democracy as both the only space where individual power is exercised and individual responsibilities assigned.

Meanwhile, the “hidden abode” of production remains invisible, the spotlight placed exclusively on consumption, misplacing both power and responsibility alike. We know very well that we can’t wait until the profit incentive opens a window of opportunity for big corporations or small entrepreneurs to save us all. Whatever comes beyond the end of the world won’t be brought by a start-up.

Regardless of the individual, even “well-intended” actions of the ruling capitalist class, it is imperative to make profit divorced from our social needs, and the specific conditions under which more money can be realised, that impose objective limitations on whether capital could be repurposed into solar cell production with no fossil fuel consumption. But it is precisely here where our collective power lies, as the reproduction of value rests on the continual exploitation of wage labour. For this reason, we need to move away from consumption and have a look at production and start the transformation from there. This shift not only helps us properly understand the meaning of corporate responsibility as against individual responsibility, but it resituates class struggle as a central component of a green transition and hoarder of collective power, with all the complexities this process entails. 

With the accelerating climate crisis and the search for new opportunities for exploiting it by capital, these kinds of “climate class conflicts” will shape the next decade. We believe that these sites of struggle would require transnational discussions, ideas, and coordinated action to ensure the effective articulation of these new paths of conflicts and collective demands, whilst fighting against the violence of climate inaction, against the domination of new cycles of “green” capital accumulation and obstructing new extractivist projects in the name of resisting climate change.