Robert Newman's Speech in Trafalgar Square
Full text of speech given at STOP CLIMATE CHAOS rally, Trafalgar Square on 4 November 2006.
(Due to the event over-running, this speech was cut a little on the day.)
There is no planet B, so we need an economic plan B. We need to develop new economic systems because there is only one eco-system and it cannot survive the present free market economy.
The Stern Report published yesterday, has come up with a price-mechanism to halt climate change. But there is no market-based solution to a market-based problem. Stern says we were better spending 1% of GDP now on lowering carbon emissions, rather than find ourselves paying 20% of our GDP to combat the effects of climate change in a few years time. But devoting 1% of GDP to lowering carbon emissions isn’t going to work, is meaningless if the other 99% is spent increasing carbon emissions. GDP isn’t carbon neutral. Much of that GDP comes from depradating the environment for profit. And British banks and corporations, UK-registered companies are among the world’s biggest climate criminals.
The Royal Bank of Scotland is the biggest bank in Britain and second biggest bank in Europe. RBS own NatWest and Churchill Insurance. RBS describe themselves as “the oil and gas bank”. RBS helped finance Sakhalin oil pipeline off east coast of Russia in the Arctic Ocean , and the BTC oil pipeline. You want to do something positive? Take your money out of there. And not just yours. Don’t just close your own account. If your university or college has an accunt with the “oil and gas bank” or its subsidiaries - shut it down! If your employer or workplace has an account with the oil and gas bank - shut it down!
If your union, sports club, social club or secret fight club has an account with the Royal Bank of Scotland - shut it down!
FOSSIL FUELS HAVE GOT TO STAY IN THE GROUND!
BP’s emissions from all processes and products are twice those of Britain. A single hedge-fund company in the City of London which owns own 2.1% of BP, means they are therefore responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to 4 million Brits. That’s an office of, what... 30 people? Fifty?
Something else of great value which climate campaigners can do are soldiarity actions with frontline communities. Those living in the Niger Delta, for example. Friday 10th November will be the 10th anniversary of the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was killed by the Nigerian state for campaigning against what Shell were doing in Nigeria. Now, ten years later, Shell’s gas flaring in the Niger Delta is the single largest source of carbon emissions on the planet. 2.5 billion cubic feet per day. The single largest source of carbon emissions on the planet. Shell is a UK-registered company, based right here in Britain (and contributing to that GDP of which the Stern report wants us to divert 1% to offsetting the effects of climate change). It is our right and our duty to take Shell back into public ownership, dismantle it, break it up, and send its management into rehabilition training in the hope that they can one day be re-introduced into society as useful members of the community.
We have a unique historic opportunity to make of the post-fossil fuel world a much more equal and better place than we knew in the Petroleum Era. So many of the global inequalities and injustices and oppressions are deeply stratified into the World Oil Economy, hard-wired into a carbon-fuelled profit frenzy. As we disentangle ourselves from the fossil-fuel economy, we might experiment with new ways of working with the Global South rather than theft and control punctuated, like a wife-beater, by contrition. They might even involve listening to and then doing what they say.
Von Clausewitz, the famous military strategist, wrote that the most difficult military manoeuvre is retreat. This being so, our arguments needn’t be negative, needn’t be a jeremiad.
Yes, peak oil and carbon rationing will mean that there will be less and less net energy available to humankind no matter what we do. Yes, this will cause much upheaval but it will also bring good things: no-one will be working the night-shift, no-one will be commuting four hours a day, no-one will be stuck in traffic, vast swathes of the population will be liberated from meaningless work producing pointless commodities no-one really needs, from lives so empty they have to fill them with commodities and talk of far-away stars they will never meet. We will have to live more co-operatively, our lives will be less isolated and this may even - who kows - affect the epidemic of mental illness which characterizes the present system.
North and South, the actions and organizing that we do in the next ten years may be the most important in human history since the discovery of fire.