Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Session «Capitalism is not Green»

The PS and its Green Taxation hide the accountability of capitalism on environmental degradation

The PS and its Green Taxation hide the accountability of capitalism on environmental degradation

A fraternal greeting from the leadership of our Party to the JCP, to the young communists and, through you, to the Portuguese youth.

A greeting that is all the more deserved as JCP, in the scope of its diversified activity in defence of the rights, interests and aspirations of the youth, has never failed to pay attention to and follow the struggle in defence of a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, embracing a wide range of initiatives and ensuring participation in the youth dynamics of environmental protection under the motto “Capitalism is not green”.

We are holding this session at a time when, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, thousands of dignitaries from nearly two hundred countries are gathering at the United Nations Climate Conference, the so-called COP 26.

When so many voices are raised, genuinely and justly concerned with extreme events in terms of the climate, with increasingly prolonged dry periods, with concentrated rains increasingly more intense, with consequences in fires of great brutality, like those we had in Portugal 4 years ago, or floods with unpredictable results, COP 26 should correspond to the culmination of a wide debate and finding paths for the many problems that lie ahead.

Public means are then needed to research the causes of climate variability and climate systems, without simplifications or limitations, requiring a serious and materially based scientific process, while it is necessary to multiply warnings that the dominant mode of production is promoter of environmental problems and is incapable of solving them.

However, the COP26 documents point to public policies that are in the direction of "reducing the risk for private sector investment" and "ensuring the development of markets", that is, more money for the same to do the same thing as usual, now under the cover of the so-called “Net Zero Emissions”. The solution that allows large polluters to continue to pollute as long as they offset their emissions with projects that “absorb carbon.” A solution that places the burden of emission cuts on historically exploited countries, in general less developed countries that are dependent on carbon markets dominated by the richest and most developed countries and increasing the risk of displacing and alienating local communities, small farmers and hindering the development of those countries.

Ultimately, with this carbon market, a polluter group can obtain emission credits for supporting projects to plant monocultures in developing countries, affecting the environmental balance in the various places where it operates.

An entire orientation in line with the guidelines of the IMF and successive governments that have been investing in so-called market instruments in the environmental area. The CO2 emission permits are dubbed the "main instrument", contravening the evidence that these mechanisms have already shown that they do not solve the problem, had opposite effects to those announced in the EU plan and only create speculative mechanisms designed to accumulate money in the hands of groups that have responsibilities for environmental degradation.

There are those who take advantage of the catastrophist discourse to encourage the acceptance, at the level of the masses, that environmental problems are resolved exclusively through technology, financial and speculative mechanisms, taxation of individual behaviour, markets and so-called green consumption.

The PS government was also following the path of what the centres of capital call the Green Taxation which, as we have been denouncing, hides the penalisation of the working strata, transferring the responsibility of environmental degradation from the capitalist mode of production to each and every one of the workers and their individual behaviour.

In the COP 26 documents we find similar elements, trying to affirm solutions that point to a kind of "green popular capitalism", justified by the so-called unquestionable will of small savers who want their investments to consider the impact on people and the planet as well as financial advantages. They even run the “Make my money matter” campaign which seeks to get people to demand that their pension providers invest in line with the “net zero emissions” mechanism.

In other words, it clearly bets on the financialization of the environment, wanting to apply capitalism to Nature, presenting it as a natural system and exposing environmental policies and society to the mechanisms that have led to speculative bubbles and financial crises and resulted in disastrous effects on the economic, social, but also environmental point of view.

The PCP has been warning about the need to combat the transformation of a supposed environmental discourse into a weapon to foster acceptance of increased exploitation. The example of the recent closure of the GALP refinery in Leça da Palmeira is illustrative. It did not correspond to any measure to solve environmental problems, but to a strategy to reduce productive capacity in the EU to maintain profit rates and favour monopolistic strategies.

With the complicity of the PS Government, the label "environment" has been used so that the operation to close the refinery is funded with public moneys, with the State assuming the costs of GALP with this decision, namely compensation to workers and recovery of the refinery soils.

And now we continue to consume exactly the same products, which are now being imported, heightening their ecological footprint, but accumulating profits in the pockets of shareholders.

There are no "green" technologies, jobs or consumptions to begin with. Technologies and products will be "green", or rather less harmful to the environment, depending on how they are produced, managed and explored and the immediate aim they pursue.

It is essential to respond to the needs of harmonising human beings with nature, which implies, given the environmental problems created by the capitalist mode of production with its exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature, combating mechanisms of commodification of Nature, pointing out the responsibilities of capitalism in its degradation and not accepting that costs be transferred to the impoverished strata and to the peoples of the world.
We have said that a shift in environmental policy is needed. An environmental policy aimed at preserving the balance of Nature and its ecological systems, respecting the "precautionary principle" in the face of new threats and problems, helping to prevent the effects of climate change, and ensuring the democratisation of the access and enjoyment of nature, fighting the commodification of the environment and its ideological and political instrumentalization by big capital.

A policy that fights the predation of resources, a mark of capitalism, a society and a world freed from the dictatorship of profit and that has in the Advanced Democracy that the PCP defends, the answer that is needed, with the construction of socialism on the horizon.

Yes, at this stage we need to implement a patriotic and left-wing policy, which calls for the reinforcement of State resources to develop a true defence of the balance of Nature. A Policy that aims to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by promoting public energy alternatives. That promotes public transport instead of solutions that aim to maintain the paradigm of individual transport. That imposes the reduction of emissions with a specific regulation, and not with the attribution of tradable licenses or other speculative mechanisms that do not solve the problem. That fights the pressure for the privatisation and commodification of water. That defends local production, going against the liberalisation of world trade, since the logic of world markets leads to the irrationality of logistics systems, with tremendous environmental impacts. That war, militarism and the weapons industry are some of the most polluting phenomena in our world, hence the fight for environmental balance must always be associated with the fight for Peace.

At COP 26, nothing prevents the government from assuming these objectives. To defend a policy that continues the extraordinary advance in transport and mobility policy, represented by the extension of the scope of the intermodal social transport pass and the reduction of its cost.

Nothing prevents the government from betting on national production, on small and medium-sized agriculture, on small fishing, on the satisfaction of the internal market, on shorter production and distribution circuits, mitigating the footprint that production necessarily leaves on the country.

Nothing prevents the government from contracting workers who are missing in State structures, to implement the necessary policies and to guarantee the inspection of multiple attacks on the environment.

Nothing prevents it because the government is still in office. What the situation demands today is not a heightening of the idea of the crisis, but a response to the problems of the workers and the people.

It is true that the State Budget did not pass in the Assembly of the Republic because the government did not give the signs and did not assume the commitments that we demanded for months. And it didn’t because it didn't want to. It did not want to affront the great interests of the money lords and their institutional expressions, in Brussels, in the EU and in the Euro.

If the PS wanted to start a path of response to the problems that the epidemic left even more exposed and the main structural deficits that curb the country's development, there were alternatives. But the PS didn't want to. António Costa's enlightening statement at the end of the Budget debate, calling for a lasting, stable and reinforced majority, which is just a polished way of not talking about the absolute majority they want, speaks for itself.

They want an absolute majority to free themselves from the influence of the PCP, which forced the PS, even against its programme and its will, to a set of positive measures that young people know well, from the aforementioned price reduction of the Intermodal Social Pass, to school textbooks, to the reduction of tuition fees or the enhancement of Social Action in Schools, even though the government has tried to do everything to postpone and hinder as much as possible these measures.

As proved, it is with the PCP that progress is made in the defence and achievement of rights.

The more power the PCP has, the closer workers are to seeing their wages increase to amounts that respond to their lives.

The more power the PCP has, the more stability the workers will have in their jobs and in their homes, better conditions for young couples to freely decide to have children.

The more power the PCP has, the more guarantees all retired people will have of seeing their pensions regain purchasing power.

The more power the PCP has, the more defended the NHS will be from the attack of the business of disease, the more right and access to medical appointments, tests, surgeries will be available to all Portuguese people.

Yes, there are other ways out, but if the option is to have elections, then those who say that having the country without a Budget and at a standstill for a long time is a disaster, do not ask now for the clarification of the situation to be postponed.

If there are elections, we will be here, to face them with all the confidence of those who have a heritage of intervention in defence of the workers, the youth, the people and the country, of which we can be proud.

With the confidence of those who say that capitalism is not green and presents the alternative to respond to it.