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PODCAST: Democracy and the climate

United Kingdom

This month’s Climate Radio show is a special discussion on the theme of democracy and climate change. Phil England is joined by:

Alex Scrivener from World Development Movement
Ewa Jasiewicz from No Dash for Gas
Emma Hughes from Platform
Jamie Kelsey-Fry from New Internationalist and Occupy London

Listen to the podcast here.

Are we facing a democratic crisis in Britain?

Why do scientists and civil society struggle to get government to respond to the climate crisis while its default position is to side with powerful vested interests?

Why are millionaires getting tax cuts and bankers still getting obscene bonuses while ordinary people are facing cuts to jobs, wages, benefits and public services?

Are we effectively living in a corporate oligarchy or ‘corporatocracy,’ where power is exercised by the few in the interests of the corporations and financiers?

Do we, as former World Bank economist Joesph Stiglitz has put it, have a government ‘of the 1 per cent, by the 1 per cent and for the 1 per cent’?

The Web of Power

man and woman holding placards
Is there a democratic crisis over the climate? Climate Watch, under a CC License

The World Development Movement’s Web of Power report found that in Britain, ‘up to a third of all coalition ministers may have past or present links with fossil fuel companies, or with financial and services companies supporting oil or gas projects.’ Their cool infographic shows how directors of banks and fossil fuel companies sit on each other’s boards and the links they have with members of the cabinet.

Action: Put pressure on Vince Cable to make sure banks are required to disclose the carbon footprint of their investments.

Why is the government mortgaging our future to gas?

The British government’s own independent advisers, The Committee on Climate Change, have said that relying on gas to produce our electricity in the future would be illegal, crash our carbon reduction commitments and be more expensive. Yet Chancellor George Osborne is planning to build 30 new gas fired power stations and has  announced subsidies and bribes for gas produced by the dangerous process of ‘hydraulic fracturing,’ also known as ‘fracking’. It’s easy to see why the government is going down this road when you see to what extent the gas mafia has penetrated the heart of government.

Actions: Find out if your MP is supporting a de-carbonization target in the Energy Bill. This would rule out new gas-fired power stations. If not, email them. Follow @nodashforgas and @frack_off to find out about future actions you can be involved in.

How oil and gas companies dictate our foreign policy

British foreign policy has had strong links with oil and gas company interests since we carved up the Middle East between ourselves and the French at the end of World War One. This has led to Britain supporting a range of undemocratic rulers and has made us complicit in their human rights abuses. It is also now means that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is supporting Arctic drilling despite the fact that opening up Arctic oil and gas reserves is inconsistent with maintaining a hospitable climate.

Corporate capture across government

The disproportionate and corrupting influence of business and finance seems to be a consistent pattern across government in areas such as health care, arms sales and press regulation.

A lesson from history

It was only a reform of democracy that finally enabled legislation abolishing the slave trade to pass in Britain. After centuries of slave rebellions and decades of campaigning, the 1832 Reform Act made Parliament somewhat more representative – meaning the number of pro-slavery representatives fell – and a year later The Abolition of Slavery Act was passed.

So what?

If corporate capture of government really is the single underlying thing holding progressive politics back, should we be switching from fighting single issue campaigns, to uniting behind a single campaign focusing on reforming government by kicking out the vested interests of the corporations and banks?

For a longer version of these notes visit the Climate Radio website.

Listen to the podcast here.

Climate Radio is broadcast by Resonance FM on the third Monday of every month and archived at the Climate Radio website.

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