Notes from the front of 13-12-16
Lib Dems – still want to prop up the Tories
On 5 December Lib Dem leader Tim Farron told an interviewer that he had not ruled out joining a coalition with the Tories. After the experience of five years of reactionary coalition with Cameron he might have learnt a little caution. But no, he said ‘Any serious politician who rules out going into power isn’t a serious politician’.
Perhaps this is then a lesson for those Labour MPs and media commentators who want to enter a so called ‘progressive alliance’ with the Lib Dems? If that is not sufficient, check out Farron’s views on working with Labour. On 14 September, in an interview with the London Evening Standard, when asked whether he would enter a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn, Farron replied ‘Could I see myself doing it? I can’t’.
So Farron will ally with the Tories, but not Labour. The ‘progressive alliance’, as recently advocated in the Richmond Park by-election, is a means of assisting the Lib Dems at Labour’s expense, the beneficiaries of which still want to get back into government with the Tories.
Following the rejection of the Italian referendum and the resignation of Matteo Renzi as Prime Minister the new interim government is led by one of his acolytes, Paolo Gentiloni.
The ‘Blairite’ Progressive Democrats (PD) hope in this way that they can cling on to power well into next year and even beyond, while Renzi himself looks poised to renege on his pledge to quit politics if the referendum was lost.
The referendum itself was a blunder. An unpopular government tried to force through greater powers for itself, and tied the outcome to the fate of an unpopular prime minster. The PDs had fallen 10 per cent in opinion polls since mid-2014 to the low 30s.
Support for the right-wing populist Five Star Movement (5SM) has been rising close to the level of PDs. But there is nothing inevitable about further gains, or that it would seek to leave the EU, as is frequently claimed. 5SM has no settled policy on EU membership and different leaders have spoken both against and in favour, the latter including its primary leader Grillo. The next largest party is Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which is in favour of continued EU membership. There is also a consistent majority of the population supporting EU membership in opinion polls.
The immediate crisis facing Italy is concentrated in the banking sector. But this is also a symptom of the long-term structural crisis of the Italian economy, which none of the leading Italian parties has any answers for.
The US President-Elect Donald Trump has described climate change as a ‘hoax’ for the past decade. He has claimed that the concept ‘was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.’ In a clear break with Obama’s modest but nonetheless important breakthrough in committing the US to action on climate change, Trump’s Presidency is a major setback in the global effort to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees – an endeavour which is crucial to defending the lives and the living standards of the majority of the world’s population.
Throughout his Presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to withdraw the US from the UN Paris agreement on climate change. He has since left this question open, declaring that he is now ‘studying’ whether or not the US should withdraw from the deal.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is reportedly Trumps nominee for Secretary of State. He is the head of the US’s largest oil and gas company and if appointed would be controlling US foreign policy and would be in an incredibly powerful position to push the US towards an aggressive policy of fossil fuel extraction at a time when a decisive and rapid transition to clean, renewable energy is vital to stop climate change.
Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt, widely considered to be a climate change denier, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is one of the main agencies that the US has in place to deal with climate change, is alarming. The Economist summed up this appointment nicely: ‘[Trump] would be hard-pushed to find anyone more hostile to that department or committed to tearing up the environmental rules that are perhaps the main achievement of Mr Obama’s second term.’
Bernie Sanders has attacked the proposed appointment, stating ‘Mr. Pruitt’s record is not only that of being a climate change denier, but also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels.’
Pruitt wrote in an article published this year that ‘scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.’ On the contrary, 97% of the world’s climate scientists agree that the planet is warming and that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause.
Mr Pruitt is currently leading a legal challenge against the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is designed to force states to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from coal and gas fired power stations. Scrapping the CPP would make it incredibly difficult for the US to meet the carbon emission cutting targets it set for itself at the UN climate summit in Paris last year.
Trump’s backward, unscientific approach to climate change sharply contrasts to the international leadership China is demonstrating, as well as the dynamic leadership coming from the world’s biggest cities. China continues to massively increase its investment in renewables – with China now accounting for 36% of the global total investment in renewables which is expanding. China’s rapid shift away from coal and towards renewables means that China’s emissions have fallen this year – and puts them well ahead of their own climate change targets.
Cities, including US cities, are also taking independent and radical action to reduce their carbon emissions. Because of these factors, hope remains that global action on climate change will be sufficient to deliver the goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees. But countries in the West need to commit to much larger action.
Donald Trump’s Presidency is a blow to every progressive cause, and the struggle to stop climate change is no exception.