Big Oil profits soar as planet burns: we need socialist climate action!

In 2022, we were witness to weather extremes across the globe, yet fossil fuel companies raked in their highest profits on record. Shell alone posted a record £32bn. Despite promises at COP26, alongside Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” & the EU’s “Green Industrial Strategy”, the levels of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere are predicted to increase over the next 10 years. Lucy Marron explores an alternative socialist plan to combat the climate killing capitalist system.

By Lucy Marron

2022 was witness to weather extremes across the globe. In Pakistan, 1,700 people were killed and 32 million displaced as a result of extreme flooding. The Horn of Africa had  the longest and most severe drought on record, escalating mass food insecurity in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Wildfire emissions in Europe reached a 15-year high, with a record-breaking 700,000 hectares burned.

Amidst this devastation, five fossil fuel companies alone made record profits: a combined $200 billion. This constitutes a sum 20 times larger than the proposed budget for the US’ Inflation Reduction Act. While working class people cannot afford to heat their homes, the profiteers have made a mint.

The Russia-Ukraine war has increased coal demand by 1.2% due to the sanctions imposed on major coal and gas exporter, Russia. The coal industry has taken advantage of this disruption to the global supply chain by hiking their prices. The answer of countries across Europe and Asia to this has been to reopen coal plants. The reopening of an abandoned hamlet in Lützerath, Germany to mine for lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, was met with resistance and indignation, drawing crowds of 35,000 in protest

Capitalism is killing the planet

Despite the target of net-zero by 2050, polluting power plants are kept alive, deals to import natural gas are signed, and oil giants ADNOC and Aramco are setting aside hundreds of billions of dollars to boost output. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, heralded as the most significant climate legislation in US history, offers funding for drilling permits, subsidises the manufacture of electric vehicles, and salvation for the very creators and profiteers of the climate crisis. While the US Act increases royalty rates charged to drillers, it prohibits public land being leased for renewables unless it also leases land for oil and gas development.

Despite the supposed turbocharging of the ‘green transition’ symbolised by the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s draft ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’, according to The Economist, ‘developers at the top of the green supply chain are not making much money.’ Herein lies the reality of capitalism: the climate crisis cannot and will not be solved in a system which prioritises profit over the planet.

System change not climate change!

Global recession, war, a cost-of-living crisis, inter-imperialist conflict, climate devastation… The permacrises of capitalism will continue as conflict and contradiction sharpen.

It is the working-class, the largest and most powerful force in society that can guarantee the future of humanity through the eradication of capitalism. If we are to prevent full-scale climate catastrophe, energy companies must be nationalised, key sectors of the economy must be brought into public ownership, and a democratically planned socialist economy is needed which would ensure a sustainable future without forsaking living conditions or necessities. Socialist production, freed from private control and the reckless pursuit of profit, could create skilled, green jobs, and concentrate resources to accelerate the climate revolution and bring about a zero-carbon economy. If this is to happen, the climate movement must take up working class, anti-capitalist demands, and build their forces in workplaces and schools. Capitalism is parasitic, and it will continue to feed, and continue to destroy the planet unless it is destroyed.

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