AS THE West’s relations with China keep worsening, Germany’s two top Green politicians’ backing for a crackdown on Chinese electric vehicle (EV) imports may prove a watershed.
It follows Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck’s support for reviving coal-fired power plants last year to reduce dependence on Russian gas, and like it shows a subordination of environmental priorities to those of great power rivalry.
It matters because the same process — citing the new cold war as justification for delaying or dropping green commitments — is at work here, as is the attempted absorption of Green parties into a capitalist consensus which blocks action on climate change.
In Britain Tory MPs have called on the government to ditch electric vehicle sales targets entirely because of the completely hypothetical supposition that Chinese components could be used to spy on us.
The EU’s probe into Chinese subsidies on electric vehicles arguably reflects an even more self-defeating mindset. Having already slapped sanctions on China-produced solar panels because they enjoyed state subsidies and were therefore distorting the market, it wishes to do the same to EVs.
Translation: making green technology cheaper is anti-competitive and we should take measures to ensure it stays more expensive.
Of course EU leaders claim these are measures to give European car manufacturers more time to adapt. But deliberately slowing access to electric cars hardly matches rhetoric about a “climate emergency.”
Contrast the approach on climate to the immediate resolve to ratchet up military spending in a new arms race.
China’s acknowledged dominance of green tech and supply chains is not used to promote massive investment in these sectors by our own governments to catch up, nor is the role of state subsidies in helping accelerate development of these technologies regarded as something we could learn from if we really want to move away from fossil fuels. It’s simply a distortion of the market which must be punished.
And Baerbock and Habeck’s role in this? The German Greens are the most extreme example, but across Europe we are seeing a reconciliation of Green and status-quo parties.
The liberal mainstream now pays lip service to the climate emergency thanks to years of environmentalist campaigning — yet policies that actually treat it as an emergency are lacking.
And Greens seem to be settling for that. In backing coal power to beat Russia, or blocking cheap EVs to protect the market against a planned economy, they too reduce climate change to one among many policy considerations that falls behind the traditional priorities of imperialist states.
Some in Britain see a refuge in the Green Party from the rightward march of Keir Starmer’s Labour, including some prominent “Corbynistas.”
The Morning Star has occasionally backed Green votes in particular contests in the past, and may do so again, but we should be aware that the Greens are not resisting the shift right in British and European politics but are part of it.
That was clear when the Green Party of England and Wales dropped its opposition to Nato earlier this year.
They explained their decision in the pages of the Morning Star — and as Stop the War president Brian Eno said at the weekend we need more dialogue between environmentalist and anti-imperialist movements, not less.
But socialists in that dialogue need to stress that there can be no reconciliation between environmental and capitalist priorities. The US military is the biggest polluter on the planet. Backing a new arms race is not compatible with tackling climate change.
And as the EU’s EV furore shows, unless protecting corporate profit can be dethroned as the main responsibility of governments, we will never see serious action taken to reduce emissions or protect communities from worsening climate chaos.
Ultimately, only socialism can save the planet — or, as our movement once proclaimed, “the cause of labour is the hope of the world.”