As the global economy hurtles toward Great Recession II, the earth hurtles toward climate catastrophe. Both represent the results of a neoliberal deregulation that has left humanity no means to shape our economies to serve human needs -- not even the need for economic and environmental survival.
How global movements respond to these intertwined environmental and economic crises will be key to our common survival. The politics will surely be complicated. A case in point is an article in today's New York Times about the United Steelworkers union's WTO complaint against China for providing "illegal clean energy subsidies" to domestic solar, wind and other green industries.
To promote international dialogue on these questions, we thought it might be useful to post a recent paper, entitled "Globalization, Neoliberalism and Climate Change", which was prepared by GLS at the invitation of Professor Liu Cheng of Shanghai Normal University for an international conference this April on "Global Economic Recession vs. Deregulation" jointly organized by the Peking University Law School and the Shanghai Normal University Faculty of Law and Politics and supported by the ILO Beijing Office. The paper stresses the interest of workers around the world in cooperating to create an alternative to neoliberalism based on making the transition to a green economy.
Globalization, Neoliberalism, and Climate Change: Toward a New Regulatory Regime
For thirty years, global and national economies have been guided by policies of neoliberal deregulation, often known as the "Washington Consensus." Neoliberalism has been disastrous for workers in most countries, pitting workers against each other in a race to the bottom and making it all but impossible to protect working class interests. There is now a growing consensus that the Washington Consensus has been a failure.
There is also a growing global recognition that we are in the midst of an unprecedented climate crisis. Ready or not, that crisis is affecting every nation, every locality, and every worker. Its effects are already serious, and unless decisive global action is taken to counter it, they will soon be catastrophic. Neoliberal deregulation, by dismantling the means for public steering of society to meet social needs, has also made it nearly impossible to correct global climate crisis.
These twin realizations, the failure of neoliberalism and the climate crisis, will define the struggle for the interests of poor and working people for the next century. At the same time, the necessity to counter climate change may provide an opportunity to address the broader problems of neoliberal deregulation.
This article argues that it is only by rolling back neoliberalism that we can protect the rights of workers globally and solve the crisis of climate change. In Part 1 we provide a short history of globalization. In Part 2 we discuss the climate crisis and its effects on workers. In Part 3 describes proposals for a "global green new deal" to create full employment through climate protection. Part 4 argues that a new global and national regulatory regime is necessary both to counter both climate change and the race to the bottom. Part 5 discussions the role of organized labor nationally and globally in bringing about such a transformation.