CLIMATE change is an issue that will affect every single person on this planet. Ultimately, it is in all of our interests as citizens for climate catastrophe to be averted.

So how did action taken to this end – namely the push for net-zero – become grounds for the next instalment of a seemingly endless culture war?

Net-zero refers to the goal of having net-zero total of carbon emissions globally released into our atmosphere. A pathway for this to be achieved has been set through goals to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their source, while simultaneously ensuring that carbon emissions remaining are offset by their removal from our atmosphere.

Thus far, 136 countries (out of 198), have taken some form of action towards achieving net zero. The UK Government have pledged to reach net-zero by 2050 – although many calling for climate justice have critiqued this on the grounds that it is not sufficiently ambitious enough in timescale to mitigate or avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

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For example, climate scientists writing in The Conversation stated: “We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net-zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar.”

Essentially, the authors argue, mitigation of carbon emissions at a distant future point through offsetting harm through technological solutions is not enough – we need to cut emissions at their source, and we need action now. Unlike these reasoned critiques based on evidence and expertise, there is however an insidious and toxic form of opposition that is creeping up against the push to net-zero – and it is being spearheaded by none other than Nigel Farage. Recently, Farage launched a campaign with the goal to avert the Government’s pledge to net-zero, through bringing about a referendum on this.

At the crux of his critique of the push to net-zero, he claims, is his supposed belief that net-zero is harmful to those among the most vulnerable in our society – his campaign slogan, after all, is “vote power, not poverty.”

The idea that progressive environmental policies – of which net-zero is a part – must inevitably come at the expense of working-class communities is a “complete and utter” myth, Fraser Stewart, a researcher at Strathclyde University, tells me.

“Not only can we avoid burdening the working-class in a just transition – we can make this massive opportunity work actively for diverse working-class people, creating jobs, addressing fuel and wider poverty, providing better housing and improving health and supporting communities and lowering bills and so much more.

“Who benefits, who pays and how, is in complete control of policymakers and the very political choices they make. It’s on us to demand they make the right ones at this crucial moment.”

Worryingly, the push to avert meaningful climate action is not limited to fringe figures. A group of around 20 rebel backbench Tory MPs and peers have recently launched a “Net-Zero Scrutiny Group” rooted in climate denialism, in an attempt to link the current cost-of-living crisis to net-zero policies. Among their aims are to call for the UK to ramp up its production of fossil fuels.

What this purposefully obscures is that it is the rise in global gas prices – not net-zero policies – that have directly led to the spiralling cost of energy bills in the UK. Calls to increase fracking would simply feed into the staggering profits of oil and gas companies – BP and Shell are on course to make a combined profit of almost £40 billion this year alone. Essentially, to understand attempts by right-wing actors to make net-zero the next culture war, we must be attuned to how climate denialism is in the interests of none other but the richest in our society, at the consequence of everyone else.

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However, we must not let the weaponisation of net-zero by right-wing actors to blind us to purposeful evidence-based critique where it exists. What differentiates the critique of net-zero not going far enough from that of right-wing populists such as Farage are that the former take the need climate action as a starting point, while the latter perpetuate climate scepticism.

We must also self-reflect on our own movements for climate justice. Are they inclusive? Do they place those most impacted by the climate crisis front-and-centre?

The climate justice rallies and actions around COP26 in Glasgow showed us the power and value in centring and listening to the voices of people who face the worst impacts of climate change, and drawing links between our intersecting struggles – be they around class, race, gender, or climate justice.

It is only by continuing in this vein that we can show that climate justice is truly in the interests of those most disenfranchised in our society and shatter the right-wing populist myths that say otherwise once and for all.