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To Stop Climate Collapse, We Must End Capitalism

George Monbiot, Farhana Yamin, Adair Turner and Tony Juniper debated the single most important issue we face as a civilisation.

Capitalism is driving us to disaster. Our planet is heading for a terrifying environmental cataclysm – and our economic system is responsible. The defining characteristic of capitalism is perpetual economic growth. And while it has brought us wonderful benefits, including improved health, wealth and opportunities to travel and experience the world, ever-increasing production and consumption – inherent in capitalism – are an existential threat to life on our planet. The more we produce and consume, the more energy we need – and renewables can’t keep pace. Unless we abandon capitalism now, we will inevitably continue to drive up the demand for fossil fuels. According to some scientific predictions, human civilisation could completely collapse by 2050 if we don’t take drastic action to stop climate change now. We must end capitalism before it’s too late.

That’s the view of the anti-capitalist eco-warriors. But while it’s undeniable that capitalism has contributed to our current climate crisis, it has also proven to be history’s most effective way of solving our problems. According to capitalism’s defenders, there is almost no challenge capitalism hasn’t met. It has helped defeat disease and has lifted billions out of poverty – and there’s no reason why the dynamism of the marketplace can’t be harnessed to bring our carbon emissions down to zero. For example, until recently solar panels were impossibly expensive; now they are cheap and helping us transition away from fossil fuels. Our system of competitive, open markets gives strong incentives for the world’s brightest minds to find creative solutions to climate change. So don’t listen to the doomsayers who want to rip up our economic system. Capitalism is not the problem; it’s the solution.


Speakers For The Motion

George Monbiot

Guardian columnist, environmental campaigner and author of Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet.

Author, Guardian columnist and environmental campaigner. His bestselling books include Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life, Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning, and Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. He co-wrote the concept album Breaking the Spell of Loneliness with musician Ewan McLennan, and has made a number of viral videos. One of them, adapted from his 2013 TED talk, How Wolves Change Rivers, has been viewed on YouTube over 40 million times. Another, on Natural Climate Solutions, which he co-presented with Greta Thunberg, has been watched over 60 million times. His new book is Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet. 

Farhana Yamin

International environmental lawyer and leading activist in the Extinction Rebellion protests

Leading activist in the Extinction Rebellion protests. She is also an international environmental lawyer and expert on climate change policy, and has worked on several international treaties over the past three decades, including the Paris climate agreement. In April, she was arrested after gluing herself to Shell’s headquarters. She is one of the co-authors of This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook.
Speakers Against The Motion

Adair Turner

Chair of the Energy Transitions Commission

Chair of Energy Transitions Commission, he was formerly Chair of the UK Financial Services Authority, first Chair of the UK Climate Change Committee, and Director-General of the CBI. He played a leading role in the redesign of global banking regulation following the 2008 financial crisis. The author of Between Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance, Lord Turner has been described by The Economist as “as a man for all policy crises”.

Tony Juniper

Sustainability adviser

Sustainability adviser and former executive director of Friends of the Earth. He is the author of What Has Nature Ever Done For Us: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees; What Nature Does For Britain and Rainforest: Dispatches from Earth's Most Vital Frontlines. He is is co-author with HRH Prince of Wales of Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World. Earlier in 2019 he was appointed Chair of Natural England by former Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Ritula Shah

Journalist and presenter on Classic FM

Presenter of Calm Classics on Classic FM. She was previously the main presenter of the World Tonight, BBC Radio 4’s main evening news programme.


Speakers are subject to change.