Social and environmental welfare should be at the core of Catalan government policy and that of our future independent state. Combating racism and social and gender inequalities, promoting people’s health, dignifying the quality of the environment and articulating an equitable energy transition must be our central principles for building a just and egalitarian society and achieving collective social and environmental welfare. There is a tendency—even on the left—to separate social policies from environmental and energy issues as if they were unrelated, when they are in fact inseparable. Resolving these major interrelated issues requires left-wing political responses that we might call eco-progressive.
Society is facing a profound global socio-ecological and energy crisis that is manifested through a multiplicity of acute problems that include climate change, biodiversity loss, depletion of natural resources and severe environmental degradation, all with considerable social implications—these environmental risks are produced by human activity, and far from being democratically distributed, accrue mainly in the most vulnerable communities. These risks also cause environmental conflict and war, as well as severe international imbalances.
The negative impacts of this profound crisis represent among the greatest challenges of our time and will largely determine the future of the planet and of human society. We must not forget that the ever-accelerating proliferation of socio-environmental risks has its origins in society’s patterns of development which have generated a capitalist model replete with inequalities, discrimination and social and environmental injustices.
This dynamic and distribution of risks is unacceptable. It has been shown to have a greater impact on those segments of society with least resources and is especially evident in relation to health inequalities, most notably in the case of COVID 19—a disease which is very possibly related to biodiversity loss. Health inequities are very clearly visible in the world’s big cities. In this regard, the map of the distribution of COVID 19 infection rates in Barcelona is remarkably illustrative.
Progressive parties have historically seen the role of state intervention as the key to achieving social justice and battling inequality. The welfare state is the cornerstone in this struggle. The most quintessential tool for reducing health inequities is free universal healthcare. However, the problem has not been overcome since both health and socio-environmental welfare are determined by a multiplicity of living conditions: domestic income, environmental quality, housing, education, working conditions, nutrition, etc. The struggle for welfare would be incomplete without the integration of all those socio-environmental factors that characterize and give rise to the systemic inequalities present in our societies.
In this context, with its Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda the UN has made an all-important effort to integrate concepts, themes and actions that have been inspirational when articulating our roadmap towards social and environmental welfare. The environmental welfare of the planet, which provides us with an essential foundation for social welfare, must be a priority objective of our political action. As a governing party, Esquerra Republicana has consistently assumed the political principles and practices of feminism to combat gender inequalities and achieve one of the essential dimensions of social welfare. It is with the same coherence and commitment that we must comprehensively integrate and assume the propositions of environmentalism—the left-wing kind—in order to build a narrative and the political action that we might call “eco-progressive” in order to achieve socio-environmental welfare and a just ecological and energy transition.