Monday, 16 December 2019

Environment Monday - Election commentary - The Issues have not gone away

On Friday we awoke to find that Boris had swept to a landslide victory. The Emperor has a shiny new set of clothes. For those of us who care about the eco system, it was perhaps the worst possible result. Of all the combinations likely to see a step change in environmental policies, a Boris landslide was the one least likely to deliver change. Every day, more CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere, every day where this fact is ignored, is  a day lost in the challenge to make the changes needed to reverse climate change.

One of the most depressing things I saw was a Conservative politician saying what the UK does is irrelevant as China produces 20 times the CO2 of the UK and so our contribution is unworthy of consideration. There are three reasons why this is disingenuous nonsense. The first is that every nation needs to take responsibility for the problem. It is not just the CO2 we produce, but also the CO2 produced making and transporting the goods we procure from overseas. China's prosperity is based on trading and exports. We should be looking to put high import duties on environmentally unfriendly products and products from nations that are not addressing the crisis. This will give them an incentive to do something about it. The second reason is the UK is a permanent member of the UN security council. It is the one small piece of global influence we retain. Nothing threatens our security more than global warming. The threat to food security, coastlines and extreme weather events is being demonstrated on a daily basis. Surely we should be using our influence to address this, and we can only do this by setting an example. The third reason is that leaving the EU actually gives us an opportunity to move faster than the bureaucratic EU. When we negotiate these shiny new trade deals, there is a great opportunity to put the environment at the heart of the deals.  Of course Boris will do none of these things, but it is important to demonstrate that the "we can do nothing argument is spurious".

So what can we do? We need to redouble our efforts to raise awareness. We need to do this based on hard science and by ensuring that the issues that face us are not brushed under the carpet. We need to ensure that more than lip service is done. Boris has talked about huge infrastructure projects. If these involve decarbonising the economy, building sustainable public transport, that will be a good first step. If it is roads and airports, we need to oppose these by every legal means. Whilst there is a temptation to despair, this will help no one. The only alternative is to organise. If we can learn one lesson from the Conservatives at this election, it is that if you bang away enough about the dangers of taking a path, sooner or later people get it. Whether or not you think Corbynism was an existencial threat to the UK, global warming clearly is. We failed to make it a central issue in the election. Now that is out of the way, we need to make it at the centre of the UK's agenda to address the challenges of the new decade.

As there won't be a general election for five years, we can put all our energy into this, without distraction.

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