28. 11. 2008

Green at last? If only...

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Comments (12)

All sorts of things about the Pre-Budget Report are to be wholeheartedly welcomed – not least the Labour Party's re-discovery of the moral case for redistribution – or 'fairness', as they choose to describe it. Hang on in there a little bit longer, and they’ll soon re-discover the concept of social justice.

More broadly, there's no doubt that a stimulus pack of one kind or another has to be welcome. The Government’s continuing boldness here is admirable. And there are a few good dollops of cash in the package. Much of it recycled or brought forward, for instance, spending of around £500 million on insulating homes and energy efficiency initiatives, and another £800 million brought forward on big capital projects such as Building Schools for the Future.

It looks like there’s £100 million of genuinely new money to help low income home-owners cut their energy bills (through the Warm Front programme that was cut back last year!) and £150 million (possibly new money) on building more affordable homes. Treasury claims this is all adds up to around £500 million for a 'green stimulus package', but, as ever, such figures have to be treated with great caution. But beyond that, what a massively wasted opportunity!

No hint of the "Green Industrial Revolution" that Government Ministers have been heard talking about over the last year or more. Ironically, Peter Mandelson was banging that very drum at a CBI meeting on the very same day, about the importance of manufacturing in the UK and the importance of green technology within manufacturing. Even the CBI has been calling for Government to be spending ten times more on green technology – up from £250 million today to £2.5 billion.

No hint of any kind of broader 'Green New Deal', as in a major economic stimulus package to prioritize investments in the low carbon sustainable economy – as is the case with Barack Obama’s $150 billion package. The contrast here is brilliantly highlighted in the text copy of the latest Greenpeace ad – see below

"If only we could turn every building into a power station.
If only we could build high-speed train links to every city.
If only every building in the country was well insulated.
If only we could develop video conferencing that made you feel you were actually there.
If only all vehicles were super-efficient, like plug-in hybrids.
If only we invested in better public transport that everyone wanted to use.
If only industry used energy efficient electric motors.
If only we could harness the world's largest nuclear power station: the sun.
If only every power station could use its wasted heat to warm our homes and offices.
If only there were giant North Sea wind farms, made in Britain.
If only we could create hundreds of thousands of green collar jobs.
If only Britannia could rule on wave and tidal power.
If only there was a Green Investment Bank to finance a low carbon infrastructure and industry.

If only, if only, if only...

If only we had political leaders with the vision to see the economic benefits of green technology.
If only we had politicians with the resolve to put long-term investment ahead of short-term interests.
If only we could secure jobs and the economy while at the same time securing the future of our planet.

Well, we can. The Future is green."

Greenpeace

And no hint at all of any shift in the ambition level of the government as a whole in terms of addressing climate change – notwithstanding the passage of the Climate Change Act with all its new targets and renewed sense of urgency.

What have we got instead of that? Promises of more detailed proposals on the low-carbon economy and the green industrial revolution, following yet more consultations. That should take us through 2009 without too much having to happen. At the heart of the package is the reduction in VAT to encourage consumers to spend more money.

Surreal! At exactly the point where the Government has belatedly recognised the grotesque irresponsibility of having driven the economy via massive, utterly unsustainable credit bubbles (in house prices, personal debt and so on), the answer from Government is to get out and persuade people to spend even more to maintain very high levels of debt, and to massively increase levels of national debt.

Worse yet, the vast majority of commentators seem to think it will make no difference whatsoever to consumers' readiness to start spending again. The cost to the taxpayer – at least £9 billion over the next 13 months. All of which will have to be paid back by higher taxes from 2010 onwards.

So what kind of government deploys that kind of money to ramp up further unsustainable consumption rather than invest in our sustainable future? Mind-boggling.

See the full Greenpeace advert.

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Comments

28. 11. 2008
4fooey

Yes the Pre-Budget Report was a missed opportunity but we musn't give up hope. The new DECC minister Ed Milliband is making encouraging noises and we must see what impact the new US president Obama has on the whole green/energy agenda. But the situation is getting urgent -- it's going to need dramatic action right across society to slow down or halt the effects of climate change.

On your second point about debt. It is quite unbelievable that the government's solution to the financial crisis (in the UK and the US) is to give money back to people and expect them to spend it, given that our collective over borrowing and consumption got us into this mess. I think this period of economic slowdown will make people rethink, but I'm afraid most people will be hoping to get back to former levels of wealth and consumption.

It's going to take a huge shift of consciousness to get the majority of people onto a more sustainable lifestyle. This kind of major shift tends only to happen after severe shocks in the system, like wars, economic depressions, massive natural disasters. We need a "soft/peaceful" revolution to happen and soon. The 'green movement' has been advocating such a revolution for decades, and although we've made small steps (green thinking is now mainstream and no longer considered 'loony'), we have a huge mountain to climb. My question to the core of the green movement is, how is this change going to come about? What will it take to get us onto a more sustainable path?

29. 11. 2008
Ron Robins

Unfortunately, governments only do what's popular and almost never, ever, lead! Nonetheless, investors can and do lead in spurring innovation, then governments follow. This is what is happening to green investing.

Incidentally, I have one of the most popular sites on the web on green investing. It also covers the latest related global news and research too. It's at http://investingforthesoul.com/

Best wishes, Ron Robins

02. 12. 2008
Phillip Bratby

Lots of ifs here.

If only someone could tell me what 'green' means in terms of green collar jobs, green technology green etc etc.

If only someone could tell me how we can incorporate the intermittent (and in some cases unpredictable) massive North sea wind farms and wave and tidal power on the grid.

As someone who has always lived within my means (does that mean sustainably?), I have to agree with you for once. The Government has been irresponsible in encouraging unsustainable debt, which its current policy seems certain to make worse. If only everybody, every company and every government body lived within its means.

05. 12. 2008
Glenn Vowles

'If only someone could tell me what 'green' means...'.

Thought I'd attempt a concise answer to this pertinent question - my effort might stimulate further comments.

'Green' means that which contributes positively to: efficiency; renewability; respecting environmental limits; stronger local communities; meeting needs now and in the future; local and global fairness; health, wellbeing and quality of life; ie environmental and social sustainability.

09. 12. 2008
Ironspider

Is there an actual Government "Green Industrial Revolution" paper with an actual, legible signature at the bottom of it? Is there anything written down that actually commits the Government to do any more than make encouraging noises?

And as for the Government solution to the debt problem - what depth of debt do I need before I'm entitled to a Government bail-out package?

10. 12. 2008
John Atkins

One classic way to end a serious depression is to have a war. A war causes the population to accept hardship, lots of assets get destroyed and have to be reconstructed, lo and behold we come out of the depression.

I do not advocate a conventional war, rather a war against climate change.

Instead of dishing out cash willy nilly,as we are dong at present, spend it specifically on "green" issues.Go to war on climate change.

The country will get behind it, everyone badly needs a cause at the moment, and when we are finished we will have cut our imported energy bill, created a new "green" set of industries and saved the planet.

What more do you want?

13. 12. 2008
Phillip Bratby

John Atkins,

What nonsense you suggest! The climate is driven by the sun's energy and is manitained in some sort of equilibrium by the oceans' ability to store vast quantities of that energy. How can we go to war on the sun and oceans? I don't think many people will get behind that idea. Have you not noticed how powerful the sun's energy is compared with anything we can do? And conversely, how powerful the forces of nature are when we go into winter and the sun doesn't give us much energy and the oceans aren't releasing much?

21. 12. 2008
Steve

"Unfortunately, governments only do what's popular"
Ron Robins

Errant nonsense!

If that was really the case we wouldn't have invaded Iraq and we wouldn't still be there.

25. 01. 2009
Spamlet

If only Greenpeace and others would follow through on the results of their suggestions. Doing things more efficiently just means being able to cram more of us in before the system inevitably collapses and takes us all with it. All the green ideas are just taken as bolt ons: we never hear of any conventional power stations being closed as a result of 'alternatives', it is all just taken as a way of increasing the overall energy supply so that we can all consume more individually, or bring in more population to consume more collectively.

There is no green solution without a population solution: there are thus no mainstream green groups.

S

01. 02. 2009
Stacey Witkowski

I have something to say about your comments on policies to fight global warming. You suggesting that Abortion be at the heart of these policies is reprehensible! How dare you suggest we kill life in order to make your policy better? While I understand that human beings use quite a bit of the earths resources, it is disgraceful to suggest we kill off innocent life to make things better. There are many other ways that the we can improve and to stop global warming, abortion should not be one of them!

Furthermore, your comments on couples having more than two children being irresponsible is nonsense. This is reminiscent of China's one-child policy; which as you know offers concerns about negative economic and social consequences and has been linked to an increase in forced abortions and female infanticide.

You say you are unapologetic for your comments...perhaps if enough people stand up to what you are proposing you will have cause for reconsideration.

01. 02. 2009
Antireptilian

If only you would realise that the enviromental movement has been hijacked by organisations that have other objectives, or are you party to the grand Eugenics plan?

While you all postulate on false carbon argument presented by Club of Rome member Al Gore, the same plan outlined in the document "The first Global revolution", oil companies are laying waste to regions in Niger, the US are dumping chemical weapons and nerve gas into the atlantic ocean and sowing depleted (which doesnt mean non radioactive) Uranium all over the Middle East. Not to mention the hoard of chimeras and genetic mutations of plant species being released by lusting corporations like Monsanto. Not a word about that.

Population figures in developed nations are falling, while levels in developing nations remain high. Margaret Sanger began the planned parenthood and family planning contraceptive drives to rid the world of the "Human weeds" (and that is a quote). It is clear that poverty is the central cause of over population. Instead of culling those you deem to be unfit, try limiting greed and power and distributing wealth more evenly.

18. 08. 2012
Dilip

Green technology tends to save more money in the long run, deispte being more expensive to begin with for example, motion-sensing light fixtures that only turn on when someone walks into a room are more expensive than regular lights, but after a few years the reduced power usage saves money. What examples of green energy are you looking at that are so cost-inefficient? Around here (Midwest) people have been installing windmills, which are quite green that have consistently proven profitable.

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