24. 04. 2015

Green Party has no cause to feel bad about its campaigning on climate change

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I was in Cambridge last night, with the Cambridge Young Greens, to support Rupert Read, the Green Party’s candidate in Cambridge.

Given the coverage in the Independent yesterday, I ended up defending the Green Party against the full-on attack by eminent climate scientist (based in Cambridge) Peter Wadhams. He had accused the Green Party of betraying the climate change community by failing to give it a high enough priority through the Election campaign.

I think this is nonsense, and although I admire the steadfast advocacy of Peter Wadhams on behalf of good climate science (and he really has made a good case about that), I think he’s completely out of line here. For the following reasons:

1. I think the Green Party has done more than any other Party in this Election to highlight the importance of climate change. True, that’s not as much as would have been ideal, but I think that’s more down to the lack of interest on the part of the mainstream media than to some wilful neglect on the part of the Green Party. Or because the Green Party wants to talk about everything else apart from climate change – which Peter Wadhams seems to imply!

2. The Green Party has made its contribution on climate change in the best possible way, not by bleating on and on about how awful the situation is (we all know that; even David Cameron knows that), but by coming up with imaginative and serious policy proposals: retrofit nine million homes in the UK to address the scandal of fuel poverty; ban fracking; invest £35m in renewable energy and grid upgrades; reject nuclear power etc etc. It’s the policy that matters, not rhetorical and often tokenistic references to how serious climate change is.

3. I think any attempt to address the challenge of accelerating climate change without reference to social justice issues is both stupid and insensitive. We won’t get to the kind of low-carbon world we need without addressing the structural inequity that lies at the heart of the UK’s uncaring ‘austerity economy’. Social justice and climate justice are one and the same thing. I’m not sure that Peter Wadhams has any idea about the significance of that integrated approach.

And that’s because it’s only the Green Party that gets this right – eloquently confirmed yesterday by publication of the UK Poverty Audit – and independent analysis of the degree to which the party political manifestos have succeeded in addressing poverty issues during this Election campaign. It notes that “The Green Party consistently scored the highest across a number of policy areas.” And it criticises both the Conservatives and the Labour Party for being “cautious” and lacking creativity in addressing poverty in addressing poverty in the UK, scoring no more than average across the board.

The Green Party can rightly be proud of that, as should all its supporters. This is absolutely the right way to address climate issues today.

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03. 05. 2015
Stephen Ferguson


Progressives who argue for either climate action or social justice always, but always, face a powerful, seemingly insurmountable, counter-argument, which can be summed up in one phrase: "We can't afford it".

Therefore those who promise to take the 'tough decisions' (read austerity and climate inaction) end up getting elected (as the ConDem coalition did in 2010).

In 2015, the Greens find themselves the sole party arguing for BOTH climate action AND social justice. So it is unsurprising that THE principle question aimed at the Greens by the media throughout this campaign has been "How are you going pay for it?"

Unfortunately the Greens answer is their manifesto spending plans are 'fully costed'. This is an incredibly weak and self-harming response. Why? Because it concedes the profoundly incorrect framing of a question that has absolutely no validity whatsoever: namely that government budgets are 'like household budgets'.

To my knowledge only one climate scientist - Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre - has had the insight to point out that £375 billion was created overnight by the government to save the banks in the global crash of 2008. He rightly points out that this scale of expenditure could transform the UK into a low-carbon economy…


Kevin is on the right track, but there are so many forces ranged against it that it will take a political party to firstly challenge, and then to change, the framing of the debate. The Green Party, as the party, more than any other, that understands true sustainability is anchored to the real world (not the, purely made-up, financial one) should be right at the forefront of that debate.

Which makes it extremely, even tragically, disappointing that the best the Greens can do in 2015 is meekly concede the false economic framing of its enemies.

If the only honourable response therefore is instead to come out fighting on the economics, what can the Greens do? There is a solution and it involves listening to economists who have studied how government finances really work.

Jonathon, there are such economists who are, right now, reaching out to our Green brethren in Australia. I sincerely wish every Green candidate in the UK could hear what they have to say as, without their input, no party that calls itself 'progressive' has any chance at all of making any meaningful progress.

I respectfully urge you to please watch this short (1 hour) presentation given by Steven Hail of The University of Adelaide to the local Green Party...


NB: Steven has an associated facebook page...


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