02. 06. 2019

Our Next PM: a Guaranteed Climate Emergency in the Making!

This is going to be my last word on climate matters for a while – and only because I can’t stop myself thinking about what this country’s next Prime Minister will be doing to respond to Parliament’s newly-declared climate emergency.

Worth dwelling on that: it’s our Parliament that declared the emergency, not our Government. Our Government has given as little attention to the climate crisis over the last four years as to every other burning issue sidelined by Brexit. And although Ministers love to talk about their excellent track record in this area, it’s almost all bullshit.

When you think about what’s actually happened on its watch (not on its predecessor’s watch) since 2015 – in terms of promoting fracking and every kind of carbon-intensive infrastructure (roadbuilding, a new runway at Heathrow, HS2 etc), neglecting the built environment, confirming Hinkley Point, trying to kill off the solar industry, blocking onshore wind, failing to enable a fit-for-purpose charging network for electric vehicles, doing nothing to reduce emissions from agriculture, etc etc – the only response to any claim of this Government being some kind of climate champion has to be outright contempt.

Or, as Greta Thunberg put it in her meeting with MPs back in April, any such claim is indeed ‘beyond absurd’.

And I do hope that nobody’s taking too much comfort from the recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change on 2nd May that we could – and should – achieve a net zero target for emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. As it happens, I can pretty much guarantee that this ‘beyond absurd’ Government will be all too keen to accept that recommendation. And that’s because it will mean very little.

Instead of being a reasonable target date for notionally ambitious but practical action, 2050 has now become a lethal get-out proxy for continuing indifference to what the science really tells us. In its continuing fixation with 2050, the Committee on Climate Change is now failing us completely, insisting on making recommendations to the Government only on what it judges can be ‘credibly achieved’ in today’s economy: “This, we think, is our highest possible ambition.”

On how many gravestones will that appear as the most fitting epitaph?

On the gravestones of all of the current contenders to be the next Leader of the Conservative Party, I would suggest. With the possible exception of Rory Stewart, who has been really focussed on the implications for DfID since he took over there as Secretary of State. As for the others, including the ever-so-clever Michael Gove, who will end up doing nothing much more eloquently than the rest of them put together, fear for the worst. Our particular climate emergency here in the UK lies in the chronic inadequacy of our politicians.
 

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