ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MAY 1, 2013
We learnt recently that, in order to stand any chance of avoiding catastrophic global warming, we’ll need to leave two thirds of the proven oil, gas and coal reserves where they are – underground and unburnt. However, markets are betting that Governments won’t actually do anything to prevent the energy corporations making short-term profits at the long-term expense of the planet we all share but they seem to own.
It might be more comforting to bury our heads in the sand and stubbornly deny the evidence, but climate change is the biggest challenge we face. All levels of government ought to be encouraging less greenhouse gas production and more sustainable lifestyles. Yet some political parties are actually doing the opposite, adopting policies that exacerbate the problem rather than ameliorate it while stubbornly resisting what is the only answer, carbon taxes coupled with carbon rationing of some kind.
The Tory/Lib Dem coalition has quickly jettisoned any pretence to a green agenda, replaced by Cameron with oxymoronic calls for ‘green growth’. When it comes to action, nothing happens. Expensive scientific research concluded that 127 more marine protection zones are needed to halt the rapid decline in sealife. What does the Government do – establish just 31 such zones, none of which are fully protected. Other scientific studies conclude that a pesticide is linked to the collapse of bee populations. Most European countries then ban the pesticide, but the UK Government stubbornly puts the rights of chemical companies to make profits above the rights of bees to pollinate our crops and plantlife.
Support for ‘upgrading’ the A30, the ongoing subsidies for Newquay Airport and the massive suburban extensions being planned for our towns are hardly compatible with minimising climate change. Tories and Lib Dems ignore the effects of these on climate change, while Ukip goes further by denying climate change is happening in the first place. It panders to its Daily Express constituency by making opposition to wind turbines a key part of its campaign, something the Tories are also ‘very concerned’ about. (For which read ‘very concerned’ that Ukip might snaffle their votes.)
Labour claims that it promotes a ‘green agenda’. But this boils down to ‘preserving’ the environment and wildlife and supporting green energy sources. Obviously this is an improvement on Tory/Ukip policy, which seems to be to avoid using green energy sources altogether. But it hardly sits happily with other Labour policies such as ‘residential and commercial growth’ or more road building. Again, in trying to balance, Labour is in danger of teetering off the highwire.
MK devotes a section of its manifesto to the ‘threat of climate change’ and calls for an Environmental Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a low carbon economy and zero waste strategy.
As we might expect the Greens have the most impressive portfolio of policies when it comes to dealing with climate change. It’s the only party explicitly calling for an immediate end to the ‘huge annual subsidy for Newquay airport’, which is worth a few votes on its own. It also puts policies for ‘a low carbon economy, transport system and neighbourhoods’ at the heart of its manifesto, with a range of practical and integrated suggestions for achieving this.