This is a good day for our environment, for the future prosperity of our country and natural world,” tweeted my Conservative MP as her leader announced a new ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. If only it were so. But even Boris Johnson’s usual cheerleaders in the ‘true blue Daily Mail’ believe he has lost the plot. And somewhat amusingly the name of the policy has been lifted straight out of the 2019 Labour manifesto.
The policies themselves are a watered-down version. The £250bn spending Labour proposed has been reduced to just £12bn. And most of this has already been announced; for instance the £5bn for flood and coastal defences. Of the £12bn to tackle the biggest existential crisis facing humanity, only £4bn is actually ‘new money’.
Johnson’s vision of Britain being powered by wind turbines by 2030 would alone cost at least £48bn and require one to be built every weekday for the next nine years – doubling current production. And the worst flaw of all: there is no strategy to retrofit homes, which is a basic first step in reducing our massive domestic carbon use.
His mooted zero-carbon aircraft is also pie in the sky, with the most advanced designs produced by Airbus still 15 years away from entering service, if everything goes to plan.
The plan for all cars and vans to go electric by 2030 is also under-powered, with no cash earmarked for one-for-one replacements. The only alternative is for massively improved public transport and drastically fewer cars on the road.
The other major hurdle is electric vehicle charge points. For electric cars to have mass take-up by 2030 we need to undertake what Labour proposed in 2019 – nationalise the production of EVs and standardise charge points. The current policy will undoubtedly fail to deliver and, when it does, the government has set councils up to take the blame.
It really doesn’t take much detailed digging to see that the Tory ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ is merely a cynical ploy to pick up votes in the next general election among younger, environmentally concerned voters. Or it could have had something to do with the exit of Dominic Cummings who was well known for having no interest in climate issues, perceiving them irrelevant in wooing northern ‘red wall’ voters.
Either way, one thing is certain: the government is not taking climate change seriously. To confirm this, the following day the bigger sum of £16bn was announced for defence – the largest injection of funds into the military since the Cold War.
Instead of investing in the military to potentially train a public sector for assisting in climate emergencies such as floods or hurricanes, money will be ploughed into outer space weaponry which can fire on other nations using “state of the art satellite technology”, as well as “laser guns” so, as Boris Johnson describes it, “soldiers never run out of ammo”.
Overall, this is disappointing, to put it mildly.
A new properly funded approach could have been the opportunity for the UK to be “world beating” (to coin a Johnsonian phrase), leading the way in innovative solutions to greening our homes and economy. And it would have been just the right time to fuel a much-needed post-Covid economic recovery.
But it seems the Conservatives are still wedded to the idea that it is impossible to decouple carbon emissions and economic growth. There are no plans to legislate, or tax, big businesses profiting from energy projects around the world. This is crucial as international energy projects often have a much bigger impact than our domestic emissions.
More on the environment:
There is still just about enough time to drastically turn things around and avoid climate melt-down; and if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the human species is capable of adapting quickly, employing mutual aid within our communities and prioritising the health and well-being of the many and not the few.
A ‘new normal’ after the pandemic must really mean ‘building back better’ – not just as a slogan. And to seriously tackle climate change means creating a better environment for all.
I will be writing to my MP, Sally-Ann Hart, of Hastings & Rye, to express some of the details in this article. I’d recommend you contact your own representative too.
On a local level, taking part in community action on climate change includes small things that make a difference, such as planting some flowers to support biodiversity or eating less meat. At this stage it takes absolutely everyone to start doing these small things in order to make our government move to do the really big things.
Cllr Maya Evans is the lead member for climate change action on Hastings Borough Council.
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