Responding to the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, Caroline Lucas MP said that the Coalition Government had squandered a vital opportunity to put action to tackle climate change and the growing environmental crisis at the top of its legislative agenda. ‘Listening to the Queen’s Speech today, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the climate crisis has simply gone away. In the face of mounting scientific concern about the urgency of the threat we face from climate change, the deafening silence from this Government is unforgivable.’
We know why there is no action. This government is protecting the investment in the carbon sector made by those who keep it in power – read the article on the Carbon Bubble, posted here earlier this year. This Government is incapable of showing leadership – that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to dismantle the State and sell it off to the private sector. It is using what it calls the ‘economic mess’ as the smoke screen to do this. It will only address the climate crisis when its backers in the financial sector are ready to make money out of it. By then it will be a very costly task for us all.
Others see things differently. Writing in the Financial Times, Nicholas Stern called for a ‘Queen’s Speech for Growth’, looking to the renewable energy sector to kick-start the shrinking economy. He said ‘Policies to encourage low-carbon investment would provide new business opportunities, would generate income for investors, and would have credibility in the long term, both because they address growing global resource challenges, while tapping into a fast-growing global market for resource-efficient activities.’
In 2010, the Green Party manifesto called for a ‘Green New Deal,’ borrowing US President Roosevelt’s concept for an economic plan to end the great 1930’s depression by investing in public works. The Green’s fully costed economic strategy would have seen the deficit cut by 2015 through investment in the green economy, increasing employment, cutting energy costs and boosting tax revenue. Corporate media empires chose to ignore this alternative strategy since they wanted to promote privatization and protect their interests in the carbon sector. They hood-winked the electorate into voting for a range of ‘conservative’ economic strategies that, as we warned – have led to a double dip recession and rising unemployment.
The Green programme set out clear targets to cut carbon emissions to avoid warming exceeding 2°C, we called for cuts to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 10% – starting now, with the aim of reducing emissions by 65% by 2020 and 90% from 1990 levels by 2030. The key to doing this is to decarbonise the energy sector. To achieve this we proposed:
- Reducing energy demand through insulation and energy efficiency measures, creating new local businesses and thousands of jobs
- Investing in genuinely renewable energy sources, aiming to obtain half of our energy from renewables by 2020, backing this with direct government investment with strong and clear policy support, creating genuine energy security, boosting business and employment
- Switching the investment planned for new coal, nuclear power and nuclear weapons to research into renewable energy technologies and their commercialisation, creating a major export potential
- Supporting renewable heat with a levy on waste heat from power stations, supporting sustainable energy crops and combined heat and power, helping councils develop heat distribution networks, boosting local employment and the rural economy
- Supporting the adoption of bio-gas from sustainable organic sources, but opposing the large scale cultivation of bio-fuels, especially in poor countries
- Bringing the electricity network and gas mains into the public sector to develop them to suit renewable energy schemes and introduce smart meters and appliances
- Support Europe-wide renewable energy initiatives, including the building of highly efficient Long Distance High Voltage DC power lines.
In addition, Greens proposed a range of other policies to encourage low carbon living.
- Develop public transport as an acceptable and reliable alternative to car travel.
- Change planning guidelines to ensure that facilities are within reasonable walking distance of residential areas, cutting the need for travel
- Support to small and local business, including local supply networks.
- Decarbonise food production by supporting small-scale organic farms supplying local markets.
Had Greens been in government, we would now be creating jobs, boosting tax revenue and securing long-term energy supply. These policies will have to be adopted as some time, in some form. As Nicholas Stern understates in his Financial Times article, ‘there is a recognition that actions [on low carbon investment] cannot be delayed indefinitely’. However, the longer action is delayed, the costlier it will be for all of us. We are hearing may calls at present to ‘make the switch’ – to seek out cheaper energy suppliers. If consumers are really serious about making long term savings on their bills there is only one switch that will be effective, the switch to Green policies.