IPCC report: The three largest parties in the UK have consistently failed to respond to the science. Our future demands more

Since 2010, where we haven’t seen inaction, we’ve seen wrong action

Share

Last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the science of climate change ended the need for any debate about its reality. Today’s report ends any debate about the need for urgent action on climate change – both mitigation and adaptation to its effects.

This should mark an end to a period of global drift, inaction and backsliding on action to cut carbon emissions that might be dated back to the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. Friends of the Earth says, rightly, it’s time to get angry about the failures. They are many, and global, but what I want to address here is UK politics, its past and future, what people and parties have said -  and what they’ve done.

A good starting point is the Climate Change Act 2008. It was a pretty good piece of legislation, with wide cross-party support. It was a framework for action. But since then, we’ve seen the action stall, and all too often go backwards, and the rhetoric, the standard of public debate in Britain, fall off a cliff.

It’s worth noting that while this is a situation reflected in the United States, Canada and Australia, the nature of the debate at least in much of the rest of the world has been very different. In countries where political coverage is not heavily-dominated by right wing media tycoons and oil industry-funded “think tanks”, there’s been general acceptance of the reality of climate change, and perfectly reasonable debate about the best policy responses to it.

Only in the Anglosphere have we seen such a trend, a fact surely not unconnected with the rise of aggressively climate sceptic Ukip in the UK (and the dreadful Tony Abbott in Australia). Last week I had a carefully typed letter from a genuine member of the public (not a ‘troll’), asking me why I scoffed at a Christopher Brooker’s article in the Sunday Telegraph. People whose news sources are such newspapers, and television, are presented with this scientific gobbledegook as though it were of equal value to carefully scrutinised and peer-reviewed work of thousands of actual scientists. They believe them – or at least they are confused.

We might have expected more sense from the BBC, but there are some senior, dominant on-air figures whose personal views have been allowed to run riot, and since 2010, the institution has been visibly running scared of the right wing government and the future of its licence fee.

The Green Party’s Finance Spokesperson Molly Scott Cato put the point very well on Twitter this morning: “Esp 4 journalists, this is morning for deciding which side you are on, that of your grandchildren or the one your bread is buttered on”.

 

Since 2010, in government policy action, where we haven’t seen inaction, we’ve seen wrong action. There were the two fiascos over the solar feed-in tariff; a new low with the leak of David Cameron’s “green crap” (“crap” including measures to insulate the homes of the poor and vulnerable and help them pay their taxes – the rate of the first of these having since been slashed); the Green Deal – an “energy policy” designed by the finance industry for the finance industry; the plan to build lots of new roads (the ones dismissed as “zombie” projects in the Eighties), and the pursuit of the high-energy, low-sense High Speed 2 rail line.

And then there was fracking – the point at which government energy policy descended into dangerous fantasy. We had a Lib Dem Energy Secretary – the same one who’s now standing up today saying he wants action on climate change – saying “I love shale gas” not once, but twice, in case anyone missed it the first time. There’s PM David Cameron insisting that British shale gas would cut energy prices, even though the frackers themselves deny it, and only this month claiming that production would start by the end of the year, when the industry themselves says in five years they’ll know if there’s the possibility of an industry.

In February – after the floods, Cameron had to issue a statement saying he believed in climate change, so strong had the doubts about his views become. The same week Chancellor George Osborne was forced to also reassure us that he did believe in the science – although he quickly added that he only wanted to do cheap things to tackle the problem.

And Labour? Well Labour are apparently in favour of fracking (although in affected areas there are reports of quite different local claims),  in favour of HS2, yet to offer any opposition to road-building that I’ve seen, and aren’t backing programmes such as the Energy Bill Revolution (that could create jobs, almost end fuel poverty and cut emissions). In fact, they are offering little more than hot air.

The three largest parties have comprehensively failed to stand up for the facts, for the science, for the reality on climate change. They’ve offered only weasel words, and disastrous deeds.

Our future, the future of our children and grandchildren, demands a lot more. I can give you many reasons to vote Green on May 22, for the European and council elections, and in the 2015 general election. But even on its own, the promise of real, effective action that would not only slash carbon emissions but create jobs and build the wellbeing of all, but particularly our poorest, is, I believe, an overwhelming reason.

READ MORE: War, famine and pestilence - ‘Climate change is happening and no one in the world is immune

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Support / IT Sales / Graduate Sales / Trainee

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has now arisen for a Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager

£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has a track record...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable