Joss Garman: 'The gravest threat', yet the Punch and Judy show goes on

Share
Related Topics

Like the ghost of progressive politics, Ed Miliband last week announced his ambitious plans to transform Britain into a low-carbon economy.

It was impressive stuff: it could generate hundreds of thousands of green jobs and £70bn for the British economy. It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas, improving our national security, and, eventually, save householders money. So long as the carbon savings aren't wiped out by new coal and runways, his strategy will also slash Britain's emissions.

To be fair to the Conservatives, many of the ideas presented were flagged by them months ago, such as the plan to create low carbon economic zones around the country. Crucially, both main parties now agree that a huge boost in wind power will be the principal way to deliver in the short term and that more renewable heat and electricity should be generated in homes. They even both offer the same mechanism to deliver this – the "feed-in tariff" so successful in Germany. Both parties agree that it's vital to reform Ofgem, the energy regulator, to put cutting carbon at the heart of their mission, to speed up access to the grid for renewable projects and build a smarter, more efficient national grid.

Greg Clark, the shadow Climate Secretary, began well. "This is an area in which we should not pursue narrow, short-term partisanship, but where the long-term interests of the country must come first." Then he reverted to type. "But," he asked, "will the Secretary of State be candid in accepting that we start from a poor position? Over 12 years we have had 15 energy ministers, but no energy policy..." Why the inexorable push to create conflict where none exists? When discussion focuses on magnifying small differences over details and looks back for a point of contention, it seems the parties' chief aim is to find something to argue about.

In times of war or other major emergencies, when something really big needs to happen, it generally does. Political swords are sheathed for the greater good. In the 1990s, when Northern Ireland was seen as a deeply divisive ideological and political problem, progress towards a peace agreement was made when the political parties put aside their gamesmanship and built a rock-hard consensus.

Adversarial politics is a recipe for inaction. Each proposal will be keenly criticised, because that's Parliament's job, compromises pushed, costs and risks exaggerated and then scaled back, and change, which we all seem to fear so much, minimised. If stability is the main aim, adversarial politics is fine. But it's an absolute disaster during major crises, such as climate change, that require rapid and wide-reaching change.

There are political footballs, and there are national emergencies. Politicians like apocalyptic rhetoric, as they think it makes them sound important and statesmanlike. Our "leaders" say climate change is the gravest threat and defining issue of our times, but they are still booting it back and forth.

David Cameron is often accused of using the green agenda to decontaminate the Conservative brand. If he wants to show it's about more than party politics, this is his opportunity to prove it. He could stop his party blocking wind farms and back a Labour proposal that, at last, offers the prospect of real, on-the-ground green delivery. We urgently need all three main parties to come together and find a way to accelerate the change we're hoping for. Yes, they can. After all, they did it on expenses.

Joss Garman campaigns for Greenpeace and writes for The Ecologist

React Now

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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on