Monday, 7 October 2013

Change The Record

 I want us to be the greenest government ever

Is what Prime Minister David Cameron said on the 14th May 2010; over three years ago now. I've blogged about it before and I'll probably blog about it in the future too. This one sentence was probably the most hopeful thing I heard in that whole week, which for me was full of third year university mathematics exams. It was reiterated  in January this year with the government's mid-term review where they said

We are committed to being the greenest government ever

Now, if you want something badly enough, and try hard enough then you can almost always achieve it. Exceptions include my ambition, aged four, to be a ballet dancing, fire fighting paleontologist (when you look at the European Working Time Directive there just simple aren't enough hours in the day). Being the greenest government ever seems possible though. Not necessarily likely or easy but possible. If a government wanted it badly enough, and tried hard enough, they could be just that. It may wreck the economy, be unpopular and  prevent reelection but it would be possible. If you completely and utterly believe it to be the right thing to do and you're ready to work hard for it you could become the greenest government ever.

So, three years after that sentence it is probably time to decide whether Mr Cameron doesn't want it badly enough, or whether he just didn't try hard enough; or is it a mix of both?

A couple of weeks ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released it's most recent report into the Earth's changing climate, its probable causes and potential consequences. The key results quoted by the media were the 95% certainty that human action was the major reason for climate change and that things will be getting rougher in the future; and much rougher if we don't do something about it.

The UK likes to lead on many things. We lead on military power, healthcare, pop music, sports (sometimes) but apparently not climate change anymore. The Chancellor seems to have forgotten that he's aiming to be the greenest government ever because recently George Osborne said that he was committed to a steady and reliable energy supply for Britain at the lowest price, in line with international climate action and yet he added that 

I don’t want us to be the only people out there in front of the rest of the world. I certainly think we shouldn’t be further ahead of our partners in Europe.

Now, to be fair to Mr Osborne, I don't want the UK to be the only people out there in front acting on climate change either. I want everyone to be out there, acting together to prevent the worst and develop strategies to cope with the changing climate we are already seeing around us. I want everyone to be reaching forward as far as they possible can, I want competition and I want the UK to lead.

Surely we can't have the greenest government ever if they're not leading the international community into action? Except maybe we can. In my opinion we don't have it yet but being the greenest government wouldn't mean being the perfect green government, it just means being a little better than anyone else has been before. As far as I remember the last Labour government (with quite a lot of pushing from NGOs) did manage some good stuff for climate change, such as the climate change bill, which some Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs helped to bring about. But I don't remember them as shining knights coming to the rescue of all environmental and biodiversity problems. So all this government had to do, was be a tiny bit better than the last lot. They have so far utterly failed in my opinion. The repeated and unconcealed dislike from senior Tory MPs for almost all environment and nature issues is depressing. It seems to be cheaper, quicker, easier at any cost as long as it isn't economic.

I am 24 years old. At the start of 2100 I might still be alive (if I eat my greens) aged 110. Impressive, but not impossible by modern living standards. 2100 is the year the IPCC make their longest term predictions for. I can understand that for policy makers in their 50s this might seem a long way off, especially if you're looking to an election in a couple of years time. But for my generation, and anyone younger, climate change is going to affect us, as well as our children. It is our future and our present. If things go badly, it could be one of the largest impacts on my whole life. I want to have politicians who think longer term than the next election, not only when it comes to defense or healthcare but for the environment too because when we change our climate we can't just do a u-turn on policy to make it better. I want politicians who make promises that they care enough about and work hard enough for that we actually get results and not just reconfirmed promises three years down the line. I want to be able to show my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren butterflies and eels and puffins and not tell them distant memories of a world full of natural wonder, I want those memories to be theirs too. 

If you want it badly enough, and work hard enough, you can achieve almost anything. I'm not really interested in whether it's because they don't care or wont work hard enough to be the greenest government ever. Whichever it is the problem is still there. I once helped to hand in a climate change petition to Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street and sit with other young people and talk to him about climate change.  When an 8 year old asked why he wasn't stopping climate change he said something about tricky economics, and international trade and China being a bigger emitter than the UK anyway. The 8 year old looked a bit confused (understandably) and just replied saying "but if we don't stop climate change there wont be an economy to worry about". It's not quite that simple, but it nearly is. I wonder what our politicians will say to their children and grandchildren if asked whether if was because they didn't care enough or didn't try hard enough to be the greenest government ever when we really needed one.

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