Viridor’s Tim Rotheray argues the environmental movement needs to modify its approach so as to harness the Conservative government’s stated commitment to climate action and environmental progress. It’s quite amazing. We start the 2020s with a Conservative majority government with a strong set of environmental commitments. The government is committed to the removal of all net greenhouse gas emissions within 30 years from the whole of the UK and a 25-year environment plan to improve – note, not halt the decline – of the country’s biodiversity. If I showed you those two sentences 10 years ago there is a very good chance you’d have told me it was pie in the sky. Of course, some will say the government should be doing more – indeed that may be true, but that is also because of a moving baseline of ambition. We get a commitment to 80 per cent greenhouse gas emission reduction, bank it and then move to asking for the next ambition – that is how progress works! But I fear this opportunity is now at great risk. And the risk lies with climate and environment campaigners and lobbyists. We are at grave risk of suggesting policy answers that are highly unappetising, repellent even, to this government. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and what we think this government needs to hear to drive further progress. Public support for acting on the environment, from plastic pollution to climate change, is high across the board. But that is where the agreement ends. The voters that gave this Government an 80-seat majority are likely to see the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles as a war on the motorist and wholeheartedly endorse the Prime Minister’s comments that Extinction Rebellion activists were “unco-operative crusties”. Doubtless Greta Thunberg and XR have moved the debate, but that does not mean that those they have moved like or respect them. For many of us pushing for ambitious climate and environment policies, the determined passionate pleading of people like Thunberg are an inspiration for action and they are lauded in our circles for the impact they are having. But this is not how they are seen in Number 10, at the Cabinet table, or crucially among their voters. Read the Tory manifesto and speeches since the election – it is about people and place. Local infrastructure and jobs. As Conservatives, Ministers are less likely to favour major state intervention and lean towards market solutions. So, climate advocates need policies that focus on these interests. What market-driven policies that leverage private sector investment in the regions outside of London do we need to see? If we push bans and obligations on consumers, we are likely to get a very short hearing.
Business Green 28th Jan 2020 read more »