Rebecca Willis: ‘I don’t want to be seen as a zealot’: what MPs really think about the climate crisis. In return for anonymity, MPs agreed to speak candidly with me about climate change. The difference between what they say in private and in public is striking – and shows us how we can make climate action central to post-pandemic politics. One MP said she had two, conflicting, demands: she wanted urgent action on climate; and she also wanted government support to allow her local industry to continue polluting. She was simultaneously backing and opposing climate action. She was worried that someone – maybe a constituent or the local paper – would point out this glaring contradiction. But so far, no one had. “I thought I might get a bit of pushback,” she told me. “I’ve had absolutely zero.” This contradiction sums up the state of climate politics in the UK today. There is strong cross-party support for far-reaching carbon targets. In June last year, the government passed a law to strengthen these targets, committing the UK to end virtually all emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases within the next 30 years. There was next to no opposition – in fact, Labour and the Liberal Democrats argued for an earlier phase-out date. And yet politicians are oddly reluctant to talk about how we might actually meet these targets. There is very little honest debate about the major changes to our economy and society that will be needed if we are to meet this challenge. Like my interviewee, we’re all in favour of climate action, but we haven’t yet had an honest conversation about the power and the vested interests involved, or the choices that will have to be made if we are to achieve significant reductions in emissions. In recent months, though, politics has changed almost beyond recognition. The coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis that alters fundamentally the way we see risks, politics, and the relationship between people and society. Like everyone else, I am not sure what the world will look like on the other side. The only certainty is that everything will be different. If, as I’ve described, politicians have until now been finding it hard to contemplate radical changes to the status quo, has this barrier now fallen away?
Guardian 21st May 2020 read more »