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Political narratives: the deficit vs carbon

“These are difficult times and we all know that this government…is having to take decisions which are difficult, which are controversial, which provoke anxiety in people and yes, will possibly provoke unpopularity for a while as well.

But we are absolutely convinced that if we don’t take difficult decisions now, we’ll only be making life worse for ourselves and for our children and our grandchildren later.”

This was Nick Clegg at the Lib Dem party conference, urging the public and party faithful to “hold our nerve” and “do the right thing for the long-term benefit of the country.”

He’s talking about cutting the national deficit. But as we’ve noted before, this kind of argument could just as easily be applied to the need to cut carbon

In fact, if you’d tuned in to the conversation half way through, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s was what he was talking about.

Politicians need to promote the shift to a low carbon society on its potential benefits – warmer homes, green jobs, clean and secure energy, protection against rising bills, stronger communities etc.

But when it comes to it, they’ll also need to be absolutely sturdy in the conviction that they are doing the right thing for the country’s long term future.

This is because not everything about the shift to a low carbon society will be popular in the short term. Energy bills may increase as fossil fuel prices rise and levies for lower carbon energy kick in, for instance.

On the economy the message from Clegg and co. is clear: we need harsh cuts now or the problem will get much worse later; this is the only way to ensure our long term security and stability.

Whether or not this is true for cutting the deficit, it’s certainly true for cutting carbon. When the going gets tough, let’s hope the coalition stick to their guns and argue for a low carbon transition with similar conviction.

Written by

Sylvia was the editor of Green Alliance's blog from 2010 to April 2013. She is an assistant producer on Al Jazeera English's flagship environmental show, earthrise, and an award-winning print journalist who writes for publications including the Guardian, the Evening Standard and New Scientist. She was previously a policy adviser at Green Alliance.

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