Three more big manifesto ideas: a prize, industrial strategy & zero deforestation

Tafel GlühlampenLast Friday we published the first three proposals in a new series in which we’ve asked leading thinkers, from politics, business and green groups, to set out their one big manifesto idea for the next parliament – the one they think will make a big impact in creating a greener Britain.

Today’s three ideas come from Chris Huhne, the Aldersgate Group and, in a joint proposal, the Robertsbridge Group and Greenpeace UK.

We’ll be posting more big manifesto ideas over the next month, covering a range of subjects; some will be related, some will compete and some could end up in the 2015 manifestos.

Which ideas will make it through?

Join the discussion on twitter (#manifestoidea) or build on the proposals and contribute your own via the blog comments.

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Chris_Huhne_150No.4

Chris Huhne, journalist and former secretary of state for energy and climate change

What’s the big idea?
To create a big prize for low carbon power

Say $10 billion – funded by the EU, US and Japan – to go to the first scientific team that demonstrates the technology or group of technologies to produce low carbon electricity, when it is needed, more cheaply than any carbon-emitting source.

Who benefits?
The planet and everyone who lives on it. As soon as there is a cheaper, low carbon source of power than fossil fuels, why would anyone use coal, gas or oil? It would harness market forces to combat climate change. It would put policy makers and pundits out of business.

What’s the catch?
The problems are more complex than, say, finding a way of measuring longitude (where the British House of Commons gave such a prize, and then quibbled). It may require up-front funding from universities, labs and private investors. For example, it could be solar power plus cheap batteries. Some of the technologies may require investment at scale. The key is that the cheap low carbon electricity has to be dispatchable when people need it on a cold, still night in February, not just when the wind blows and the sun shines.

What has to change?
If governments wanted to make the prize really credible, they could put funds in an escrow account and hand judgement to an impartial panel of Nobel prize-winners. Otherwise, they could simply make the promise. It is a small outlay for a big solution.

Why should it be in manifestos?
We are running out of time to tackle climate change, and we need to accelerate low cost technical solutions and get them talked about. A big race with an enormous prize would concentrate minds and provide journalists with lots of articles about who is winning.

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Andrew Raingold150No.5

Andrew Raingold, executive director at the Aldersgate Group

What’s the big idea?
An enhanced industrial strategy that puts sustainability and resilience at its core

The government have made huge strides forward with the current industrial strategy, working in partnership with industry to deliver long term economic goals. Until recently this concept was synonymous with a meddling state and picking losers but it is now widely regarded across all political parties as a vital ingredient for lasting economic success.

This must be built on by the next government by addressing major, long term challenges and setting greater overall strategic direction.

Who benefits?
Everyone. The overall goal is to support the creation of a highly skilled, productive and successful economy. By definition, this is smart, low carbon and resource efficient. These attributes are the foundations to competitiveness in an era increasingly defined by carbon and resource constraints. The result will be to create jobs and increase prosperity across the whole of the UK.

What’s the catch?
The industrial strategy focuses on long term horizons but there is no remit for individual sector councils to consider explicitly sustainability issues. The result is an ad hoc and piecemeal approach. Sectors like automotive and construction address challenges and opportunities in a comprehensive way. Others such as ICT and professional services do not.

The catch is to convince all sectors that economic success will increasingly depend on how it responds to sustainability challenges and it will get left behind without concerted action in the short term.

What has to change?
The industrial strategy needs more strategy. It should:

  • Develop an overarching strategy for ‘growth with purpose’ that factors in environmental and social impacts.
  • Remove inconsistencies (such as recognition of trade offs between growth in oil and gas, nuclear and offshore wind sectors).
  • Undertake a comprehensive analysis of future megatrends, considering the key economic, social and wider drivers of growth and their relevance to sector potential.
  • Include sustainability criteria for each sector.
  • Appoint a sustainability advisor to each sector council.
  • Review the industrial strategies to ensure they are consistent with wider government policy, including carbon budgets.
  • Ensure the cross-cutting themes of investment, finance, skills and procurement adequately address business needs for the transition to a low carbon economy.

Why should it be in the manifestos?
It’s a win-win-win for the economy, society and environment.

@AndrewRaingold

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Richard George_150No.6

Richard George (left) forest campaigner at Greenpeace UK and Brendan May (below left) chairman of the Robertsbridge Group

 

Brendan May_150What’s the big idea?
A zero deforestation commitment for all government procurement

Deforestation is largely driven by demand for specific commodities, such as paper, soya or palm oil. Recognising the link between palm oil production, deforestation and climate change, the last government committed only to only use sustainable palm oil in all government procurement by 2015. This was instrumental in getting much of the private sector to make similar commitments.

But many private sector companies have now gone further and have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. For example, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) companies have committed to ending deforestation from their palm oil, soya, beef and paper supply chains by 2020. The government is already supporting the Tropical Forest Alliance, established to deliver this CGF commitment; it should go further, and introduce a new zero deforestation procurement policy.

Who benefits?
A high profile commitment to zero deforestation would support the progressive companies already taking responsibility for the commodities they use. It would also support the growing number of commodity producers and traders  committed to supplying no deforestation commodities (including the world’s largest palm oil trader and Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper company). And it would play an important role in promoting sustainable development in emerging economies.

What’s the catch?
This commitment would go further than forestry laws in some countries, and existing international frameworks, which might hamper international relations.

What has to change?
Government procurement policies would need to be revised, and accompanied by a statement on sustainable commodities (building on the statement on sustainable palm oil, which involved many parties). At present, the NHS (the fifth largest employer in the world), the MoD, a huge procurer, and countless local authorities, not to mention the Department for Education and Skills, have no guidelines preventing deforestation in their supply chains across food, pulp and other commodity use.

Why should it be in manifestos? 
Ending deforestation is an uncontroversial means of tackling climate change. Without tackling deforestation, there is little prospect of a stable climate. The UK should show leadership on this issue and use its voice within the European Union to make ‘No Deforestation’ the norm for all public procurement.

@bmay
@sarcasmcat

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