This post is by Belinda Gordon, strategy director at Green Alliance.
Three years may not seem a long time but, given what we’ve been through, 2018 seems like a whole different era. And I don’t just mean because of the pandemic. The political, environmental and social context Green Alliance is working in now, compared to when our last strategy was published, is starkly different.
When I joined Green Alliance in 2018, the process of Brexit was underway and dominated the media as well as our work, with 80 per cent of environmental legislation coming from the EU and a high proportion of the European Court of Justice’s cases relating to UK environmental breaches. The level of jeopardy was high (and it still is).
Despite this, environmental issues rarely made the front pages. It still felt like we were banging on the door to be heard. The government was unstable and uncertainty was the political backdrop to our work.
Three years on and there have been huge changes, not all negative in environmental terms. Time is very short to act effectively on the major challenges of climate change and nature’s decline, but it feels like some progress has been made. This is thanks, in part, to the youth climate strikers and Extinction Rebellion protests in 2018 and 2019, raising media and public awareness of the scale of the environmental crisis.
Ensuring that public support continues
It has been helped by the UK continuing to demonstrate global leadership, with ambitious government targets at national, regional and local levels, and political commitments by all the major parties. But what we urgently need now is action, with concrete policies that deliver results. Our task over the next three years is to make sure that happens. In our new strategy published today, we set out how we intend to go about it.
The changes to come in the 2020s will affect us all, in how we travel, work, heat our homes and the products we consume. The pandemic has shown us how resilient we can be, and that we can adapt and cope with rapid change when necessary. And also that, even when it might feel daunting, sometimes change can be positive and bring new opportunities.
We want to make sure that, in taking action to protect us all from climate change and environmental decline, no one in the UK will be disadvantaged more than others and that the public support for environmental action continues.
The vision we are keeping in our sights is of a green and prosperous UK for all. To get there, our objectives for the next three years are to:
1. Turn UK political ambition on climate and nature into rapid action, because the time for words only is over.
2. Promote effective solutions for a fair transition to a green economy, because the disruption of this time is a unique opportunity to address inequalities across society and the regions.
3. Push the boundaries to find new answers to complex environmental problems, because we still don’t have all the answers, but are in a unique position to generate new thinking and convene great minds to develop them.
Unlike when Green Alliance was founded in the late 1970s, the environment is now firmly a top table issue. It is rightly recognised by our leaders, companies and the public as a major challenge of the 21st century. In our next phase we want to work with other organisations with social and economic expertise, and in partnership with businesses through our Business Circle, to ensure rapid progress and fair outcomes.
We are committed to improving diversity and inclusion in the environmental sector
A commitment we have made explicitly in this strategy is to tackle racism, and the lack of diversity and inclusion in the environmental sphere. This can’t be ignored any longer. Excluding talent, diverse voices and expertise from sections of society is unacceptable and a barrier to us achieving our vision and aims. We are looking inward to our own operations but will also be exerting our influence within the sector to bring about wider change.
While our work is organised under clear themes they all inevitably overlap. Our policy research and analysis in areas where we feel we can make a difference necessarily underpins our vital political advocacy work, and vice versa, but the links between the issues we work on are growing stronger. Climate change only be addressed in tandem with restoring nature, and the role of resource use in driving climate change and the destruction of nature must be fully understood and acted upon.
We know that nothing less than major step change, involving enormous and sometimes challenging political decisions, will be needed over the next three years to tackle the environmental crisis. With a long heritage of successfully influencing environmental policy and politics, Green Alliance is a formidable force at the forefront of driving this change to ensure positive outcomes for all. By joining with other influential voices, adapting and improving the way we convene, gathering the necessary evidence, and honing our communications and advocacy, we will work to persuade politicians to lead the way to a brighter, greener future for the UK.