This is an Inside Track long read.
One of the unexpected outcomes of the past few years’ Brexit upheaval is the environment’s rise up the government agenda. Reasons range from the cultural to the nakedly political: the public gripped by Blue Planet’s devastating images of plastic pollution and a summer of alarming wildfires from Saddleworth to Sweden; Conservative election losses attributed in part to eco-conscious millennials; and a secretary of state whose ambition and shrewdness have married happily with a long latent green sympathy. The EU referendum result prompted environmental NGOs to unite and campaign more effectively under the umbrella of Greener UK; and Brexit has demanded more parliamentary time on environmental concerns, occasions to which MPs and peers are rising with admirable aplomb. Read more
A year on from the prime minister’s letter invoking Article 50, the Brexit hourglass is now half full, or half empty depending on your political disposition. Optimist or pessimist, Leaver or Remainer, the fact is there is now less time for Theresa May and her enthusiastic Environment Secretary Michael Gove to deliver on their promise of a “green Brexit”. Read more
Tomorrow, Theresa May will deliver a major speech on the environment, it will be the first keynote environment speech delivered by a British prime minister since Tony Blair did so in 2000. David Cameron might have hugged huskies in the Arctic but, in practice, the environment as a whole was not a top priority for him (although he did address the UN on climate and gave a small speech on energy efficiency). Blair also delivered a major speech specifically on climate in 2004.
This article was originally published on WWT’s website.
Here’s an idea (which I’ve borrowed from the German philosopher, Heidegger): nature challenges us. History shows us that we humans have devised, over the centuries, more and more ingenious technologies, which have enabled us to live longer, more interesting lives. In doing so, we have challenged nature, transforming it to meet our own ends. But this process has challenged humans all the more, because, being the ones who reorder nature, we are responsible for it, changing its very existence. In changing nature, we change ourselves.
The prime minister has laid out her “comprehensive and carefully considered” Brexit plan pledging to bring as much certainty and clarity to each stage of the Brexit process as possible. It was perplexing, then, that the environment was not mentioned once during her 45 minute speech. Significant questions remain about the future of the UK’s environmental protections and how we will work with allies abroad to build a healthier and safer world. Today, most of the UK’s environmental law and policy is based on EU law, so its absence from Theresa May’s speech leaves the Brexit plan falling short of its comprehensive objective.
Uncertainty filled the air like thick fog on 24 June, 2016 as the result of the EU referendum began to sink in. Green Alliance, along with other environmental organisations, had done its homework, scoping out the likely implications of different scenarios: an overwhelming vote to leave or remain, or a close call either way. That day, we found ourselves dealing with the scenario that would leave us with the greatest deal of work to do: the country had voted to leave, putting the estimated four-fifths of the UK’s environmental protections that stem from EU law into question. Read more
Do you remember the old lady who swallowed a fly? Her chosen remedy – to swallow a spider in hope of catching the fly – unfortunately made things worse: said spider wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her. She dealt with this unintended consequence by swallowing a bird, which didn’t help either. Bird led to cat led to dog, goat and then cow (I don’t know how). The sad denouement came when she swallowed a horse, and died. Of course.
The British electricity system is starting to look worryingly like that poor old lady. The government, dissatisfied with what the markets are delivering, is proposing modification after modification, in the hope that one day the ‘neutral’ market will deliver the government’s ever more obvious technology preferences. It looks as if our energy policy designers have forgotten their nursery rhymes.
The Prime Minister’s latest intervention in the EU referendum campaign illustrates how the environment is taking its place in the modern political canon. Speaking from the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes nature reserve, Cameron noted how our EU membership underpins crucial environmental protections, and talked about the importance of nurturing Britain’s countryside and wildlife. At the same time, his speech, if not his words, demonstrated that environmentalists are important too.
These days, renewable technologies not only generate 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity, they also generate plenty of data, giving us the chance to get a clear picture of what’s really going on.
We’ve pulled together our top ten resources as a quick reference guide, including stats, interactive tools and inspiration from the miscellany of initiatives that have taken root across the country. Read more
The Northern Powerhouse: everyone’s talking about it, but no one’s quite sure what it is, or where it is, for that matter.
Is it Manchester, where the phrase was first aired? Or all the northern cities, mapped out in a network, like atoms in a sheet of graphene? And what about the greenish bits in between: are the countryside and smaller towns simply blank space, to be passed through at high speed? Read more