This is an Inside Track long read.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he plans to renegotiate the Brexit deal. He has described the current deal as “dead”, for reasons I won’t go into. But there are other reasons why the deal and, in particular, the political declaration, which sketches an outline of the future EU-UK relationship, could stand some re-examination. Read more
This blog was originally posted on LabourList for the FEPS-Fabian Summer Conference 2019.
Our climate has benefited from Theresa May’s shift into legacy mode, with her hugely welcome announcement that the UK government will follow the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and legislate for a net zero emissions target. But she was pipped to the post by the devolved administrations: the SNP government in Scotland had already adopted a more ambitious net zero emissions target, while the Labour government in Wales pledged to achieve net zero five years ahead of the target advised by the CCC.
Game on. But, as the UK parliament recognised in its May 1st declaration, we face a wider environmental crisis beyond climate change – as if the latter weren’t terrifying enough. A few days after the debate, a colossal global assessment of humanity’s impact on nature made headlines with its finding that one million species are facing extinction. Read more
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.