This blog was first posted on Business Green.
The new government’s energy is devoted either to preparing for – even willing on – a disastrous no deal Brexit or to election planning. It has little left for environmental ambition and its record compares badly with that of Theresa May’s government in the weeks following the 2017 election. Ministers have been relatively silent and inaccessible. They are not responsible for the fact that key Bills have stalled, but they have given little indication that they will fight to secure major improvements to environment and farming policy. Read more
A month into the new government and the prospects for the environment look increasingly grim.
It is not just that a no deal Brexit now seems probable, though that is bad enough. Crashing out of the EU carries great dangers for air pollution and loss of countryside as lorries queue around our major ports. Its impact on farming could be devastating. Read more
We will have a new prime minister on Wednesday, almost certainly Boris Johnson, and new ministers by the end of the week. What should the environmental sector hope for? Read more
“We are facing an unprecedented global emergency… we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.”
“Our house is on fire…. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
“Winning slowly is the same as losing.”
“To pursue never-ending economic growth – or even to keep things ticking along as they are – is to gamble with the fate of humanity. We need nothing short of a transformation of the way we live our lives.”
Statements like these, from Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, Bill McKibben and Caroline Lucas, might once have been dismissed as scaremongering. Increasingly, as the evidence of climate and ecological breakdown piles up, they are being heard as the sober truth. Read more
When did Brexit become a ‘thing’, an end in itself? During the 2016 referendum campaign, Brexiteers promised a bright future for the UK outside the EU. Now, that promise has largely dwindled to delivering Brexit and fulfilling the “will of the people”, regardless of any consequences. It is as if Brexit has become a medicine we must take, even if it half kills the patient. Read more
According to an early promotional leaflet, Green Alliance was set up “by a group of individuals concerned that Britain’s political parties were failing to understand or respond to environmental issues”. Plus ça change. With an emphasis on “ideas more than issues”, the organisation aimed “to introduce an ecological perspective into British political life”.
This has been our aim ever since and is needed now more than ever as the scale of the climate and ecological emergency we face becomes clearer. Over our history we have used various methods to achieve it, from poetry and the arts to analysis, thought leadership and brokering historical political pledges. One ‘softer’ way we do it is by getting people together to talk, to understand the relevance of environmental issues and to catalyse action. Read more
The prime minister’s announcement that she will work with the opposition to try to reach a compromise on Brexit is very welcome. Both sides need to be flexible. And when MPs get to vote again, they must show a greater willingness to compromise.
Brexit means Brexit, but we still do not know what Brexit means. If we are to find out, MPs must stop asking themselves, ‘what is the best outcome from my point of view?’ and ask instead, ‘what outcomes can I live with?’ Look down the list of how MPs voted on Monday and you will see some of the brightest and best from all parties, including some who care deeply about the environment, who made the best the enemy of the not-wholly-unacceptable. And the not-wholly-unacceptable is probably the best most of us can hope for now, given the pickle we are in. Read more
This was originally posted on Mark Avery’s website.
Imagine that the environment movement was able to force the government to concede substantive change to a controversial piece of legislation central to its agenda and of great national significance. Imagine that it was the only sector to win such a change to the legislation. Read more
With parliament apparently unable to agree how to leave the EU, a second referendum and a decision to stay in the EU becomes a serious possibility. Most environmentalists I know were strongly pro-remain in 2016. They know how important the EU has been in raising environmental standards and pushing action on climate change. Read more
In normal times, an environmentalist’s reflections on the last year would be pretty positive. I do not want to get carried away.
The scale of the environmental challenges we face is vast and the government, as governments do, spends much of its time making things worse. But 2018 was a much better year in the UK than, say, 2015, when David Cameron aimed to “get rid of the green crap”, or 2016-17, when Theresa May’s climate change sceptic adviser, Nick Timothy (at that time sporting a Rasputin beard) was at the height of his influence. Read more