Green policies? Actions speak louder than words
Politicians now appear to be taking climate change seriously. Just like economic policies, we need to be asking politicians how they plan to achieve them.
It’s interesting to note what people’s key takeaway from the General Election and their view on party manifestos. At what point do people begin to pay attention, will people be voting tactically and are people more swayed by a vision or a specific policy? History will most likely judge this as the Brexit election. Yet, it does feel that for the first time, we’re genuinely seeing a proper debate on the environment and climate change.
A running theme throughout 2019 has been the climate protests led by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, as well as the wider public policy debate about decarbonising the economy. The UK government now has a policy to be net carbon zero by 2050 at the earliest.
Ignore for a moment whether you think this is doable or not, that’s a huge shift. The party manifestos take this even further with The Green Party targeting carbon zero by 2030, Labour the 2030s and Liberal Democrats by 2045.
The proof, of course, is in the pudding. All the parties appear to be ready to turn on the spending taps, however, just as we question whether policies are doable from a tax and spend perspective, we should be ready to question whether, logistically, we are able to achieve the ambitious environmental targets. Not only considering the timeline and how it can be done, but who will do it too.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is the go-to organisation for economic matters. Like them, I believe that we need an independent environmental czar and citizens assembly to hold government and corporates to account. Every policy, business or consumer decision made needs to be taken in the context of climate change and those stakeholders not acting fast enough need to be called out for the lack of action.
Environmental policy still looks and feels top heavy, whereas we know that there needs to be expertise across the supply chains, particularly on the ground. We need to find out who are the ‘actors’ i.e. the private businesses, communities and social enterprises, as well as those seeking advice such as councils, businesses and individuals. Then we need to look at how they can be supported i.e. who is providing the finance, what tax breaks are available etc.
We do not want to reach a point where action is defined by the content of a CSR report, but more so what innovation they are leading and what root and branch changes they are making within their organisation.
It is helpful that we are all beginning to talk about the environment, properly – but for climate change to become the key issue, we need our politicians to understand the level of expectations and what can be done from a grassroots and community level, if we can implement change that is needed.
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Whilst I welcome the increased notions of ‘intent’, I remain unconvinced that, our politicians or even, our business leaders have fully grasped what it means to achieve ‘net-zero’. Unless and until the business as usual mould is broken across all paradigms, including transportation, construction, retailing, product design, manufacture and the public sector we will struggle to achieve our intended goals. it appears to me that for all the goodwill, we currently look to see what is on the shelf, and then cobble together the ‘latest’ offers in piecemeal fashion, convincing ourselves that is as good as it gets. What we need to be doing is to start asking better questions as a means to providing better solutions. For example, the question shouldn’t be, "should we buy electric or hydrogen powered vehicles?" but rather, "do we need to buy/own/drive vehicles?" Might we be best served, environmentally and financially, where transport is a service, driver-less and delivered rapidly at point of need, through a seamless and grail-like integrated transport infrastructure? The latest Nissan Leaf driver-less journey indicates the potential for the technology, and discussions dating back several years with strategy experts at Jaguar, suggested the technology to link-up vehicles electronically already existed. Hey presto, we have a road-based, low-carbon-powered train! Safer, less congestion, less stress, cleaner air, more productivity (pv-powered induction recharging? Who knows?). Finally, I’ll accept for now that many organisations have ‘put down a marker’ where they would like the Target to be. When the planned, costed, itemised projects, along with their SMART objectives and performance indicators, come into focus, I may be willing to accept them as a Target!
slept so far