This piece was inspired by Lisa Nandy MP’s essay for the Fabians in Future Left.
Before the 2010 General Election David Cameron hugged a husky and promised to lead the greenest government ever. Now Dave’s gone and there has been little time for review.
Politics is moving at a 100mph nowadays with a new story every day. The Labour Party is in turmoil, a new PM is leading a de-stabilising Brexit she didn’t believe in and Nick Clegg (remember him?) is back on the Lib Dem ‘frontbench’. Yet stepping away from this for the quickest of glances at Cameron’s green record paints a thorough picture of environmental failure.
State investment in onshore wind farms, a low cost form of energy, has stopped entirely. Solar investment was slashed just as it began to reach economic competitiveness, losing 1,500 jobs overnight and putting 18,000 more jobs – half of all jobs in the solar industry – at risk.
A green economy has the potential to create tens of thousands of high skilled, secure jobs on the cutting edge of global technology in which Britain can lead and reap the benefits, yet these jobs are going elsewhere.
In 2015 the chancellor slashed £1bn of planned investment in carbon capture and storage technology which led to two sites, funded by private money, being cancelled.
Over the next five years Britain will lose 1 gigawatt of renewable energy, enough to power 660,000 homes.
In progressive international agreements, such as Paris, Britain has failed to lead. Domestically, low carbon policies have been funded by a regressive energy levy – the IPPR reports that this has resulted in the poorest households paying six times more than the richest households.
The Conservatives, led by Cameron, have been disinterested in environmental policy. He has spent more time pandering to minimal state idealists and climate deniers on his backbenches than he has listening to those truly interested in the future of our environment.
A government that cares about the future of our planet must play an active role in transitioning us from a carbon based economy to one that is carbon free. Though market incentives will be part of the strategy to nudge any reluctant private enterprise, market fundamentalism will not solve the crisis we face.
The current crisis requires an enabling state with a green industrial strategy and a genuine passion for changing the way our economy works – not just electoral soundbites.