Wednesday, 10 December 2014

From Blue to Green to Red and back again

So we’ve seen how public opinion on Climate Change is under threat (Ungar 2014), but has UK political action followed suit. Carter (2014) presents an excellent rundown of the history of the Climate Change movement in UK policy which highlights some interesting points. Unlike climate politics in the US British attitudes to policy have been characterized by cross-party support. The last election was characterized by each party trying to ‘out-green’ the other and helped shift from preference accommodation to preference shaping of the public. This help build both media coverage and public opinion to action at the time. In 2010 David Cameron promised to be the ‘most green government ever’ with the catchphrase ‘vote blue get green’, but has this actually happened? As I mentioned in the last post political action for things such as climate change is stifled when unemployment and GDP suffer, and this has contributed to the Coalitions inaction. However one key driver of action identified by Carter is that of a single party majority. The Con-Lib coalition has left many conservative backbenchers unhappy, and increasingly we are seeing a wedge driven between the two parties over issues such as climate change. Not only has Cameron’s rhetoric fallen off, the slate of MPs employed in DECC following Chris Huhne has included some prominent climate denialists. Owen Paterson’s tirades over the ‘Green Blob’ and his work for the Global Warming Policy Foundation don’t exactly appeal to progressive policy. Whilst in his time as junior energy minister John Hayes pledged to no more onshore wind farms and actively fought against subsidies for renewables which he claimed were a ‘green tax’.

Hope is on the horizon, Britain has pledged significantly to the Green Climate Fund, and pledges on emissions reduction from other nations give hope for British action (or reaction). However with UKIP on the rise there is cause to worry as well. The party may hold the balance of power come the next election and their desire to scrap the seminal Climate Change Act (2008) and of course leave the EU emissions trading scheme. International action is certainly on the agenda, but a future for British policy is highly uncertain, prominent voices such as Sir David King and Ed Davey are working in the right direction, but with public opinion wavering it is unlikely to be a major issue for the next general election.

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