It must be said

There will be many who will criticise Tory MP Chris Skidmore’s 340-page Mission Zero report.  They’ll probably say it doesn’t reach far enough, is far too obsessed with business benefits, and doesn’t question the UK’s woefully inadequate 2050 Net Zero target.  

Climate activists may be appalled that the report doesn’t call for radical overhaul of capitalist norms, whilst climate change objectors will also be aghast that the consequent work schedule will overshadow all other get-rich-quick opportunities.  And, for extra discomfort, this report highlights how many great opportunities have been squandered on their watch.  Both camps will be outraged in equal measure: a sure sign that this report is a small, practical, step in the right direction and probably the best we can hope for this side of a General Election or a national uprising.   

Leaders across the political spectrum have been far too tentative in addressing our Climate Crisis.  The public are, at last, beginning to notice the avoidance.  This is far from the only no-go area that currently prevents reality-facing action for fear of tribal trauma or tabloid outrage.  After a decade of tired Tory economics there is now a long list of priorities demanding urgent treatment and darn it, all those wounds are being overtaken by the most demanding of all – a mission to survive.  Not a mission to keep up appearances, nor a mission to pretend that we haven’t collectively landed ourselves in deep trouble.  

If delivery action on the current report’s proposals still falls short, if the overwhelming majority of the electorate fails to engage in battle, if the naysayers’ “Never” never ends, then, surely, we will sleep-walk into oblivion. 

Leadership priorities need to change, ‘like there is no tomorrow’.  

* David Brunnen is media liaison officer for Fareham Liberal Democrats. He writes on Municipal Autonomy, Intelligent Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges.

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15 Comments

  • Mel Borthwaite 14th Jan '23 - 6:01pm

    “if the overwhelming majority of the electorate fails to engage in battle”…
    You touch on an important point – in a democracy, the people have to be persuaded to accept change or they will use their votes to reject those politicians and parties pushing for changes they oppose. While some voters believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the absolute priority, my sense is that the majority of voters who are facing cost of living pressures, waiting for NHS treatment, stuck on council house waiting lists etc are more concerned about issues that are hugely impacting on their lives now.

  • David Brunnen 14th Jan '23 - 7:09pm

    Mel – exactly so – this is the essential challenge of leadership.
    That penultimate sentence is structured as a multiple IF statement – IF [this] and IF [that] and IF [something else] THEN [outcome] – with an increasing improbability with each succesive IF. There’s probably a horse betting term for this outside of my nerdish experience – spent too long programming in ALGOL in the 1960’s. Thanks for your comment. David

  • Martin Gray 14th Jan '23 - 8:19pm

    Over 80% of the world’s power is produced on fossil fuels….Renewables are unpredictable & have eye watering subsidies .
    If you want net zero then your going to have to stop digging it up & stop drilling for it … Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK alone are reliant on the oil & gas industry and it’s supply chains …
    As Mel has said – cost of living crisis, GP appointments, NHS waiting lists, insecure work , insecure housing , crime & ASB , immigration …
    Net zero doesn’t resonate with a lot of voters – too busy trying to survive …
    Ultimately NZ is fantasy politics…

  • Peter Davies 15th Jan '23 - 6:58am

    The THEN clause as structured would only execute if all those conditions were true. sadly the correct model would require OR to be inserted between the conditions.

    In gambling terms, we are betting against all those events. I believe bookies would call it an accumulator. The good news is that the probabilities of the three events are not independent. That somewhat moves the odds in the world’s favour.

  • Thelma Davies 15th Jan '23 - 8:39am

    If you want net zero, then you’ll have end the oil & gas industry. It’s a bit like the governments aim to make Britain a smoke free zone by 2030 . If your not prepared to prohibit it, then it’s just another empty slogan.

  • David Brunnen 15th Jan '23 - 5:10pm

    Thank you, Peter, for correction of my ancient ALGOL syntax. There’s precious little optimism around our planet abuse.

    And thanks also to Thelma. As brutal realities bite, the pain of corrective actions will grow in direct proportion to the avoidance of the issues. See also https://001b000000q0nfsaa3.fleet.praterraines.co.uk/climate-emergency

  • David Brunnen 16th Jan '23 - 9:03am

    Marin Gray wrote: ‘renewables . . . have eye-watering subsidies’. Thank you.
    Whenever I come across the subsidy word I try to replace it with ‘investment’.
    Subsidies are, sadly quite often, investments of which the author/speaker disapproves or wishes to disparage. I agree the challenge is huge – vastly greater than our profligate past investment in planet abuse.
    I do not, however, see this as an either/or – there will always need to be a balance between immediate and future investment and (as now understood for infrastructure) distance does not mean disconnection. Skidmore’s report suggests a ‘whole systems’ approach where ALLl aspects of policy are viewed through a climate lens. Greater pain avoidance demands early diagnosis and treatment.

  • Jenny Barnes 16th Jan '23 - 10:12am

    Renewables – need a lot of fossil fuels to build in the first place. If we need a lot of them (I think we do) then we need to stop using those fossil fuels to go on holidays and drive 3tonne SUVs around.

  • David Garlick 16th Jan '23 - 10:34am

    If you want to see eye watering subsidies the check those given to the fossil fuel industries. They have been feather bedded for decades and have known that their products were wrecking the planet since the 1970’s. I would take their subsidies away and put them all in court.

  • Simon McGrath 16th Jan '23 - 11:47am

    @David – what subsidies ? you know that when people say this they include the 5% VAT rate on gas and electrcity. do you think they should be 20%

  • Peter Davies 16th Jan '23 - 2:42pm

    In this country the problem is not subsidy. Hydro, tidal and onshore wind are all economically viable but prevented by the near impossibility of building anything in this country. Solar is economical if designed in to new build. Transparent Solar panels should be economical soon either as windows in tall buildings or for greenhouses.

    In many countries, however, fossil fuels are massively subsidised. It all goes into the same atmosphere.

  • David Garlick 16th Jan '23 - 8:26pm

    Subsidies for exploration for a start. Yes it may have been seen as an investment but it was an investment given to people who are now accused of lying and knowingly putting the planet at risk. We cannot condone these people for a day longer than necessary. No more funding exploration and compensation for all the dange to the planet they have hidden.

  • Peter Davies 17th Jan '23 - 7:54am

    @Simon: The extra cost of a more energy efficient device is taxed at a higher rate than the wasted energy from buying a less efficient device. That is a subsidy to energy use. It may be hard to sell a 20% VAT rate on energy because it is mildly regressive but it is also a massive revenue gain which would more than pay for the progressive changes to tax and benefits that would make up for it.

  • Peter Hirst 18th Jan '23 - 4:34pm

    Now is the time for us to be more courageous in what we offer to the electorate. The other two parties show no ambition and are competing for the path to being the poor relations of Europe. We could lead on a range of issues such as climate change, tackling in equality, better relations with Europe, tax avoidance measures, rewarding entrepreneurship, sorting out our labour market and a fair immigration and asylum system.

  • David Brunnen 19th Jan '23 - 1:41pm

    Thanks Peter (Hirst) for steering the comments back onto my primary point of leadership priorities. The need to be more courageous is evident – not merely for electoral gain but to be clearly in the lead on this most vital road – a road strewn with obstacles and diversions but one that needs thoughtful navigation. All other concerns – as worthy as they are – can be seen through this climate challenge lens.

    At the risk of provoking further comments I quote from page 280 of Greta Thunberg’s Climate Book: “We need new laws, new structures, and new frameworks. We must no longer define progress only by economic growth, GDP, or the amount of profit given to shareholders. We need to move beyond compulsive consumerism and redefine growth. We need a whole new way of thinking”.

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