Tag Archives: climate change

Carbon fee and dividend – how it would work

In my first post, I introduced the idea of carbon and fee and dividend. Now I want to look at how it would work in the UK.

Fees steadily rise and are economy-wide, paid by companies that sell fossil fuels in the UK. The tax would steadily rise at a rate set by an independent body such as the Climate Change Committee to give the policy institutional certainty and bankability. This would mean that the price of burning fossil fuels account for their true social and environmental costs.

Fees are structured around border carbon adjustments, to create a level playing field for domestic and international producers so that companies which export carbon intensive products into the UK will be subject to the same level of carbon tax as domestic producers, helping industries like the Welsh steel sector.

Dividends from carbon taxation are returned directly to individual households so they can invest in measures to reduce their own carbon footprint and offset any initial increases in energy prices. People should be able to borrow against their future dividend payments for investments in energy efficiency.

Environmental regulations are rationalised without reducing environmental protection. Eventually at least 10 direct carbon taxes would be rationalised into a single unified price paid for emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the UK. For example, we would no longer need the Climate Change Levy, but we should continue with energy efficiency standards and energy labelling.

What would the impact be?

Estimates suggest that we could prevent 230,000 premature deaths over 20 years from improved air quality alone, on top of climate change reversal and we could also create 2.8 million extra jobs.

The REMI Study in the US examined the effect of a progressive fee and dividend (F&D) carbon tax, starting at $10 per ton of CO2 on the national economy as well as the economies of nine regions of the US. The study then compared these results to the baseline case where there is no price on carbon.

Study Highlights:

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The case for carbon fee and dividend in the UK

If we start from the position that in order to slow and halt the climate breakdown we need a root and branch systems change in the way our economy and society is structured and operates, we need to recognise that responses have the potential to negatively impact the least well off in our society.

We know that environmental harms caused by human activity, like air pollution, and that rising energy costs are issues that disproportionately hit the most vulnerable and those with least financial security. 

Every intervention or systems change aimed at slowing the climate breakdown therefore needs to satisfy these questions;

  1. Does this change recognise the magnitude of and respond sufficiently to the threat of climate breakdown?
  2. Does this change meet our obligations to protecting and safeguarding our planet for future generations?
  3. Does this help our economy move to a low or zero carbon footing?
  4. Does this help households adapt their practices and weather the changes in our economy?

Responding to the climate crisis should, fundamentally, be viewed through an economic and social justice lens.

Creating a low or zero carbon economy

Ending our dependence on fossil fuels is one of the biggest changes we could make to slow the climate breakdown.

  • Burning coal, oil, and natural gas is responsible for two-thirds of humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases, and yet provides more than 20% of GDP in two dozen nation states.
  • Energy accounts for two-thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of CO2. Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat.
  • Emissions from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) rose by 0.3% in 2017 – the first rise in 7 years.

Moving from dependence on fossil fuels and meaningfully driving rapid investment in renewable energy does have the potential however to leave many people in the UK behind.

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Shas Sheehan: The unimaginable horror of climate change for marginalised communities

Yesterday, the Office of National Statistics held an event to discuss the social impact on climate change. Lib Dem Peer Shas Sheehan spoke at the event, comparing the Extinction Rebellion protesters to the Suffragettes.

She spoke about how the impact of climate change would be felt most acutely by the most marginalised. Here is her speech in full:

In 1989 I cut short my career in advertising to do a masters in Environmental Technology, at Imperial College.

I wanted to get back to my science roots and study for myself the evidence for environmental degradation. Climate change wasn’t a big thing then. What was exercising environmentalists then included depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain, species loss and of course the radioactive cloud that was the legacy of Chernobyl.

Governments took action on the ozone layer and acid rain, because the evidence that both were caused by man was there before our eyes.

We could see the ozone hole from space, we could see the dying forests and the lakes devoid of life.

Visuals that are quantifiable are important when it comes to carrying public opinion.

So, the cover of the Economist a few weeks ago will have a powerful and lasting effect.

It shows a stripey red, white and blue flag, which colour codes the average temperature for each year starting from the mid 1800s to the present day, as measured against the average temperature from 1971 to 2000.  Colours range from darkest blue to deep crimson.

It is, quite frankly, frightening to see the cumulative effect. Since the 2000s we have been in red territory. And two out of the last three years have been deep crimson.

No wonder people have taken to the streets. They, like the suffragettes a century ago, have right on their side.

Back in 1989 Gro Harlem Brundtland’s Report, “Our Common Future” was a sort of bible for everyone who wanted to make the world a better place.

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30 September 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

I allowed myself to be distracted yesterday… you know how it can be sometimes, so it’s time to catch up…

  • ‘Out of touch’ Tories plough money into roads despite people and planet crying out for public transport investment
  • Brexit renders spending promises impossible – Davey

‘Out of touch’ Tories plough money into roads despite people and planet crying out for public transport investment

Following Sajid Javids announcement of £25bn investment in roads, Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, said:

Just as people are starting to become aware of the damage we’re doing to our planet, the Conservatives have committed to spending £25

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The speeches that got away: What local authorities can do to save our planet

We are at a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change. Extreme weather is becoming more common, reducing crop production, pushing up food prices and bringing about more unpredictable and violent weather events.

It’s clear that it is now or never for the future of our planet. Temperatures reached 45°C in France this year – how long before we see temperatures like that in the UK?
The impacts of global warming are not only increasing, they will soon reach a tipping point beyond which climate change will become irreversible.

According to Environment Protection UK – a national charity that provides expert policy analysis and information on air quality – transport is the biggest source of air and noise pollution in the UK, responsible for around a quarter of UK emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a major contributor to climate change, and of course traffic noise that blights many neighbourhoods.

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The Lib Dems now have the most comprehensive plan to tackle climate change of any party in Europe.

For me, Monday was one of the most uplifting days in politics for years. Conference overwhelmingly passed the motion connected to Policy Paper 139, “Tackling the Climate Emergency”. This commits the party to a policy of eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy by 2045 (or compensating for any residual emissions with additional carbon removal – what is known at “Net-Zero emissions”). It was great to see Jo Swinson then put our environmental policies at the heart of her leader’s speech the following day. Duncan Brack’s summation of Monday’s debate is also well worth a watch. He deserves huge credit for chairing our working group on climate change. 

Committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2045 would bring the UK into line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement and the international aim to hold average global temperature rises to under 1.5 degrees. Both the British government and the European Commission are currently looking at a net zero target by 2050, which is unlikely to be enough. An amendment tabled by the Green Liberal Democrats to shift the target to 2040 attracted support but didn’t carry. Opinions vary on this point, but the paper and motion are clear: ‘the precise target date for achieving net zero is less important than urgent action to set the economy on the path’. Tough interim targets did pass (to cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and 93 per cent by 2040). 

But what is also hugely important is that our pathways – radical though they are – are science-based and backed-up with practical policies to make them a reality. We have worked out the nuts and bolts as well as the big vision. I highly recommend a glance at Policy Paper 139 for those interested in seeing what we are proposing in detail and who didn’t get a chance to read the full motion on Monday (or attend the debate). Its recommendations are connected to figures presented in an independent report (which I co-authored) and which was published at conference in 2017. That report contains the sector-by-sector emissions reductions pathways. It goes into detail on the technology, infrastructure and policy support required. The Guardian has hailed it as a ‘radical agenda for tackling climate emergency’. 

Liberals are interested in the “little stories” as much as the “grand narratives”. And these reports provide both. As people all over the world join their children on climate strike this Friday, we should be proud that our party has just signed up to the most ambitious and credible programme of decarbonisation of any party in Europe. It is fine for Labour to consider a net-zero emissions target by 2030 – but you can bet your socks that they won’t dare publish how they plan to meet that target in practical terms. They can’t. 

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PODCAST: Climate change conference fringe event

Lib Dem Voice hosted a fringe in Bournemouth at the party’s annual conference to discuss the impact of climate change (see photo above).

Our speakers were Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Lib Dem Lords Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Luke Murphy, Head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission; Lib Dem Deputy Leader Ed Davey MP; Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker Initiative; and Paul Sheeky from Extinction Rebellion; The panel was chaired by LDV’s own Dr Kirsten Johnson.

Use this link to download podcasts automatically in your podcast app and see our previous podcasts and media content here.

Play
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Global Climate Strike this Friday

Before us lies an opportunity, to be leaders and advocates of climate justice.

Across the world, young people have been school-striking to raise awareness of the climate emergency. We have reached a stage whereby billions of people now know about the causes and impacts of climate change, yet apathy is preventing our governments from acting. Empty goals of decarbonising by 2050 are not enough, especially when we’re failing to meet targets set by the Paris Accord. The consequence of inaction is being complicit in worsening the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

If we don’t act, then we are causing poverty, death and destruction.

As a party, I believe that we should be more ambitious when it comes to the climate emergency. The Green New Deal shows that it’s possible to decarbonise the economy within 10 years whilst bringing about social justice. This could create millions of clean, prosperous jobs across the country- reducing poverty whilst helping the planet. It will require us to invest in people that have been left behind by society, wildlife habitats that we have willfully destroyed and a society that is resilient to the guaranteed impacts of climate change. Is this not the embodiment of a “fairer society, stronger economy”?

Acting now and supporting a Green New Deal means supporting the most vulnerable in society, developing our economy and safeguarding the environment.

Climate change is often overlooked as an important issue, perhaps because it doesn’t have immediate and catchy headlines for the mainstream media or we still don’t fully understand what will happen. It exposes how vulnerable the lowest in society are and the frightening future that we will be leaving to future generations. When we recognise the climate crisis as a social, economic, environmental and political problem then we must feel compelled to act and act soon.

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Come to our Lib Dem Voice fringe at lunchtime!

Lib Dem Voice is sponsoring a fringe event (yes, free food!) from 1:00 – 2:30 today at the Highcliff Marriott, Bournemouth, in the Dorchester North room.

Focussing on climate change, our panellists will be asked “What sacrifices are you prepared to make for the planet?”

We have Ed Davey, MP, now Deputy Leader of the party, coming to give his ideas of policy areas that could help shift society’s habits. Joining him will be Baroness Cathy Bakewell, our Lib Dem Lords Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Luke Murphy, Head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission; Paul Sheeky from Extinction Rebellion; and Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

There will be lots of time for questions to our panellists – and also the opportunity to give your own ideas of what sacrifices you would be willing to make to save our planet.

Please come and be part of the discussion. I hope to see you there!

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Lib Link: Christine Jardine MP on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine has written in the Scotsman of her memories on the first moon landing fifty years ago. She writes,

For many of my parents’ generation, it was the ultimate fulfilment of John F Kennedy’s promise to explore the stars and send a man safely to the moon and back by the end of the decade. That generation had lived through World War II as children, endured the fear and tension of the Cuban missile crisis as young parents and the grief of lost opportunities with the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King.

And she recognises that the science developed in the course of space exploration benefits us all:

Those missions ultimately brought CAT scans, water purification, memory foam, equipment used to cut victims out of vehicles, and so many other things.

But even more importantly, Christine argues that the lunar missions gave people

confirmation that humans have an almost infinite capacity for invention and achievement.

She concludes that

Our planet currently faces a challenge that will demand all the passion, experimental science and technological advance we can find to save it from the damage we have done. Fifty years on, Neil Armstrong’s small step onto the moon should give us the belief that if we have the will, we can.

You can read the full article here.

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10 July 2019 – the overnight press releases

Lib Dems: Govt squandering progress on climate change

Responding to the Climate Change Committee’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament – detailing how the UK Government is “lagging far behind, what is needed” to meet the old climate change targets, let alone the new net-zero emissions target for 2050 – Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This report shows that this Conservative Government is all talk and no action when it comes to climate change. They’re off-track, but instead of reversing their most damaging decisions such as effectively banning on-shore wind, slashing subsidies to solar power and scrapping the zero-carbon

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Markets, politics and tackling climate change

The government is committing to  Net Zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. This is good news but the means of achieving it are critical. Global reduction is not being achieved but it would be wrong to suggest that nothing has been done and certainly panicking would not be a rational response. Global CO2 emissions per unit of GDP have been decreasing at annual rate of about 1.8 percent for the last 80 years but economic growth means that global emissions have still been increasing at 2.6 percent per year. 

The figures above are taken from “The Climate Casino” by William Nordhouse, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics. Nordhaus presents a scientifically informed overview of the climate dilemma and the solutions to it. The efficient solution is carbon pricing. This is not a view restricted to a some academics but is the consensus of main stream economists, as Tim Harford has pointed out. Carbon pricing can take two forms, as a tax or through setting emission targets and providing tradable permits to cap the GHG emissions. According to the analysis presented by Nordhaus “Carbon Tax” is the more efficient mechanism but “Cap and Trade” is a good approach if implemented effectively. Cap and Trade is also easier to sell politically. For example the EU has implemented such a scheme but  it has not priced GHG emissions at a high enough level to drive the changes required. 

Importantly a carbon tax corrects the market failure that has allowed pollution to continue because the polluter does not pay for the consequences. The effect is not merely punitive but more significantly it allows the market mechanism to function as the principal driver of climate change mitigation as well as providing revenue to compensate hardship and to fund needed technology.  It makes renewable energy sources more competitive without the need to introduce piece-meal subsidies or other ad hoc or even authoritarian government interventions. The other important contribution of the competitive market mechanism is innovation. This is important for efficiency and essential technological breakthrough, such as carbon capture and storage.

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11 June 2019 – today’s press releases

Regular readers may wonder where this feature disappeared to over the past week or so. The answer, North Macedonia and Georgia, and fascinating both countries were too. But there’s always a point where you have to come home…

Davey: MI5 revelations “a shocking breach of civil liberties”

Responding to today’s High Court hearing over MI5’s collection and storage of bulk data, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

These revelations represent a shocking breach of civil liberties by one of the agencies tasked with safeguarding them.

The Liberal Democrats have consistently opposed giving MI5 powers to collect bulk communications data,

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Ed Davey writes: Decarbonise capitalism to solve the climate emergency

An ambitious UK Climate Change plan can reduce 1% of global emissions – but the UK has the power to cut 15% of global emissions, by decarbonising capitalism.

The Committee on Climate Change has proposed a net zero carbon target by 2050 for the UK. This is the minimum we should do – within our own country.

Yet the UK plays a massive part in more than 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases – because the City of London finances the businesses responsible for those emissions. So we could make a more radical impact on climate change – if we chose to decarbonise capitalism here. And we could set a new gold standard for global climate action.

And frankly, it would be grossly hypocritical to ask the British people to change, if we then failed to force our banks and financial institutions to do likewise.

The good news is that across the City, many people get green finance. But it’s still not mainstream. We won’t be able to solve the climate emergency just by adding in a bit of green cash: we need a system change. A diet only works if you eat salad and give up the doughnuts.

Just look at the greenwash by the fossil fuel sector. There are just 100 fossil fuel firms who’ve been responsible for 70% of global emissions since 1988 – and they have allocated on average only 1.3% of their total capital expenditure on green energy. This is utterly reckless and totally out of step with a net zero goal.

To reverse this, Government has to say: London will become a capital of Green Finance, and you will no longer be able to fund the climate crisis here.

This will be hugely challenging. Today 20% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is invested in high carbon and fossil fuel firms. By implication 20% of any pension funds tracking the LSE are too. To protect the incomes of pensioners today and in the future, their savings need new profitable homes.

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16 May 2019 – today’s press releases

Another slightly startling day, with today’s BMG Research poll showing the Liberal Democrats with 18% if a General Election were to take place today, up ten percentage points in just five weeks… Don’t get vertigo, everyone…

  • Lib Dems call for EU-wide fracking ban
  • Lib Dems call for creation of youth council
  • Chris Grayling botched his probation reforms just like he botches everything
  • Brexit threatens UK’s ability to monitor climate change
  • Welsh Lib Dems condemn praise for Tommy Robinson

Lib Dems call for EU-wide fracking ban

The Liberal Democrats have today committed to campaigning for an EU-wide ban on fracking because of its negative impacts on climate …

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Ed Davey slams Conservatives on climate change on Any Questions

Ed Davey was on Any Questions last Friday night.

The first question from the audience in Cambridge was about climate change.

Former Conservative Brexit Minister Suella Braverman hailed her party’s action on this.

I thought when I listened to it that Ed’s reply was going to be interesting.

Well, it was pretty forensic. He highlighted how the Conservatives had undone so much of the good work he had done as Climate Change Secretary and how important it was that we remain at the European table to have global influence.

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LibLink: Jo Swinson To secure our future, make climate change risk reporting mandatory

Jo Swinson has always been one to ask awkward questions. In an article in today’s City AM, she describes asking about corporate social responsibility during a seminar when she was a student:

…my classmates looked at me with puzzled expressions, as if I was rather off-topic.

Gone was the 1960s radicalism of the institution, and instead chasing the highest-paying banking internship was very much in vogue. When, after graduating, I chose a job placement with a small start-up company in Yorkshire on a £12,000 salary, the puzzled looks turned into disbelief.

She sets out three big changes to the way business should operate, putting responsibility to people and planet at their heart:

So, let’s start rewarding investors who are in it for the long-run and limit the powers of those who are in it just to make a quick buck. We can increase voting rights the longer an investor remains with a company, and we can taper the rate of tax for every year an investor keeps their share in the business.

Second, let’s put people at the heart of business. Let’s make it crystal clear that directors have fundamental responsibilities to their employees, their consumers, and the communities on which they depend.

Last, and by no means least, let’s get serious about the fact that we are the last generation that can stop irreversible harm to our planet. Any business that thinks it is immune to the threats we are facing is utterly deluded and is risking its own survival

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LibLink: Christine Jardine Your nationality won’t matter if we wreck the planet

Politicians must heed what young people, concerned about the future of our planet, are saying, writes Christine Jardine in her Scotsman column:

Too little time recently has been dedicated to looking at how we are damaging the planet, undermining the future of generations to come and destroying the natural world. More importantly we are letting the valuable and scarce time we have left to change things slip through our fingers.

That was also not my only encounter this week with a younger generation frustrated at the adult world’s lack of action to protect their environment. On Friday morning I visited a group of pupils at Cramond Primary School in my constituency to see their campaign to clean up the air they breathe every day.

Their presentation was impressive but so too was their commitment that their world is under threat and that we are all responsible. Everything they said echoed what I had heard earlier from Greta, and not just about climate change.

She  described the benefits of being part of the More United group of MPs working together where they agree.

She went on to talk about the distractions of Brexit, and, now, the prospect of another Scottish independence referendum and how those are overshadowing what’s important.

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29 April 2019 – today’s press release

Govt must be more ambitious in greenhouse gases 2050 target

Responding to the expected announcement that the Climate Change Committee has recommended 2050 as the date the UK becomes a net-zero greenhouse gas emitter, Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

This report tells us the very minimum we need to do to cut our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, but this Tory Government must be more ambitious. We have a responsibility as a country in the face of a climate emergency facing the entire world.

We saw only last week that some in the cabinet are refusing to

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We have to defend open debate and democratic government against fears of dark forces and betrayal

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Most of us never see most of the social media that feeds conspiracy theories about the European Union. As we have all learned, the algorithms operate to feed back to consumers stories that confirm their existing views, not challenge them. When the wilder beliefs filter through into letters to newspapers, the deepest prejudices have often been removed.

A letter in the Yorkshire Post last week, for example, warned of the threat of German domination, and referred to the re-emergence of ‘militarism in Germany’. Anyone who follows German military expenditure will know that German forces are under-equipped and poorly trained, suffer from a budget allocation much smaller than the UK spends on defence, and are rarely deployed. But the anti-Brexit blogosphere, taking its cue from the Bruges Group and other sources, has latched onto German calls for a ‘European army’ – an ill-defined concept that enables them to avoid hard questions about national defence and strategic priorities – and mispresented it as a wicked German plot to conquer us all.

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Message to Extinction Rebellion: Flying is here to stay – but we need to reduce its carbon footprint

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It was 13 July 2005, and I was sitting in an office in Madrid when I got the dreaded phone call to tell me that my father, who had been suffering from cancer, was slipping away. By that evening I was by his bedside in Surrey, and held his hand as he died the next morning. I am very glad, to this day, that I got back in time.

Extinction Rebellion had the intention on Good Friday of disrupting flights at Heathrow. ‘Terribly sorry’ – they said – ‘if your Easter getaway is delayed’ – fortunately none were. Delaying an Easter skiing break might be annoying, but not the end of the world – is how their argument goes.

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Press Release: Cross-Party Climate Change Statement

On Tuesday 23rd April 2019, sparked by the visit of Greta Thunberg to the UK, the Westminster leaders of the UK political parties, except for the Prime Minister and the DUP (both invited), took part in a private round-table with a number of the leaders of the youth climate strikes to discuss the UK’s response to the deteriorating ecological crises.

At that meeting, the Westminster Leaders present agreed to three actions. These actions mark a significant cross-party response to Greta’s visit to the UK; the UK youth climate strikes and ongoing climate protests; the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 Degrees; the upcoming Committee on Climate Change report on a net-zero greenhouse gas target for the UK on May 2nd; and above all, the knowledge that it is young people across the world who will bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

There is an open invitation for the Government, and all other political parties, to sign-up to these cross-party actions.

Ongoing Cross-Party Cooperation & Dialogue with Young People

By working together collaboratively, political parties, even without the Government, can start to build the bold solutions and public consent needed to ensure young people are guaranteed a secure, safe and prosperous future.

Westminster party leaders therefore agree to ongoing cross-party roundtables with the youth climate strikers – and to increased cross-party collaboration on climate change, including an agreement to issue a statement endorsing the UK’s bid to host COP26 in 2020.

Supporting the UK Youth Climate Assemblies

Over the coming months, the UK youth climate strikers will continue to expand and build their movement – and it is essential that the views of young people are incorporated into the decision-making of politicians and political parties and that politicians have chance to engage directly with young people across the UK.

Westminster party leaders therefore agree to actively support and engage with youth climate assemblies in towns and cities across the UK.

Stress-Test UK Climate Policy

The United Kingdom has signed and ratified the Paris Climate Agreement – the international treaty negotiated in 2015 part of the United Nations’ climate framework – which places a commitment on the UK to meet the targets in the Paris Agreement, including efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Greta Thunberg to Parliament: “Is my microphone on?”

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Here is the full text of Greta Thunberg’s speech to Parliament today, via the Guardian:

My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.

I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?

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Greta Thunberg speech in Parliament today should help everyone to take notice of protecting our planet – Cable


Today, schoolgirl Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the Houses of Parliament. Vince Cable has said that he hopes that this event will greatly increase the profile to our climate emergency.

He remarked:

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Extinction Rebellion isn’t funny or clever

Well, I suppose they might have been that day when they made their protest in the Commons chamber. It was a visible reminder that we are preoccupying ourselves with Brexit when the entire future of our planet is in doubt. And it was quite funny watching MPs trying to maintain their composure and keep their faces straight.

But the recent spate of protests by the climate change campaigners are doing their cause more harm than good. Ok, so they get attention, but what on earth is the point of gluing themselves to trains, for goodness sake?

I thought public transport was a good thing. Obstructing it, potentially making low paid people with not much power in their workplaces late, is neither big nor clever.

And holding up the traffic might grab headlines but it doesn’t do much for air quality in the vicinity.

The powerful message of children walking out of school to tell us to secure their future is so much more persuasive.

And I think Extinction Rebellion went a bit foo far yesterday by attaching themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s house. 

People’s homes are off limits for this kind of stuff, whether there are politicians or heads of companies. If you want to protest go to their public offices. Nobody’s family should have to feel like they are under siege.

Back in 2012, UK Uncut organised this mass protest of 400 people outside Nick Clegg’s house, a move I criticised at the time.  

The Clegg family was not home – but what if they had been? What about their neighbours? Whatever you might think about Government decisions, politicians’ partners and children should not have had their lives disrupted.

Imagine if they had been home when these 400 people descended? The children are 10, 8 and 3. To a 3 year old, people outside having a go at your daddy, however nice they think they’re being, could be really scary, the stuff of weeks of nightmares.

Now, note that I am not saying that such protests should be illegal, but with rights come responsibilities. UK Uncut have done their cause no good whatsoever this weekend – and that’s a shame because when it comes to some of the welfare reform cuts, as you know, I agree with them.

UK Uncut will have had to have distributed Nick Clegg’s private address to a fairly large number of people, for a start, the 400 there and anyone they tell. How can they guarantee the conduct of every single person who would turn up. It was ok this time, but at some point, if this continues, someone will turn up with malevolent intent.

And that was before an MP was murdered. In the current, febrile climate, when you have emboldened fascists taking to the streets, going to politicians’ homes is not a good look.

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Climate Protests: Show me what democracy looks like

I imagine that you are rarely met with a party atmosphere when stepping out of Westminster tube station on a February afternoon. But on the 15th February 2019 at 1 o’clock, the sun was shining, people were singing and smiling, and that distinctive smell of cannabis smoke was in the air. It felt more like Reading Festival than the epicentre of the British political system.

This being said, most of the 2000 students weren’t there for a party. This wasn’t a day off school or an early half term get-together. The majority of people were there to get their voices heard by politicians — perhaps for the first time in their lives.

As I walked up towards Westminster Bridge, a protestor excitedly filled me in on the day’s events. “And then this guy climbed up a bus,” he told me breathlessly. I couldn’t tell if the act was inspired by genuine frustration or perhaps it was the result of soaking up a bit too much of the protest atmosphere, and maybe a bit too much alcohol as well.

Aside from a small cohort of people who couldn’t get enough of climbing things, most of the protestors had remained very much on the ground level. Two roadblocks had been organised. One over Westminster Bridge and the other on Parliament Street. The students chanted for stuck drivers to turn their engines off.

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AOC is right, we need unprecedented action to prevent climate catastrophe

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been US Representative for New York’s 14th District for less than two months, but she has already made waves in US politics so large that they have spread across the pond.

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, as she is popularly known) tabled House Resolution 109. The “Green New Deal” it outlines would transition the US to a carbon neutral economy and 100% renewable energy generation within ten years. These changes would be accompanied by massive investment in infrastructure, from improving the energy efficiency of buildings, to developing new …

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Tony Greaves writes…”There really is no Planet B” Scenes from the Schools 4 Climate action demo

Fantastic atmosphere in Parliament Square today as some thousands of mainly school students gathered to protest against what is happening to our climate and our planet. This was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations I have witnessed.

There was none of the usual organisation, attempts at order and regimentation, agenda of speeches and actions. No stewards and precious few police, who were clearly taken unawares by the scale of the protest and were standing around looking a rather lost at how to cope with quite a big disruption with no organisers to talk to! People just turned up, often in school groups, and did their own thing as they felt fit.

Some just stood about with their placards. Some sat in a circle, chanted or sang or made impromptu speeches – at first on the grass, later on in the road. Some stood in the streets or marched off down Whitehall or towards Westminster Bridge. Parliament Square was completely blocked, partly by the young demonstrators but also – by a curious bit of serendipity – by the black cabs whose drivers were staging another protest against being kicked out of London bus lanes.

For once, the young people were being allowed to stand on the plinths of statues and hang placards on Mr Churchill and his friends. One glorious incident happened when a big red open-top tourist sightseeing bus, blocked on the corner of Bridge Street and the Square, was commandeered by a group of young people waving their placards and leading the chants. What any tourists thought about it, I know not!

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Why the Liberal Democrats must be at the forefront of a UK Green New Deal

Since it was first introduced in the US in 2007, the idea of a Green New Deal has received substantial support amongst a wide range of the electorate worldwide, who are increasingly rallying their governments to tackle the imminent threat of climate change.

Recently gaining traction after the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to US Congress, the growing need to put a Green New Deal into practice is once again making its way to the forefront of global politics. Who will speak up for a deal like this in the UK?

A recent European Commission report revealed that the UK currently leads the way in fossil fuel subsidies, providing a staggering £10.5 billion to support the industry. The continuous commitment to propping up such environmentally harmful practices against the will of a large percentage of the UK populace is not only damaging to our mutual trust, but the future of our world.

The current state of British politics is at a critical point. At a time of great political upheaval across the nation, the Liberal Democrats have a chance to take centre-stage in refocusing the national agenda and rebuilding national trust in our party. 

A UK Green New Deal is a way in which we do exactly that. A progressive, positive agenda which underlines the importance of protecting our nation’s economic interests as well as our environmental prospects. By wielding much more focus towards supporting renewable and cleaner energies and protecting our natural earth, we can also thousands of new jobs and lessen inequality in a fresh, booming new industrial sector. 

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Looking beyond Brexit

The sense of things going horribly wrong is likely to get much worse as 2019 gets under way and #BrexitShambles becomes #BrexitFarce.

In the probable chaos of the coming months the country needs us to articulate our hope for the future.

Putting some flesh on those bones, in no particular order:

  • Improve Benefits. Universal Credit could have been a good idea, but under-funding has hit it hard and people are suffering. Improving the funding is a good place to start. We also need to go further. It is a scandal to have people needing to use food banks or losing the roof over their head because of the way the system works. I’ve spoken with people struggling to live on benefits, who voted Leave in the desperate hope that things would improve.
  • Wealth inequality. Back in the autumn, Vince Cable put forward a raft of tax reforms to make the system fairer, especially around inheritance and investment income and pensions. Univeral Basic Income has been on the edge of discussions for a long time. It is time to take it seriously — it can’t be done overnight, but it is time to start the conversation as a way to pick up where we are, and fears around the way in which technology is reshaping the world.
  • Brexit has pushed climate change from the top of the agenda. People have every reason to be worried. That means is that it is high time to turn that worry into action — around renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, zero carbon housing, improved public transport, and more.
  • The Blair government had some good ideas on devolution, with elected regional assemblies and pulling government offices and development to the same boundaries. The imbalances around devolution to Wales, Northern Ireland and particularly to Scotland would look very different if there was meaningful devolution in England.
  • It’s time to talk openly about federalism. Too often it’s a dirty word in British (or at least, English) politics. It’s time to dispatch the myth that it is about centralising power and put the case for doing centrally only what needs to be done there and pushing decisions as close as possible to the people they affect. That applies as much to devolving power from Westminster as it does devolving it from Brussels.
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