Transforming our economy while remedying our environmental crisis – Part 1

The fight against climate change is a global one; we understand the issue and science. We also understand the urgency, and in the Paris Agreement, every country committed to reducing emissions to target a significantly lower than a two-degree rise over pre-industrial temperatures. While the complexities are significant, the issue is that globally we continue to put too many greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. The wealthy western countries have been the leaders of this pollution which are making the entire planet suffer, and the poorer countries are suffering more than the wealthiest; we need to lead the recovery.

The good news is that solutions do not have to be complex. For a start, we can put less harmful gases in and take more out. To achieve net-zero means that whatever we put in, we take out, essentially like wiping a footprint in the sand clean, so it looks like you were never there. At net-zero we, as humans, stop making the problem worse. However, we can strive to be better and to take more out than we put in, to allow the planet to get back to its natural cycles of carbon release and absorption.

This sounds easy, but the disruption humans have caused by fossil fuel use, and the imbalance it has created is so significant it threatens everyone. In a previous article submitted, I outlined the issues, and some responses looked for some ideas as to how best to tackle this. As was pointed out in the comments, our Liberal Democrat policies in this area in the last election were similar to other parties. Still, this issue represents the biggest threat to humanity, do we want to be a leader or a follower in this arena? Is a ‘me too’ approach sufficient? In a recent call with a Q&A with Ed Davey as the Liberal Democrats Overseas, Mr Davey outlined some political challenges in fostering alliances but did point out that Britain is leading the way in offshore wind. This is significant, but what else can we do? There is plenty we can lobby for, and plenty we can shout about. Over two articles in Lib Dem Voice, I will touch on some policy areas which (from my experience in leading climate change charitable organisations) I believe could be used to fight the climate emergency.

1. In legislation, we can require all companies to conduct an evaluation of their carbon footprint and require policies to be put in place for each to move to net-zero. This sounds significant, but for smaller companies with only a few employees, the variables can be assessed and a budget created which is not only feasible but very achievable. In other areas, the move to electric vehicles can be accelerated via legislation as can continued focus on solar power and storage at a home level and additional incentives can be created to foster entrepreneurialism in climate change organisations.

2. Taxation is a challenge for all, especially in a post-COVID-19 world; however, the gradual increase of tax on fossil fuel usage needs to be linked with incentives which are extended for alternate energy sources. Incentivising behaviour which is critical, will work – being positive to reinforce positive choices, rather than punish negative behaviours only is more palatable for the electorate and would lead to greater support and uptake. Solar panels are cheaper and more effective than before, and batteries to store power are increasing inefficiency and decreasing in price. Making it a simple financial decision for families up and down the country will create a wave of changing behaviour.

Article 2 to follow.

* Steve Castree is a member of the Liberal Democrats Overseas Executive Committee.

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