Race to the Bottom (of the Ocean): Osborne and Climate Change

Now it’s the turn of climate change to feel the force of George Osborne’s [please enter your own adjective here]. Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece on Owen Paterson comment’s at conference and due to the breathless stupidity of them I thought they must have been in isolation. It seems however that he was teaming up with George Osborne for a not-so-hilarious double act on climate change. What is so enjoyable about the Tory Party Conference is that is sums up all of the Government’s ignorance and incompetence in a nice, concise week-long segment. It is both highly entertaining and also incredibly depressing with more than a sprinkle of outright terror all at the same time. Every day it seems that I’m left absolutely baffled that this country can be run by people who clearly have literally no idea about anything. Words and ideas tumble out of their heads and you wonder if that even remotely joins up with common belief, fact and indeed, reality. This of course is indicative of Osborne’s entire stewardship of this country’s economy but the foundation for my particular gripe this evening was his comments regarding the Government’s future plans for climate change.

In saying that Britain should “not be in front of the rest of the world” Osborne not only sounded pretty childish (‘oh why do I have to do it if he doesn’t have to?’) but also indicated that for the next year and a half there will continue to be a policy deficit on climate change, the environment but also on long term economic planning, living standards and sustainability.

At the heart of this Government’s anti-green motives are three things. 1). Lacking the necessary bravery to implement an investment that is a long term measure, a measure that will have positive repercussions far beyond Osborne’s political career (and no I don’t mean a year and a half to all you wishful thinkers). 2). Being entrenched in the idea that Britain;’s population is anti-renewables (it’s not) and that aligning the Conservative Party with some UKIP policies will be a vote winner (it won’t be). 3). That there is an intrinsic difference between climate change/the environment and the economy/living standards.

All three factors are important; however, it is the latter which is causing the real blockage in Osborne’s thinking (well that and his general incompetence). For as long as Osborne and his colleagues think that tackling climate change is a purely ethical, almost charitable  venture  along the lines of international aid then they ignore the fact that if this country truly implemented ‘green’ policies we could also solve some of our biggest economic problems in terms of manufacturing, employment and living standards.

It’s obscenely basic economics. Invest in the renewable industry. This will create jobs leading to an increase in income tax and a reduction in welfare payments due to a reduction of unemployment (thus already making back some if not most of the investment). This will also create a national, sustainable energy supply with at a constant, consistent and cheaper price rather than paying over the odds for foreign based, largely non-renewable energy. A huge proportion of peoples’ incomes which are now tied up in paying the bills would be freed up, easing the financial pressure on the most desperate in our society and increasing the spending of those who are already relatively comfortable (this would again lead to an increase in corporation tax income, thus again recouping the initial investment). So in short, increase of jobs/fall in unemployment, reduction of living expenses, sustainability and security, oh and that Holy Grail; growth. It’s the multiplier effect at its finest; surely even George Osbourne can appreciate that? What are they so scared of?

Perhaps if we called ‘green’ policies ‘lets-do-something-about-this-right-now-or-we-are-totally-and-utterly-screwed’ policies then the Tories might change their tune. Or if we changed climate change (which seems fairly placid and grossly understates what is going to happen over the next century) to something more befitting its actual, terrifying potential then more people might actually say ‘hang on I really think we should try and preserve something for our children and grandchildren.’

The right wing press and politicians will call us hippies, socialists and communists for promoting ‘green’ policies. But I don’t think you are necessarily a hippie if you are worried about climate change and the environment. I also don’t think it makes you particularly socialist to want cheaper, cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy. And I’m pretty sure that you don’t have to be a communist to want more equality, financially and socially, so that the poorest in our society do not bear the brunt of 10% price increases every year for something which is a necessity in modern Britain not a luxury.

George Osborne and his Conservative Party say they are the party ‘for hardworking people’. Well Mr Osborne, most of the hardworking people I know are paying more and more money on their energy bills, that a pretty significant chunk of their hard earned income goes on heating and lighting, that many are worried that winter is just around the corner, that they have no choice but to pay the extortionately high prices a near monopolised market demands.

Climate change is not just about the environment in far away countries. In failing to see how climate change and the environment is linked to the economy, Osborne is playing a brand of politics that could literally have deadly consequences and is missing a real opportunity to make peoples’ lives better, both now and in the future. If there was ever a case for the ‘two birds, one stone’ it would be for climate change and the economy.

Sort yourself out please George, for everyone’s sake. This really is just too important for you to muck up.

P.S. – Fracking? No.

P.P.S. – Never get bored of this.

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