On October 8th the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warned that ‘rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ will be required in order to limit global temperature to 1.5oC above preindustrial levels; and that we have only 12 years in which we can realistically accomplish this.
Even half a degree above that will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, mass extinctions of animal species and extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
In response to this news the Green Party of England and Wales called for an emergency climate budget. The world needs to be aiming for carbon-neutral communities by 2030. To have any chance of achieving this level of change we will need to mobilise on a scale similar to that achieved during World War II. In fact in the USA a group called Climate Mobilisation has drafted a Victory Plan which lays out how ‘the US could eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed, contribute to a global effort to restore a safe climate and reverse ecological overshoot through massive WWII-scale mobilisation.’
We need something similar here but what did we get?
This year once again the Chancellor of the Exchequer failed to mention climate change in his budget speech – this one targeting specifically and repeatedly ‘Britain’s future.’
During his tenure Philip Hammond has failed utterly to combat climate change. The UK government gave a £3billion subsidy to North Sea Oil just 12 hours before BP – which drills there – announced that its profits had doubled over the previous year. In the circumstances such a policy of appeasement is unconscionable. In addition, £30billion that could have rejuvenated our public transport system was instead allocated to the building of new roads. Transport is the sector that emits the most greenhouse gas emissions and it is still growing.
There is also an equality issue here. In Hastings a third of households don’t own a car, but since deregulation in the 1980s the cost of bus and coach travel has risen by 64 per cent and rail travel by 63 per cent while the cost of travelling by car has dropped by 20 per cent in the same period. £420 million has been allocated to repair potholes but it is estimated that £9billion is needed to cover the backlog in pothole repairs.
Potholes may not be a very glamorous topic but it is an issue of concern to many local residents. Improving existing road surfaces for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians should be a priority instead of being wasted on encouraging car use and expanding roads where traffic growth has peaked. New roads just lead to more traffic as has been shown by many reports and studies.
We spend 30 times more on subsidising fossil fuels than we do on investing in renewable energy. The legal blocks on onshore wind projects remain. The subsidies for the fracking industry continue. Companies running oil or coal-fired power stations receive £3billion a year in subsidies. How is this funded? Through our household fuel bills.
There are plans ‘subject to consultation’ to give plastic recycling a boost but we need to be limiting the use of plastics in the first place. The Chancellor’s ‘bright prosperous future that is within Britain’s grasp’ does not seem to be big enough to encompass even a small charge on disposable coffee cups.
What would a Green Budget look like?
A Green budget would reinstate the feed-in tariff to incentivise household solar panel installation; it would embark on a national project of insulation and retrofitting that would bring two million people out of fuel poverty, while ensuring that all new homes are built to zero-carbon standards by 2020 and it would remove all subsidies for fossil fuels, currently running at about £3 billion a year.
But most radically, a Green budget would end the myriad costly, wasteful and environmentally reckless infrastructure projects that this government has signed off.
This means an end to HS2, an end to fracking, an end to Hinkley Point C and an end to new motorways. We would invest that money into clean energy projects, quadrupling the walking and cycling budget; and in bus networks that free ordinary people from having to drive everywhere they need to go. Not only would this create sustainable green jobs, it would also make us a world leader in the fight against climate change.
Hastings is one of the sunniest areas in the country. Locally, well-paid jobs could be provided to fit a solar panel on every south-facing roof and retrofit our leaky houses street by street. Smart grids and battery storage would mean we could share the energy of the sun between us.
We all need to be calling for much stronger action on climate breakdown. The climate is already warming but we still have a window of opportunity to limit the damage if we act now.