In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded it was “unequivocal” that global warming was the result of human actions. The UN Secretary General (unable to avoid the pun) warned: “The heat is on. Now we must act”.
So far in the 2019 General Election we’ve heard much of Labour’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ and Tory clamourings of ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’, reminiscent of Cameron’s 2005 catch phrase.
And today we finally got sight of the long-sought after, highly anticipated – you guessed it – the Green Party’s Election Manifesto, with a pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Jokes aside, as the Greens reiterate their 2030 commitment, the spotlight is back on Labour’s reluctance to firmly place their election stakes on the Green’s lawn. Despite Labour’s membership voting in favour of a fixed 2030 target at its annual Conference, the party has reportedly watered down its manifesto commitment to instead eradicate a “significant majority” of carbon emissions by 2030.
In what is starting to become a bit of a trend in the party’s policies, Labour has shied away from a firm 2030 commitment amid pressure from the GMB and fears it could lead to mass job losses. All Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Barry Gardiner, could pledge on the Monday morning news round was that Labour’s net zero target was still “well before 2050”.
The Conservatives have refused to budge from their 2050 target, and the Lib Dems have only been a fraction more ambitious in promising to bring this forward to 2045.
While today “net zero” is a household slogan and a centrepiece of each of the party’s policy agendas, even a year ago the term was relegated a phrase for use by policy wonks. Let’s not forget that the Conservative Government only signed the 2050 target into legislation in June of this year, making Britain the first major economy to do so.
Even the GMB – while it may sound a little ‘project fear’– have claimed that 2030 is “utterly unachievable”, meaning people’s petrol cars would be confiscated within a decade and families only being allowed take one flight every 5 years.
Putting the 2030 net-zero target aside, it will be interesting to see whether any other aspects of the Green Party’s ambitious ‘Green New Deal’ will push the major parties to up their game. Most eye-catching are the Party’s pledges for a Carbon Tax on fossil fuels, a ban advertising for flights, the introduction of a Frequent Flyer Levy, and a ban the production of single-use plastics for packaging.
Under the Lib Dem–Green–Plaid Cymru ‘Unite to Remain’ agreement, the other two parties will not stand against the Greens in 9 seats in the hope that they will increase the number of Green MP on the Commons benches.
Yet given our First Past The Post system, the ‘Unite to Remain’ agreement may well fall flat leaving Caroline Lucas once again alone on the benches as the Green Party’s only MP.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, we shouldn’t merely render such policies as green (blue) sky thinking. This year has seen more climate change protests than ever, from Extinction Rebellion to school children, with the former at it again this week holding hunger strikes outside the political party HQs, urging them to commit to reach net-zero by 2025.
In today’s world, politics is not just played out on the benches of Parliaments, but on twitter timelines, in encrypted WhatsApp groups, through Facebook events and on Instagram stories. No matter which party and their net-zero pledge makes in into No. 10, the pressure to move further, faster will continue to dominate political discourse at a global level.