The threat to the UK economy isn’t from tackling climate change – it’s from climate change itself
Ealing Central and Acton was a new constituency when Conservative Angie Bray won it with a slim majority of 3,716 in 2010. This year the race looks even closer, and that’s why the hall was absolutely packed when Bray turned up to a hustings earlier in the campaign.
I know Angie from her time as an Assembly member and my time as deputy mayor. As the Conservative group’s spokesperson on the congestion charge, Bray fought tooth and nail against our measure to reduce the number of cars idling in traffic in central London, even though it resulted in a 16 per cent reduction in CO2 upon implementation. She has continued this tack in parliament, even voting against plans to require private sector landlords to make their rented properties more energy efficient.
So I shouldn’t have been so surprised by what Angie said at the hustings.
Asked about the threat posed by climate change, Bray said that nobody could really predict the impact because ‘the science keeps changing’. That sounds like climate change denial to me.
What she was willing to predict, however, was that being a global leader on climate change would actually threaten the UK economy.
“It’s really important,” Bray said, “that we don’t go out so far ahead of the others – as some urge us to do – that we actually end up less competitive.”
She also warned that tackling climate mean means “less money made by the Treasury, less money to spend on the things we want public money spent on.”
Bray has it backwards. Expanding green industries, such as the secondary materials economy, could potentially create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK. Adaptation to climate change itself presents new business opportunities as well.
Bray says that being a leader poses a threat to the economy, but actually being a global leader in green industries offers the best chance for their success. The First Mover advantage of going ‘so far ahead of the others’ offers a real opportunity for the UK.
The threat to the UK economy isn’t from tackling climate change – it’s from climate change itself. There is a huge cost to inaction. Research from Nicholas Stern at the LSE, for instance, suggests that a global temperature rise of 18 degrees (from pre-industrial levels) would lead to a halving of global GDP.
Unfortunately, Bray can’t see the opportunity. In fact, she only sees the threat – just not the right one.
In contrast, Labour’s candidate Dr. Rupa Huq is no stranger to the science. She offers a common sense approach to addressing the important issues, including climate change. That’s why I hope she is able to overturn that slim majority tomorrow.
Nicky Gavron is a member of the London Assembly and a former deputy mayor of London
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