Lib Dems ‘get’ climate change (but do the sums add up?)

The Liberal Democrats’ £3 billion green stimulus package has much to commend it. It shows they understand the need for a new, populist approach to climate issues.

Our guest writer is Ben West of the UK Youth Climate Coalition

As progressives, we should welcome the Liberal Democrats’ plans for a £3 billion green stimulus package unveiled yesterday. Not just because of the specific measures within it, but also because it shows they understand the need for a new, populist approach to energy and climate issues.

To be sure, there’s plenty to be excited about among the measures including:

• plans to create over 30,000 new jobs by adapting former port facilities to build wind turbines.

• tackling the housing shortage by bringing 250,000 currently derelict homes back into use.

• £400 million for insulating schools (ensuring that in the longer term, education funding is spent on education rather than on inefficient old buildings); and

• an intriguing £400 ‘eco-cash back’ scheme for homeowners to spend on energy efficiency and micro-generation projects.

That said, their claim that the £3.1 billion needed to fund all this can be found through “savings” is likely to raise plenty of eyebrows. We’ve all heard the Tories explaining away new spending commitments (such as their marriage bribe) in similar terms over the past few months, and the public are right to be sceptical of just how much can be squeezed without causing real damage.

Given Nick Clegg’s rise and rise since last week’s debate, we can expect these supposed savings to come under much more scrutiny than they would have just weeks ago. In order to defend them, the party would do well to arm itself with more detailed arguments about how a low-carbon economy would not only make us greener, but stronger and more competitive in the longer-term too. Otherwise, it risks being dismissed as an altruistic luxury that we simply can’t afford.

The language used by Clegg and Simon Hughes is definitely encouraging though. We’ve heard similar plans for green jobs, low-carbon development areas and financial incentives for home insulation from both Brown and Cameron already. What’s been missing is the big vision tying it altogether, with both men making the announcement as one policy among many.

No wonder the public are confused by the chasm between the science, rhetoric, and sense of political urgency around climate change. What’s needed is a narrative which demolishes that false dichotomy between the environment and economy and which connects global issues of climate and energy with the stuff of everyday lives. Too often the climate rhetoric is bogged down in the language of threat and sacrifice and ignores the opportunity for Britain to lead the world in the creation of a clean, efficient, technologically-led economy fit for the 21st century.

In spelling out an ambitious vision which addresses the “triple crunch” of climate, energy and the economy as an inseparable whole and as an opportunity as well as a threat, the Liberal Democrats’ stimulus package suggests that they might just ‘get it’. Clegg’s claim that the question of “building a new economy from the rubble of the old” represents the “most important issue of all” is a startling one to make during an election dominated by squabbles over how best to manage national decline.

The argument that in the past “economic policy was made entirely subservient to the needs of just one square mile – the city of London” hints as a new age of modern economic regeneration based around Britain actually producing things again, rather than relying solely on being the World’s casino.

That’s a proposition which appeals to all progressives, far beyond those particularly concerned about rainforests and polar bears. It’s also a message of aspiration, hope and positivity which also offers a way forward for a climate movement looking for new direction after a period of scientific slander and disaster in Copenhagen.

The past week has shown that the electorate are looking for a Roosevelt, not a Hoover. By addressing issues as diverse as climate change, energy, jobs, and the bankers’ stranglehold over our economy, the narrative around green economic revival offers real optimism that progressives can rally around. Let’s see if the Liberal Democrats have the courage to stick with it.

17 Responses to “Lib Dems ‘get’ climate change (but do the sums add up?)”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Lib Dems 'get' climate change. But do the sums add up? http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  2. Claire Spencer

    A fair & insightful piece. RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dems 'get' climate change. But do the sums add up? http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  3. Alan Muhammed

    RT @_Jameslloyd: .@leftfootfwd Lib Dems 'get' climate change. http://bit.ly/cXYbAc #gonick #libdems

  4. Ben

    My first post @leftfootfwd Lib Dems 'get' climate change. But do the sums add up? http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  5. Friends of the Earth

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dems 'get' climate change (but do the sums add up?) http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  6. chemicallygreen

    http://bit.ly/d9EItP Brits introduce green stimulus package at 3 billion pounds. Only 1 problem, finding the funds to pay. #globalwarming

  7. topsy_top20k

    Lib Dems 'get' climate change. But do the sums add up? http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  8. Sascha Michel

    Lib Dems 'get' climate change (but do the sums add up?) http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  9. James Lloyd

    .@leftfootfwd Lib Dems 'get' climate change. http://bit.ly/cXYbAc #gonick #libdems

  10. Paul Tran

    Lib Dems 'get' climate change (but do the sums add up?) | Left …: The Liberal Democrats' £3 billion green stimul… http://bit.ly/9tTgRM

  11. Philip Painter

    RT @wwwfoecouk: RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dems 'get' climate change (but do the sums add up?) http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

  12. Donna Hume

    wwwfoecouk says: @LibDems leading the way on #ClimateChange – when will the other parties follow? #lidbems #Ge2010 http://bit.ly/bXm0UW

  13. Mr. Sensible

    The thing I particularly like from the Lib Dems is that they would cut road widening and prioritise public transport instead.

    The idea that we can bring currently unoccupied homes back in to use sounds a good one, but is it practical? A lot of these homes are, I would venture to suggest, owned by elderly people who are in residencial care, and having to tell those people that they will not be going back home is not an easy thing to do.

  14. Labour's green appeal to first time voters | Left Foot Forward

    […] on Sunday, this is a criticism that can be made of all three major parties – and which Left Foot Forward levelled at Nick Clegg’s otherwise impressive £3 billion green stimulus package last […]

  15. Vote 2010: Climate change | Left Foot Forward

    […] the Lib Dems clearly have the most progressive positions of the three on climate and energy in general, none of the parties have explained […]

  16. Vote 2010: An election reflection | Left Foot Forward

    […] they deserve to increase their share of the vote. We have supported their approach to Trident and climate change. But much of their policy – particularly on tax, banking reform, and immigration – […]

  17. James Chan

    RT @TopsyRT: Lib Dems 'get' climate change (but do the sums add up?) | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/cXYbAc

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