Sustainable living: A radical manifesto for 2015

Former environment minister Barry Gardiner outlines his radical manifesto for 2015 on ‘sustainable living’.

Our guest writer is Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North; he was Parliamentary Under Secretary for Rural Affairs, Biodiversity and Landscapes, and Minister for the Horse (2006-7) and the prime minister’s special representative on forestry (2007-8)

‘Sustainable living’ is about living well. It promotes jobs and growth and aspires to a higher quality of life. More than this; it wants all these things for our children and grandchildren too. It recognises that our destructive impact on our planet is so great that human beings now consume each year, the resources it takes the planet one year and four months to replace.

The Labour Party has always been an internationalist party, promoting justice and fairness across the globe. ‘Sustainable living’ pushes that sense of justice not just across geography but across the generations. It recognises that our right to live well and our duty to improve the lives of all those currently sharing this planet with us, give us no liberty to diminish the ability of our children to fare as well.

The Labour Party must rise to this challenge from generations yet to come, so that the environment we hold in trust will be transmitted to them cleaner, healthier and more resilient. The environment is not just another discreet policy issue like housing or transport. It is the context in which all our other policies are carried out.

The roads we build and the buildings we construct, the power we generate and the industries they power, all are influenced by and have an influence on our environment. For this reason a radical manifesto for 2015 must integrate environmental considerations and policies into every aspect of government decision-making.

We must drastically reduce global emissions to avoid dangerous climate change. But sustainable living means we must also recognise the aspirations of people to see their standard of living improve. Our Internationalism demands that we ensure economic growth is spread to all the people of the world.

Over the last two centuries economic growth has enabled one third of the world’s population (in Europe and North America) to escape from a life of hunger, hardship and disease. Over the past two decades, another third of the world’s population (in Asia) has begun this journey, too. Over the coming decades the final third (from Africa) will be looking to make their escape from poverty. The need for economic growth is both a moral imperative and deeply ingrained in the human spirit.

In the past environmental sustainability has been seen as the enemy of economic growth and development. ‘Sustainable living’ operates from the understanding that there can be no environmental sustainability that denies development to the world’s poor. Nor can there be any real economic development that is not environmentally sustainable. The development agenda and the environmental agenda are in fact one.

The tension between these two imperatives – to reduce emissions whilst meeting rising demand for economic growth — presents us with one fundamental challenge: to increase carbon productivity. The amount of wealth generated per tonne of CO2 equivalent emitted has to rise.

To maintain the current average global economic growth rate of 3.1 per cent per annum and to reduce emissions to around ten gigatonnes per year, carbon productivity must increase in real terms by a factor of fifteen by 2050.

‘Sustainable living’ sets out bold and radical policies to achieve:

• The successful integration of the value of Natural Capital into UK government accounts;

• Climate change mitigation strategies to achieve UK emissions reductions of 65 per cent by 2030 and at least 90 per cent by 2050;

• Climate change adaptation strategies to protect biodiversity and enhance habitats;

• A marine recovery strategy;

• Proposals to enhance carbon sinks.

‘Sustainable living’ requires a commitment to internationalism, equality, fairness and justice. These are the values upon which the Labour Party was founded. You can read the full ‘Sustainable Living’ manifesto here this Friday before party conference.

For more perspectives on the debate, read about Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Party policy on climate change by downloading Litmus, our free conference newspaper

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