From Comment is Free:
On Monday night, at the end of the Queen’s Speech debate in the Commons, a group of us tabled an amendment calling on the Government to review its current strategy on Iraq and then present it to the House for debate and vote. But the Speaker declined to call the amendment for a vote.
A rapid exit from Iraq must now be the single most pressing and overriding requirement for British policy. Some 3 ½ years ago I made the biggest error of judgement of my political life when I supported the war, on the grounds that the Prime Minister repeatedly assured us that if we only knew all the intelligence available to him, we would have no doubt about the necessity for this action. Like millions of others, I now bitterly resent that a Prime Minister could use such a farrago of lies and manipulation to deceive us and to take the nation to war so dishonestly.
From Comment is Free:
I posted recently on government proposals to aggregate FoI requests and the cost implications they entailed. Worryingly true to form – for example the lack of a Green Paper on Trident replacement – the government is making these changes without a formal consultation. The Campaign for Freedom of Information have challenged the basis for the Government’s proposals and are asking people to make informal responses as the Government has said these would be considered. The text of the CFoI email asking people to respond informally is below. There’s also an article by CFoI director Maurice Frankel summarising the dangers of the government proposals.
What’s the greatest problem facing the world today? It’s not the war on terror, nor is it law enforcement. Yet the Queen’s speech has just one sentence on climate change. The bill will anyway probably not include annual targets which is the one thing that would make the government’s climate change programme much more effective – while terror and law enforcement have eight separate bills or projects.
Blogging has had to wait for the past few days as I’ve been preparing for the launch of Labour’s Big Change, which took place yesterday. You can see the full text of the launch statement here and you can also see who else is backing the campaign, get involved and offer your own support, which seeks to put Climate Change front and centre in a way that has not been done before. It should inform every single aspect of government policy, not just be an add on to parts of transport and energy.
If Labour is going to win the next general election, we need a fundamentally new direction of travel for the new Government after the election of a new Leader and Deputy Leader. We have lost 4 million votes since 1997 and more than half our membership. This is not just because of the Iraq War, it is also because we are widely perceived, both in the Party and the electorate, to be going down the wrong track over a range of policies. We are losing support too because the style of government – spin, manipulation, centralising power at the top and not listening to the people – is unacceptable. We need radical change on both counts.
We need more than corrections of where we have clearly gone badly wrong – over Iraq, Lebanon and subservience to Bush, over the centralisation and unaccountability of Government today, over the growing and unacceptable inequality between rich and poor, over the privatisation of our public services, over the decline of manufacturing
and the weakness of workplace rights, and over the continuing erosion of civil liberties. What we need above all is a vision of a new direction which can fire the imagination of today’s generation.
What is the biggest threat facing the world today? It isn’t the so-called war on terror, whatever Bush may think. It isn’t the risk of nuclear war, now that the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union disbanded. The overriding political issue today, the danger that could overwhelm much of the planet, much of the human race, if not in our lifetime but certainly in that of our children or grandchildren, is climate change.
It’s not just the dramatically increasing frequency and ferocity of hurricanes, unprecedented flooding, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, or melting permafrost. Nor is it just the inextinguishable forest fires, the drying out of millions of hectares of croplands which will no longer produce food, or the mega-dustbowls from Northern China to the American mid-West. What is really frightening is that climate change is not a linear process, but a dynamic and unstable one. Scientists say there are tipping points where a gradual process suddenly explodes out of all proportion, where positive feedback effects abruptly accelerate climate change in unpredictable and overpowering ways – like the dieback of the Amazon, the release of billions of tonnes of methane hydrates from the ocean floor, or the collapse of the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets. If any of those happened in the next 50-100 years, the impact on human civilisation would be incalculable. There is no precedent – we are entering uncharted territory.
Now some may say: but that won’t affect us here in the UK, or at least not in our lifetime. Both assumptions are wrong. The UN predicts 50 million environmental refugees by the end of this decade, and where will they come to if not the richer, more settled, northern regions like the UK? The WHO estimates that 9 out of the world’s 10 most dangerous vector-borne disease will increase their coverage worldwide. If the ocean pump fails, the Gulf Stream will collapse and the UK temperature will plummet to that of Siberia. And as to not in our lifetime, Jim Hansen, George Bush’s leading climate modeller – no less – said recently we have “at most 10 years” to make the drastic cuts in emissions that might head off climate catastrophe.
So what should be done? Labour has to become the Party that will lead the world in a fundamental change of direction. It requires a change in how we think about our economics, energy, water management, food security, transportation, international policies, and the nature of civilisation itself. We have to move from the peripheral and tinkering to the profound and visionary.
Tackling climate change is the overarching policy which should permeate every other policy in government – not just energy, but transport, industry, building, agriculture, public expenditure and taxation, and foreign policy. Put bluntly, we will never have food security, water security, or energy security in this country (or anywhere else) unless we give absolute priority to combating climate change.
So what specifically should a new Government do?
We should be shifting away from massive old-fashioned power stations to decentralised energy systems (wind and solar power, and micro-generation plants in people’s homes), together with much more ambitious investment in large-scale offshore wind farms.
We should require the airline industry (like every other industry) to reduce year by year their emissions which are the fastest growing source of global warming.
We should increase VED massively for gas-guzzling cars and use the proceeds to subsidise bus and rail, plus give a rebate to smaller-engine car owners.
We should require industry to measure and make public their environmental and climate change impacts, not only greenhouse gas emissions, but their energy efficiency, waste generation, water consumption, and transport impacts, and reduce them year by year.
We should incentivise local food production which would regenerate British agriculture, dramatically cut air miles, and protect security of supply.
We should tighten building standards so that all new construction at least meets the most energy efficient standards already met in Europe and Scandinavia.
We should give each family, according to its size, a carbon entitlement which then has to be reduced each year in such a way so as to reward the conscientious and penalise the wasteful.
And in order to meet the target set by scientists of at least 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared with 1990, Government should set a target of 3% annual reduction in overall UK emissions, set out the new mechanisms to achieve this, publish the results each year, and make whatever changes are necessary year by year to keep the UK on track.
Underpinned by this comprehensive policy, Britain should gain the moral and political authority to lead the way internationally in pressing all other countries, especially the US, China and India, to commit to an enhanced and extended new Climate Change Protocol beyond 2010.
Above all, we should eliminate the biggest political threat to world security today by leading the world out of dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas, the struggle for the dwindling supplies of which lies at the heart of the incessant murderous carnage in the Middle East. We do that by huge new investment in renewable sources of energy, in which Britain is unusually well endowed, and by a massive targeted programme in energy conservation. Britain, because of its offshore location, has more wind-power capacity than the rest of Europe put together, but we are using only a tiny fraction of it. At present only 4% of our electricity generation comes from renewables. In Germany, France, Italy and Spain it is 15-25%, and in Scandinavia 25-35% or more. And our waste of energy – in transport, construction, industry, agriculture, and private households – is prodigious.
This is a win-win-win-win scenario. It will bring about a huge step-change in the efficient use of energy, it will save very considerable sums of money both for industry and some of our poorest households, it will protect our society against sudden destabilising external shocks, and it will safeguard the environment from the apocalyptic nightmare of climate change. It is not a utopian vision. It is highly practical and resolutely necessary if the world is to survive in a sustainable form. It will excite the imagination and galvanise our Party by restoring our commitment to a greater and deeper collective cause which has always been our inspiration.