What’s in vogue? Not just Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in this month’s glossy mag, or news that “discreet chic” is back and flamboyant “statement gowns” are out!
Politics has fashions too – what’s in and out. It’s not so long ago that world leaders were jostling to be pictured with celebs like Leonardo diCaprio, Stella McCartney or Emma Watson at the huge COP26 climate conference in Glasgow where Boris Johnson played host.
You shouldn’t write like this unless you’re a child or you’re penning a piece at gun point. Her article continues – seemingly without end – tightening around your mind like a mental thumbscrew:
This week however it’s been the Labour leadership’s turn, finally getting rid of its vow to spend £28bn a year to help the country go green.
If you question Kuenssberg or the Independent about this, I’m sure they’d tell you that ‘finally’ references the months of speculation before Labour pulled the plug. If you’re in journalism, however, you understand you’re writing to people who closely follow politics and people who do not. To the second audience, the obvious reading of ‘finally’ is that ditching the green investment was inevitable; that it couldn’t have gone any other way.
Who benefits from that thinking, you should ask yourselves?
Because it certainly isn’t you.
The next section of Kuenssberg’s article gets to the heart of her argument – an argument as un-fleshed out as it is wrong:
Without adding to the vast acreage of coverage about this decision, it shows above all that Labour wants to reassure voters it would be careful with their cash over anything else.
The perception that “red wall” voters do not care about the issue is not backed up by the evidence. In fact, the opposite is true, with polls suggesting this group cares more deeply than others about the impact of rising temperatures on their families, jobs and country.
“Blue wall” voters also believe that getting to net zero should be a priority, and adopting green technology such as electric vehicles and heat pumps is increasingly becoming part of their identity.
The upfront investment required will be substantial. Only around £10bn of public and private investment in the UK in 2020 went towards low-carbon projects, but the independent Climate Change Committee think this needs to rise to about £50bn per year by the late 2020s – mostly on transport, renewables and buildings – and stay around that level until 2050.
But the savings will be substantial, too. By the late 2030s, the CCC thinks this extra investment (capital expenditure) will be offset by reductions in day-to-day spending (operational expenditure), including due to the extra efficiency of electric vehicles. …
Other analyses have come to broadly similar conclusions. In a July 2021 report on fiscal risks, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated a net cost of the UK reaching net zero by 2050 to be £321bn, or just over £10bn per year. This is made up of around £1.4trn in costs, offset by around £1.1trn in savings.
Here’s all that in graph form:
In other words, abandoning climate commitments is not ‘being careful with your cash’ – not unless you’re an elderly billionaire who expects to die before the shit hits the fan.
At the back end of her article, Kuenssberg does acknowledge the following:
Polling consistently shows that action on climate change is near the top of voters’ concerns – at number three on research group More In Common’s list behind the cost of living and the health service, and not just among those on the left or the under-40s.
But then she gets straight into this:
But as we move closer to the 2050 and 2030 targets the practical realities of the move to a greener economy will hit closer to home.
As one of the architects of the 2050 law, a former senior Conservative figure, said now “we’ve got to the point where it is starting to affect individual families it was always going to become politically contentious”.
The public wants action generically, but might not like the effect of them – or as it was put to me: “Voters are allowed to be hypocrites – they can say ‘I want you to do more’ but then when you do, they say ‘oh I didn’t mean that’.”
You can be horrified by what’s happening to the planet round the world, but not be too eager to pay thousands for a new boiler at home.
This suggests politicians have tackled climate politics in the only way they could have done.
That is not the case.
First of all, why has she presented it as if climate measures inevitably have to hit working people; why no talk of windfall taxes on fossil fuel companies, or higher tax rates for the mega rich?
Secondly, there’s no reason why climate measures can’t benefit people. ULEZ is unpopular because the impression is that it punishes people for getting by. If you combined it with free public transport, however, they’d simultaneously have an alternative, as well as more money to spend in the local economy.
Similarly, we could massively expand free insulation, creating jobs and reducing people’s heating bills while getting money out of the hands of energy companies – companies we should arguably nationalise, with any profits fed into climate measures.
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