At the Tory conference there was an awkward moment when Amber Rudd was required to speak of the Tories recent “achievements” in her field. Of course, she had very little that one could put a positive spin on, given that the Tory party has in the space of a few months reneged on everyone of its commencements on environmental issues. Even some of the few positives from the Thatcher era, the NFFO (non-fossil fuel obligation) has essentially gone.
So she spent most of the time pointing out that the Tories weren’t as bad as UKIP (who are at least honest enough to confirm their climate denial credentials, unlike the Tories who like to pretend otherwise). Commentators noted that the speech was not well attended and that crucially Amber Rudd did not mention once the upcoming Paris climate summit, nor the Pope’s recent message on the need for climate action. This is akin to Miliband’s now infamous conference speech, where he neglected to mention the deficit. Similarly the Tories don’t dare mention the climate deficit they’ve now committed the country too.
Amber Rudd followed the Republican line of trying to make a half baked claim’s about “value for money“. However, this assumes that allowing climate change to happen is a risk and cost free option, which it isn’t. Earlier this month the Bank of England boss made clear the risks to financial stability brought on by climate change. And it was no surprise his audience that night was the insurance industry, as they have long worried about the financial destabilising effects climate change could have.
And it is deeply ironic her moaning about the tiny subsidies renewables receive compared to the massive historical subsidies given to nuclear or fossil fuels. Or indeed the vast sums they have committed to paying for Hinkley C. All of which will not deliver value for money and will certainly push up bills for “working families”. By contrast falling costs for renewables would mean that they should help to stabilise prices in the long term.
In short the Tories now have a climate policy that, in practice, is little different from that of the Republican party. A party who has a policy essentially at odds with all but a handful of the world’s more nutty and extremist regimes.
To the right of Reagan
And speaking of the GOP, there was a few awkward moments for them in a recent debate in Califorina when climate change came up (hardly a surprise in a state suffering a massive drought) . One question in particular was from Ronald Reagan’s foreign secretary George Shultz who asked if the GOP is at odd’s with Reagan on climate. When his administration heard from scientists about the risks relating to the ozone hole, Reagan moved to take action on it, while the present GOP instead howls in protest and tosses their toy’s out of the pram.
I would ideally note that Shultz’s question was a slightly loaded one, the bulk of the discussions and ultimately action on CFC’s occurred under the term of Reagan’s successor, G. H. Bush. But certainly his point is that there is a marked contrast to how the present GOP is handling the situation. I might further throw in the point that the Clean Air Act and the founding of the EPA occurred under the tenure of Nixon.
Of course, the result was the Republicans candidate’s squirmed along, with the same lines as Amber Rudd, what about the costs to “working families”. Ignoring the costs to those same “working families” when rising sea levels wipe out much of Florida, or drought wipes out much of the country’s farms. Nor indeed the massive amounts the US government spends on climate change mitigation.
The reality is that the Republicans have moved so far to the right on certain issues, be it gay marriage, climate change, or gun control, that some former Republican Presidents now come across as bed wetting liberals by comparison. I’m not sure that if Nixon, Reagan, Eisenhower or either of the Bush’s were to stand in the current GOP they could get the nomination. They would be seen as “too left wing”. And of course what’s driven this craziness in the GOP is the Tea Party wing. And where has pandering to the mob got them? The very strong chance of Donald Trump as their nominee, all but guaranteeing another democratic win in 2016.
And in the UK too, the Tories are following the same script. On welfare, healthcare, immigration, Europe and climate change, they have allowed themselves to drift so far to the right, I suspect Thatcher or Churchill would probably feel more at home in the lib dem’s or labour.