Or learning to stay alive?
The decision to invest the UK’s already flaky reputation in a climate-crisis-defying coal mine has been described as “. . . an appalling decision. Approving this mine is a misguided and deeply damaging mistake that flies in the face of all the evidence. The mine isn’t needed, will add to global climate emissions, and won’t replace Russian coal.” That was just the tip of the slag heap dumped on the decision by critics of the UK’s current right wing management.
The gap — the ever-widening chasm — between a Conservative Party bent on dreams of faster economic growth and the growing ranks of citizens alarmed by politicians wilfully ignorant of the climate crisis — is not only criticised by Friends of The Earth, Greenpeace, and, predictably, umpteen other climate activists. Even Tory backbenchers are uneasy — not that many of them have yet really clocked the enormous scale of the task ahead.
Alok Sharma MP no longer has a seat in the Cabinet, but no one could deny that he’s done his UN/COP homework. The decision, Sharma warned, would, “not only be a backward step for UK climate action but also damage the UK’s hard-won international reputation”. Many would now assert that reputational damage is already beyond recovery.
This gap is NOT, nor should be, a Party-Political issue. But sadly, today, it is — with Parties of the Right and Left (and their reluctant supporters) laggards in facing reality.
Leadership is often a matter of leading by example. For Parties with deep devotion to capitalist economics, the challenge is to face reality. For a Party that cannot even admit that Brexit was a massive mistake, the chances of their supporters understanding that their precious market economic systems need radical overhaul are very slim indeed. Their tribal loyalties might only be sustained by fears of even worse alternatives.
Many people living in my community will soon be ‘economic migrants’ seeking pastures new. Survival for our children will be even more disruptive as we’ve already squandered the hopes of keeping global temperatures below 1.5C. If you complain that the UK is already overcrowded, then imagine a significantly smaller land area as sea levels consume much of the coast.
In a broader UK context, the shrinkage of both space and peace-ability will likely encourage more emigration to currently underpopulated areas of Europe, Canada, USA, Eastern Europe, Africa — or even Russia! But maybe we’ll not be economic migrants — more likely we’ll join the masses of ‘displaced people’ and asylum seekers, searching for refuge from climate catastrophes or from repressive regimes still defending the dwindling ‘haves’ against the mass rebellions of those who have not.
I paint a bleak picture, not to glory in gloom and misery but to express the scale of the gap — the chasm — between climate realities and the hamster wheel of growth ambitions. True leadership must be honest. Priorities must be reordered. Every decision, small or large, personal, commercial, community-based or governmental, must be tested for compliance with the mass mobilisation of intellect needed in the war against planet abuse.
That will be extraordinarily difficult — almost impossible to imagine. The adaptation towards reprioritisation of shared public priorities above private profit will require very different leadership — not tribal responses rooted in the legacies of vested interests. It is not clear who will rise to this challenge. It is not yet clear who is even thinking about it. We know only of those who are not.
But what would Climate Action Prioritisation mean?
Step One must be the removal of climate policy from the political arena. We are way beyond the era of debatable opinion. To face the looming existential crisis, broad coalitions to form Climate Commissions could echo previous attempts to decouple long term infrastructure investment from the cycle of electoral politics. Certain doom provides powerful incentive, but such Commissions must have teeth and be respected — for no decisions will please everybody — and that leads directly to the second step where, collectively, we realise that we cannot act alone.
Step Two is a massive global education programme led, not by elected politicians or self-serving industries, but by science — again broad assemblies of informed researchers across all aspects of life. These assemblies must be globally decentralised and the interworking between them moderated by higher council to ensure cross fertilisation and commonality of priorities. Here there will be further frictions — but frictions that must be resolved with respect to local cultures. The driving force must be the sense of common threat and (eventually) an understanding that sovereignty is an invalid concept during a global existential crisis.
There is no Step Three. The first two steps border on the limits of civilised brainpower and all else is subservient to the over-riding priority of long-term survival.
Maktub — for it is written.
This article is filed under the Groupe Intellex ‘Governance’ listing and was initially written for the Fareham Liberal Democrats website as part of their focus on the climate challenge.
Articles in the Governance listing provide topics for students of economics, politics and societal development.