May 9 (i.e. a day before Gordo said he’d quit)
We have a hung parliament (not a hanged one, as the public mood might prefer). What does this mean for UK action on climate change?
The Greens can point with justifiable pride and relief that they now have a Green Member of Parliament (“the first one,” as the rather good joke I heard on Radio Four goes, “since 1967 when Tory backbenchers realised that one of their colleagues had been dead for five years.”) Caroline Lucas, the new MP for Brighton Pavilion, is the real deal- intelligent, extremely well-informed, a good media performer and also good in small groups. But she is one in 650, and even in the current political mayhem, she is unlikely to have casting votes. More broadly, the Green Party experienced a significant shrinkage in their vote. They may tell themselves (and they may be right) that some of the people who normally voted for them went to the Lib Dems (or Labour) to keep Tories out. Maybe. But you’d also hope that by now, with so many years of climate stories about, and the failure of mainstream politics to get the deal done at Copenhagen, that people’s protest votes would go to, you know, the people who are shouting about how doomed we are.
Of course, the assumption under this hope – that information leads to behaviour change, that tribal loyalties can be discredited by something as weak as facts – is false. And I suspect that most people, if they registered Copenhagen at all, will have used a rule of thumb like “well, if it was really important, they would have made sure there was a deal. They didn’t, so obviously it’s not that important.”
Presumably the existing legislative framework (the Climate Change Act, the Carbon Reduction Commitment, or whatever it’s been re-branded as this week) will stay in place. The Lib Dems are hardly going to vote for their repeal, Cameron doesn’t want to do it. But without a champion to push forward and protect, you can easily see the need for swingeing cuts in public finances being used as cover for a gutting of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Department of Energy Security, anyone?) and DEFRA. You can see 10:10 targets being missed (apparently they sent out an email telling people to vote tactically to keep the Tories out- oh dear, not very bright. You can think these things, but you shouldn’t say them…)
Meanwhile, the Climate Campers make a final definitive statement- they’re going to do their next spectacular/jolly in Edinburgh during the week of 18th to 25th August. The target is the Royal Bank of Scotland, because it is owned mostly by the taxpayer and it funds lots of fossil-fuel projects. There are only going to be a maximum of 3 meetings between now and that event (Manchester at the end of May, then Leeds in June or July, then maybe one more), so presumably the Campers expect to use an existing repertoire. Perhaps a march with lock-ons and an ‘urban convergence.’ Does any of this matter? Not really; the chance to build a genuine grass-roots mass movement that took local non-violent direct action against point sources of carbon dioxide was probably only ever a pipe dream, and in any case the opportunity had been pissed against the wall by 2008. A national climate camp isn’t any longer stealing time energy and oxygen from burgeoning local alternatives, rather it is providing a fig-leaf for confused, exhausted and/or too new to know any different sorts to feel they are Making a Difference.
Cut rate Nostradamus
Campaigning groups can- and will- continue to make futile demands of political leaders, whose interest- never great – in climate change has shifted on to other issues. These lobbying groups, whether they use post-cards or tripods, are firmly embedded in the smugosphere.
Whatever emerges- a minority Tory government with informal Lib Dem support or a formal Con-LD pact (these appear to be the options), I can’t see any further pro-active Climate Change action being high on the agenda.
Here’s why. Cameron is not at all popular with the right of his party (see f. ex “Discord stirs among the grass roots” Jean Eglesham, Financial Times May 8/9). And many of them are outright deniers, or deeply skeptical. They read and believe the Telegraph, the Spectator and so on. Why would Dave take a lead on Climate Change, which is so dramatically unpopular with the right of his own party It could easily expose cracks in the smooth (even rubbery) face that he wears in public. The Lib Dems, bruised by the lack of any Clegg effect at the polling stations, will hardly regard this as a deal breaker (proportional representation is presumably their only real db.)
What- if anything – is to be done?
Well, we should kiss our last fond goodbyes to a “two degrees above pre-industrial level” target. It was always more of a political than a scientific construct, as Christopher Shaw shows in his “Dangerous Limits: Climate Change and Modernity” in a new book cheeringly titled “History at the End of the World” and only represented a modicum of ‘safety’ for those in the hyper-developed West. And in truth the two degree ship sailed quite some time ago, but “hope springs eternal in the human beast” and all that. That means getting used to the idea- and perhaps preparing for (if we think it’s possible) – a much much warmer world.
As per another post
“Personally, I feel we’ve missed the chance to avert climate catastrophes, and the most we can hope for is build-up resilience so that when the shit does hit the fan, we have mechanisms and structures and experience and ‘social capital’ (trust, solidarity etc) enough not to die without dignity.
But a) that doesn’t fit neatly on a banner and b) hardly inspires. ‘Join us in a probably futile effort to build a slightly-less Mad Max future than you’d otherwise have.'”
If that’s something to work for, that means resilience (with all the caveats), urban ecological security, a bit of permaculture. It means avoiding the dangers of Green Confucianism, it means some Dark Mountain projecting…(see Monbiot’s post on this subject, and interesting exchanges between him and Paul Kingsnorth and others in the comments section).