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Heatwave at the political crossroads

July 27, 2019 8:44 AM
By Keith Melton

Political crossroads

By Keith Melton, Vice Chair - Campaigns - GLD

We are at a political crossroads - the like of which I have not seen in all of my lifetime.

We have a new Prime Minister who is a buffoon and a charlatan, promising the impossible. We have a parliament which has been tied up in knots for more than three years trying to resolve an intractable problem, unable or unwilling to find a reasonable basis for agreement. So much so, that everything other than Brexit has been virtually ignored or left in the hands of a civil service whose best brains have been poached by those trying to resolve the intractable problem!

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that `sorting out Brexit` has actually become a distraction from the much more dangerous, existential issues of the Climate Crisis and Biodiversity Loss. Either one of these problems could (and probably will!) bring about catastrophic consequences. The fact that both are happening at the same time brings to mind the famous Oscar Wilde line from `The Importance of being Earnest` - "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness".

Our political classes are being careless!

Record Temperatures

The current European heatwave is bringing record temperatures (hottest UK day ever this week!) and the likelihood is that we will face five times as many heatwaves now because of changes in climate patterns brought about by human induced Global heating.

"According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service there were, in June, more than 100 intense and long-lived wildfires raging in areas north of the Arctic Circle. North Siberia and Alaska were worst hit. In June alone, these fires emitted 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to Sweden's total annual emissions, the monitoring service says. That is more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined." - extract from … https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arktika/2019/07/worlds-warmest-june-ever-heatwave-raged-across-parts-arctic

Do something

WE need to `do something`. But what is it that we need to do exactly? (..and by `we`, let`s be clear that I mean `we Liberal Democrats`…) You may have noticed we also acquired a new leader very recently. And in the leadership campaigning around the country both Jo and Ed signalled that as well as wanting to "Stop Brexit", they both wanted to put the Climate Crisis much higher up the political agenda. Just saying it will not make it happen, however, - it is a necessary, but not a sufficient requirement on its own.

Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party before them have a respectable history of being environmentally aware and proactive and we have a clear public profile in this regard. BUT, in my view, the environment has never, ever, been front and centre in our campaigning and that must change.

Don`t get me wrong, of course we have campaigned on environmental issues, getting rid of lead in petrol, banning ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons, reducing plastic waste, developing renewable energy, and so on and so on. All good environmental causes.

But it is not enough. Not by a long shot.

It is big help that we have recently elected another 700 plus councillors and taken control of a couple of handfuls of local councils and they are now busy persuading their local communities to declare a Climate Emergency, raising the profile of the issue.

But it is not enough. Not by a long shot.

It is a big help that we have also elected sixteen MEPs, half of whom are, or have been, actual members of the Green Liberal Democrats. Clearly demonstrating that they actively support green issues in their portfolio of interests - and we must support them in their environmental roles too.

But it is not enough. Not by a long shot.

Professionalise

As a party we must professionalise our green base. In the same way that many years ago we began to professionalise our electioneering capability, starting with ALDC (even before the `D` was added) we must develop a robust full-time capability on the environment.

It is not enough to rely on "working groups" of volunteers, who may be able to bring to bear their `day-job` expertise, briefly, on specific problems to create a report which will get interpreted into a motion for conference to pass into our worthy pantheon of policy.

It is necessary and important, but not sufficient.

It is not enough to organise a GLD Conference once a year to educate and inform our campaigning and provide sustenance for the green `soul` of the party.

It is necessary and important, but not sufficient.

We need the continuous presence of an environmental "Think Tank" concentrating on bringing answers to our Councillors, our MPs and our MEPs for the issues they raise in their political forums.

We need to lead the way in creating and helping to sustain the Citizens` Assemblies and Citizens` representative who can keep our politicians` feet to the flames in the face of our dual existential threats of Climate Catastrophe and Biodiversity Loss.

Green Liberal Democrats

An obvious starting point for this process is to develop our volunteer platform through the Green Liberal Democrats, with a view to adding professional support as time goes on. It helps, of course, that the group has grown rapidly over the last couple of years. It may be that we are reaching a useful tipping point where the increasing membership, and the increased availability of funds that flows from those numbers, enables the group to at least partially fund additional administrative support.

Indeed, in my view, it should be a task to be tackled by the incoming new GLD executive committee in September to explore funding opportunities. We might look at potential subventions from various party bodies, whether it be the much larger group of councillors seeking environmental advice, or our excellent group of MEPs seeking regional campaigning support or maybe even our new Leader`s Office wanting to develop our green remit!

We also need to look again at possible bids for supporting funds from charitable sources. We did make some tentative approaches a couple of years ago in relation to the GLD conferencing development. Some interest was shown but sadly no funds materialised, so we had to knuckle down and do it ourselves. With the rapidly developing research data on the extent of climate change and biodiversity loss threats, it may be an opportune time to try again.

Campaigning and Political leadership

I started this article with the claim that we are at a political crossroads. For the country at the moment, that political crossroads looks like a Brexit decision one way or another - and it is to be expected that Jo Swinson and the Party leadership will concentrate their initial efforts on stopping Brexit if possible.

However, once that is achieved (or denied?!), the party must concentrate on providing the same clarity of vision and the same vim and vigour in campaigning on the environment. We must make it OUR issue - we must own it and flaunt it and that will require dedication and political leadership commensurate with the task.

Assuming you are a GLD member reading this may I suggest there are at least three things you (we!) might do…

1 Help set up a Regional GLD Group in your region. Let me know if you can help.

2 Get your local authority; trade union; professional body or, your employer to declare a Climate Emergency. If you are already onto this, please let me know, we need to track progress.

3 Help to generate local support for the Climate Strike on 20th September, we need to be involved at all levels.

For more on the Climate Strike see this link… >>> https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=427395381195077

Green Liberal Democrats should not shy away from this responsibility. We should grasp it with both hands and make it our own. And, by the way, if you are NOT a GLD member reading this, the first thing you should do is to JOIN US! Click here https://greenlibdems.org.uk/en/page/join-now

Keith Melton, Vice Chair - Campaigns - GLD

July 2019