Coherent or simply banal?
By Keith Melton
Coherent or simply banal?
As I said in my recent Op Ed piece on the website, one of the things that changed my day on Friday last week was that I had eventually seen the motion that caused our GLD motion to be bumped from consideration at the Lib Dem Online Conference at the end of September. If you recall, the letter sent to me from the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) indicated that the motion that was chosen was supposedly "more coherent" than the GLD submission.
Despite putting out feelers to discover what this "super-motion" was, we only got to see it when the Agenda came out from the FCC last week. So, you can imagine I was anxious to give it a thorough read. In passing, by the way, it wasn`t just me that felt my nose had been put out of joint! One of our GLD committee members made the following comment saying it was like … "… a team of learned scientists submitting a paper to a conference but it's rejected because the caretakers have submitted something on the same topic!" - You might think that, of course, I couldn`t possibly comment!!
Was it more Coherent?
You will have to make your own minds up as to whether the chosen motion was more "coherent" than the GLD submission. I have posted both motions below for you to take an opinion.
For what it is worth, I feel sure that the GLD motion lacked nothing in the coherence stakes, but as the primary author, "I would say that, wouldn`t I?!"
What I would also say is that the main advantage of the FCC-preferred motion is that it is simply inoffensive. It is banal. It is "motherhood and apple pie". The only element of novelty is the mention of the corona virus. Other than that, nothing is new. There is no mention of new research papers, reports or external `calls to action`. Indeed, there is nothing radical about it and fully a quarter of it merely reiterates last year`s debate on the Climate Emergency, by way of reaffirmation.
It does not challenge the continuing use of subsidies and support for fossil fuels. It does not address the urgent need for a carbon tax, based upon the polluter pays principle. And it is much weaker than the GLD motion on imposing obligations upon any company blessed with a financial rescue package.
Nor does it challenge the reliance upon GDP as a measure of economic success, or even mention the notion of "wellbeing". Indeed, there is even a high-pitched `dog-whistle` to the Party`s `Orange-Bookers`, talking blandly of a belief that economic recovery "…must focus on green growth…" We should say green "development" certainly, but this must be balanced by reductions in GDP elsewhere in a finite world. If we are to win the hearts and minds of the "Greta" generation, we MUST start by recognising the limitations of the world in which we live.
You may have gathered that I am not overly impressed with this Cuckoo of a motion that displaced the GLD egg over the edge of the nest. It is not so flawed that it should be scrapped, but we will have to look carefully as to how we might seek to amend it to make required improvements.
It has also raised the issue of the failings of the FCC in not consulting with the GLD as an Associated Organisation with specialist knowledge, as the Constitution requires of the FCC. Both Leadership Candidates have spoken eloquently of the need to push through changes to the clunky, centrist, Committee system of the Party that, according to the Thornhill report, makes activists… "… feel things are 'done to us' by a central HQ that doesn't know what it's doing…"! I rather think we might agree with that sentiment!
One of the other paragraphs in the Thornhill Report that stands out for me is the following… "We are weak on emotion, weak on imagery, weak on telling stories' - 'we are prone to being too clever by half, overthinking things and being too rational. We think in this weird, old school economist way that people are persuaded by their own rational interests and arguments, which is so far from the truth"
It has been apparent throughout the lock-down that many people have appreciated the fresh air, the relative quietness, the time spent at home. It is also apparent that people have recognised that going back to the `old normal` would be a mistake, because the `old normal` was actually broken. So, the stories that should register with potential supporters should be about `social justice`, obligating business to `do better` and `build back better` and `holding polluters to account`. All of these elements are contained in the GLD motion, but that narrative is largely absent from the `coherent` motion.
Amending the motion in front of us
Clearly, we need to spend time and thought on just how we might amend the motion that is on the agenda. We need to bring out the emotion, tell the right stories and create a strong image of "what we are for" as a Party.
If you are not registered for the online conference, you may not yet have seen the motion that is to be put before the conference. Indeed, you may also have missed the Green Lib Dem motion that was rejected by the FCC. So, we present both motions below. First the inoffensive, but `coherent` motion favoured by the FCC and second, the GLD motion that was rejected. If you have some thoughts as to how the chosen motion might be improved to tell the "right stories", please write in and let us know. (email@example.com)
The FCC-approved motion says this…
Conference notes that:
Despite the extensive economic disruption caused by the
COVID-19 pandemic, global emissions of greenhouse gases are
projected to fall by only four to seven per cent during 2020.
The need for government intervention to ensure that the UK
economy recovers from the impacts of the lockdown offers an
unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the economy to face the
A climate-friendly recovery is better for the economy as well as
the environment as it generates more jobs and is less prone to
offshoring than orthodox recovery packages.
Conference believes that:
i) Excluding the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency is the
biggest issue facing the UK and the world.
ii) The Government has so failed to face up to this challenge and,
in particular, has failed to publish a comprehensive programme
to achieve net zero emissions.
iii) The economic recovery must focus on green growth, creating
new green jobs and cutting emissions.
Conference reaffirms pledges in the Liberal Democrat 2019
a) Cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, and achieve net zero
emissions by 2045 at the very latest.
b) Undertake a ten-year programme to retrofit homes and
business premises by 2030 to reduce emissions, cut energy bills
and eliminate fuel poverty.
c) Invest in renewable power so at least 80 per cent of electricity
is generated from renewables by 2030, while permanently
d) Plant at least 60 million trees a year and restore the UK's
peatlands to absorb emissions and improve biodiversity
e) Invest in public transport, electrifying Britain's railways and
ending the sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Conference calls on the Government to:
- Set out plans for a green recovery from the economic damage
caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Ensure that a large proportion of new jobs created are 'green
jobs' and ensure those who are unemployed due to COVID-19
are helped to reskill to fill them.
- Refocus Treasury spending on to green projects and
infrastructure such as investment in public transport instead of
- Put the UK on the path to net zero by adopting binding interim
targets through the sixth carbon budget, due to be agreed in 2021.
- Place a duty on all government departments and local
authorities to reduce emissions in areas they have responsibility
- Ensure that support packages for businesses recovering from
the impacts of lockdown include, where appropriate, legally
binding commitments to reduce emissions.
- Embrace the positive impacts of the lockdown, including
encouraging more flexible working and increasing walking and
- Work as closely as possible with the EU in tackling the climate
emergency, including joining the EU Emission Trading Scheme
and fulfilling the UK's climate commitments jointly with the EU.
- Work to ensure that the delayed climate conference (CoP26)
sees countries adopting much more ambitious emission targets
than in their initial national plans.
The (rejected) GLD motion was this:-
Motion to Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2020 from the Green Liberal Democrats
Conference notes that:
- the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have impacted most severely on the most vulnerable groups in society both nationally and globally.
- the speed with which societal change has been implemented, given urgency of political will brought about by the COVID-19 threat, provides an optimistic outlook for changes needed to combat global Climate Change threats.
- the temporary cessation, worldwide, of a large proportion of industrial activity and transport flows - the "anthropause" - has resulted in a significant reduction in human-induced air and water pollution, leading to a notably clearer atmosphere and cleaner hydrosphere.
- the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris agreement have made very little impact upon the continuous rise of carbon dioxide equivalent concentrations in the atmosphere.
- the International Energy Agency has called for a "Sustainable Recovery Package" to change the course of the Climate Crisis.
- the June 2020 Climate Change Committee report recommends that Ministers "seize the opportunity to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change."
Conference, therefore, reaffirms its belief that "… each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms."
Conference further believes that we can and should "Build Back Better" and, to this end, calls for:
a) the creation of a resilient economy at home and overseas by putting climate action, sustainability and social justice at the heart of our recovery as we emerge from the lock-down;
b) the cessation of subsidies and support for fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based industries, leading to equality of research and development support for all non-carbon sources of energy production;
c) the imposition of an obligation upon any company in receipt of a post-Covid19 financial rescue package to adhere to the 1.5-degree commitment included in the Paris Climate Agreement, putting people first;
d) the development of a progressive carbon tax, based upon the polluter pays principle, to be collected at the point of production or import and applicable to all sectors, including heating, industry, electricity generation and transport;
e) the development of a carbon dividend, linked to the progressive carbon tax, to finance green energy, carbon reduction and energy efficiency, for public sector owned buildings such as schools and hospitals along with social housing, benefitting low-income families and helping to eliminate fuel poverty and reduce emissions;
f) the urgent introduction of carbon reduction and sequestration measures, to ensure rapid greenhouse gas reduction by 2025. leading to a revision of the target for net-zero emissions to 2040;
g) the development of a comprehensive measure of the quality of life which values environmental security, biodiversity and human wellbeing alongside gross domestic product.