The Green Liberal Democrat Amendment saga…
By Keith Melton
CALLS TO ACTION F21 - Separate Votes
We want to see separate votes on two phrases.....
We think the words `Excluding the COVID-19 pandemic,` should be cut from line 13 of the motion. (The FCC argued that since the motion was about Covid-19 they should stay in the motion - but WE think that Climate Change is much, much worse a threat than Covid-19, bad as it is, and leaving them in seriously undermines that position.)
We also are calling for the words `green growth,` to be cut from line 18 of the motion. Well meaning though they are, they give a false impression that environmental activity can somehow be grafted on to running the economy as always, without considering the implications of our finite world and its unhealthy imbalance of `standard of living` at the expense of `quality of life`. We should instead be speaking about and promoting `Sustainable Development`
for more CALLS to ACTION see here >>> ***
Well, where do I start?
Perhaps by wondering what purpose the Green Liberal Democrats serve, if all of our pondering over policy issues is swept out of the FCC back door like so much dust. You have, perhaps, already read my piece about our "emerging from Covid19 lockdown motion" being replaced by a banal motherhood and apple pie motion that will, no doubt, be blithely supported by Party members from our armchairs.
It will be supported because there is nothing very much wrong with it - but, frankly, there is nothing much right with it either. It is warm and fluffy - so we set out to try and strengthen it from an environmental standpoint with four significant amendments.
Good news - Bad news
Perhaps I should start with the tiny bit of good news from the Federal Conference Committee (FCC), amongst its rejection of the substantial portions of our deliberations. The FCC will be accepting as a drafting amendment part of one of our four amendment submissions…
- In section "Conference believes that:"
- In sub-paragraph ii) line 17,
- DELETE "net zero emissions" and REPLACE with "a rapid fall in UK greenhouse gas emissions"
- In section "Conference reaffirms pledges…"
- In sub-paragraph a) line 22, DELETE "cut emissions" and REPLACE with "cut greenhouse gas emissions"
These were simply tidying elements to the motion for clarity - so, well done FCC, at least for recognising that.
However, that same GLD amendment called for the cutting of the words "Excluding the COVID-19 pandemic" from line 13 of the motion. That was rejected by the FCC. But the reason we wanted to CUT the words is that leaving them in suggests that COVID-19 is in some way worse than the truly existential problem of Climate Change. Yes, it is bad, of course it is, but to suggest it is worse is to severely understate the seriousness of global overheating and the threat it poses.
Just note the impunity enjoyed by Dominic Cummings for testing his eyesight with a long drive to Barnard Castle. Now scale that up to the irresponsibility of this government in the face of the threat of Climate Change - it doesn`t bear thinking about. That is why we wanted to cut those words. REJECTED.
OK - so now for the BAD news
That was our most modest amendment. All the other three have been quashed by the FCC; rejected, spurned, ignored.
Amendment A - "Wellbeing"
We wanted conference to note that "the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have impacted the most vulnerable groups in society both nationally and globally; groups struggling to thrive due to a lack of economic, social or material resources leading to an overall impact on human wellbeing." - because the motion fails to do so.
FCC response: REJECTED…on the basis that it "…was felt that it would fit better in an economic motion…" for some reason pretending that the motion F21 is NOT an economic motion. Weird?! It is actually entitled "A Green Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic"
In terms of the practical radical green philosophy GLD wants the Party to adopt more clearly we believe we have to reinforce, as often and publicly as possible the notion that GDP by itself is NOT a good measure of the Quality of Life, so the Government should "Take account of quality of life which values environmental security, biodiversity and human wellbeing alongside gross domestic product."…but this clear position statement falls with the rejected amendment.
But perhaps the most egregious drafting error in the original motion, for any Green Liberal Democrat, is the inclusion of the expression "green growth" in the `Conference believes that…` section. I cannot tell you how long I have been trying to banish these words from our political lexicon. This goes back to the issue of GDP being such a bad measure of the real quality of life. If you do not believe me, please take some time out to discover for yourself the concept of "Doughnut Economics" explained by its originator Kate Raworth. (Free on Audible with a 30 day trial)
There is, of course, "Sustainable Development" which allows for the contraction of some aspects of the wasteful economy and its replacement by environmentally beneficial and responsible economic activity, like insulating existing housing stock to a far higher standard and creating new renewable energy options etc., but to call it "green growth" in a policy motion is to demonstrate to environmentally literate voters that we do not really understand the issue. And if we cannot communicate to the many environmentally literate voters out there that we truly understand Sustainable Development, then we fall at the first hurdle.
Since our whole amendment, part of which would have cut the words "green growth" and replaced that line with one referring to "sustainable development", has been rejected I shall be calling for a separate vote on the words "green growth" from line 18 of the motion (the line works well enough without those words, even if our amendment could have improved it!). Can you please note this and pass it along to all your friends and colleagues who are registered for the conference?
REMEMBER: GLD is to call for a separate vote on the words "green growth," in line 18 of F21
Amendments B & C - on the `Carbon Tax & Dividend` and the `Polluter Pays Principle`
Both of these were REJECTED on the basis that the Federal Policy Committee are about to set up a Working Group on carbon tax, so the FCC decided it was reasonable to put off a decision in principle even though the voters seem ready to get behind the idea in a major way. As we said in our amendment B we noted that… "Recent public opinion research by the Zero Carbon Campaign revealed that 72% of the public are willing to trade off the speed of economic recovery from Covid-19 in order to prioritise environmental progress, when considered holistic and fair."
In other words, the Great British Public recognise that environmental progress is sufficiently important to ensure that we do it NOW as long as it is holistic and fair. And yet the Party is content to kick the can down the road whilst we sort out the detail. I cannot tell you how frustrating that is to Green Liberal Democrats who want us to not only be doing the right thing BUT TO BE SEEN PUBLICLY TO BE COMMITTING TO THE RIGHT THING.
Sometimes politics is about being firm and being committed! REJECTED by the FCC.
The letter I received from the FCC telling me all of this also added that, as far as our Amendment C on the Polluter Pays Principle was concerned it was "factually wrong the way it is drafted" on the basis that PPP is mentioned, as one of five EU principles to be noted as a guide to policy (in theory) to ensure that the UK continues to live up to its Aarhus commitments without the implementation structure of EU law.
With due respect to the arrogance of that statement we were very careful to draft the amendment is such a way as to be about the manner in which the principles were brought into the "implementation structure" of UK law. We said quite clearly that PPP "…has not been, and is unlikely to be, translated into UK law by this Conservative government"
The fact that the five Principles along with three others have been "…referred to, both in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 … … and in the 2019 Environment Bill" as the FPC letter states, does not guarantee they will be part of the implementation structure translated into UK law by this Government.
UK Ministers have far more discretion in policy formulation than is the case in EU law-making, based as it is on a constitutional framework of International Treaties. I will say no more here, but if you would like a wider justification of the correctness of our drafting, I would invite you to follow the points in the `box` below - all points we would have made in introducing and moving the amendment.
It has also subsequently come to light, just in the last few days, that the UK Government is quite prepared to put UK laws in place with scant regard for existing International Treaties they have signed only recently.. So much for giving due regard to environmental principles.
It isn`t long since I wrote the article here on the GLD website "Don`t get mad, get even!" when our original motions were disregarded, about being incandescent with rage. And, here we are again, being disregarded and rejected by some members of the FCC. But, now, I am simply feeling melancholic and sad! Irritated but not especially surprised.
In the following article I wrote about the motion that replaced ours, and that is now F21, "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`."
These are all things we sought to do with the amendments we submitted to F21 on Covid19 Recovery. There is more to add about the story of our proposed amendment to the motion F8 on Universal Basic Income. But that is going to have to wait for another day - and we hope to have some thoughts to share with you from the Mover of F8, Jane Dodds, as well as my `editorial` on here. All being well we will get that story to you before the Conference starts in earnest at the end of this week.
Thank you for your patience reading this far, assuming you have!
REMEMBER: GLD is to call for a separate vote on the words "green growth," in line 18 of F21