Did you know that you’re facing what may be the biggest political opportunity of our generation – to turn the world green.
A majority of the Great British public realise that global warming is a problem and you could appeal to a large slice of the electorate if you came up with green policies that were more than hot air.
I have never voted Conservative, but I would do if you urgently acted on the IPCC’s warning to cut carbon emissions in half within 12 years. Even the Trump-loving Fox News reported accurately on the warning, showing that there is PR value in this story even on the right.
The real prize here is to seize the moral high ground by standing up to the fossil fuel industry. Imagine the political value of a Conservative Party that stood up to Big Oil rather than help them pollute the planet; apart from anything else it would be true to the original Conservative values of supporting individuals, families and small businesses. You’d be unbeatable.
It’s not only the Tories who are useless at environmental policy – Labour and the Lib Dems are equally guilty of talking-up green policies when in opposition and discreetly avoiding Big Oil when in office. I realise it’s hard to confront these lobbies – not only are they deeply embedded in government and the media, but most of us are addicted to their products and giving up our comforts and conveniences (like cars) is incredibly difficult. But things can start changing when a national leader says “Enough! We have to accept there is a problem, take responsibility and change our ways.”
Go Beyond Politics
I know your lot don’t like Extinction Rebellion but are you aware that they’re non-aligned politically? I love their ethos that climate change is bigger than any one political party. The whole movement marches under the banner of “Beyond Politics” – and what that means is that any political party, or any opportunistic Prime Minister for that matter, could simply scoop up the ideas and make them his/her own. The great religions of the world used to do this when swallowing up the indigenous religions – they would adopt some of their practices (like the harvest festival) and gather up their followers while they’re at it.
And the demands of Extinction Rebellion are remarkably simple: tell the truth; aim for carbon zero by 2025; and organise a “big tent” to create environmental policy.
You recently said that Margaret Thatcher was the first British PM to raise this issue. I also remember her prediction that we’d have to “tighten our belts” before anything would get better. The only other political leader I can think of who promised suffering rather than plenty was Winston Churchill. Maybe this is your chance to join them in the Conservative pantheon?
If you were to take up the challenge of telling the truth regarding global warming, you could bluntly tell the electorate that we must end our addiction to fossil fuels. Such an approach would cause uproar among the Great British Driving Public but when you take something away it’s always replaced by something else – in this case electric vehicles, bikes and better public transport. It would also result in an economic boom in all parts of the economy where fossil fuel needs to be replaced: Britain could become a world leader in this transition and then share its experience with the world.
An assault on Big Oil could go a long way to reducing our carbon footprint, perhaps making the 2025 target feasible. The £2.4 billion your government has allocated to international oil drilling projects would be handy if invested in things like real bike lanes (rather than random colours on disconnected pavements). According to Mary Creagh, the MP for Wakefield, most of this money goes to poor countries, “potentially locking them into decades of dependency on oil and gas.”
The bizarre thing about your government is its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 alongside an industrial policy that states, in this press release, “Oil and gas strategy will promote billions worth of new investment.” Isn’t that what non-political people call hypocrisy? Surely, if that 80% target means anything you should, at the very least, tell the public that it’s a real problem and we need to start thinking about making big changes – starting with keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Changing attitudes is the first step in changing habits and, eventually, the world.
As regards the “big tent” demand, I know it might sound outlandish to some of your party members (images of bickering Afghan tribesmen may come to mind) but it’s quite a handy technique for managing divisive issues like this. The proper term for this is actually “citizens assembly” and it’s been used very effectively in Ireland and many other places.
Also, you have a former colleague who advocated for citizens assembly very convincingly in the recent Tory Party election: Rory Stewart. Couldn’t you bring him back into the fold?
Am I a traitor to the cause?
I was one of those unwashed protesters who camped out in central London last month, as I believe that we must change our ways before destroying our life support systems. There will be plenty of Extinction Rebellion supporters who will read this letter and consider me a traitor for asking you to take up their precious cause.
But I would quote back to them their own slogan of beyond politics and also point out that the Conservative Party was founded on the ethos of “conserving” the traditional lifestyle that was being threatened by the industrial revolution. Also, this issue will never become mainstream if all parties don’t adopt the key demands.
The most depressing thing about this whole issue is the way government departments, and large companies, make green policies that are nothing more than good intentions, grand statements and token gestures. Even the holier-than-thou Scandinavians are at it: Did you see what Greta Thunberg said on Instagram when she was offered the Nordic Council’s environmental award: “The Nordic countries have a great reputation around the world when it comes to climate and environmental issues. There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words. But when it comes to our actual emissions, and our ecological footprint per capita – if we include our consumption, our imports as well as aviation and shipping – then it’s a whole other story.”
The world needs a political leader who can show genuine leadership on this issue; a leader who has the courage to tell the public, and Big Oil, that we need to change our ways immediately.
Many people ask what can a small nation like ours do about such a massive global problem? The answer is that over the last few centuries we’ve provided the world with economic models – from colonialism to Thatcherism – and who better to persuade a confused and sceptical world that we need to make an about-turn before going over the precipice.
The good news is that going green is easier than one would have thought. I know this as I recently got rid of my car – it was really hard to do but going around by bike is much more fun and I’m saving up for one of those electric jobs. I also went vegan which was a lot easier than I had imagined it would be; they say that cutting out meat and dairy is the most powerful thing an individual can do to reduce greenhouse gases (the mountains of animal waste emit massive amounts of methane, which a far stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide).
I’m posting you this letter from Romania, where I’m doing a couple of wee jobs for the EU. I’ve decided to follow Greta’s example and not fly home. I asked my Facebook friends what the best way to get home overland would be and got back some useful comments, as well as one which reminded me of Norman Tebbit MP: “get on your bike.”
All the best
Rupert Wolfe Murray