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Return to "Business As Usual/Normal" - No Thanks

May 22, 2020 12:50 PM
By Stuart Smith

No, I don't believe the world should 'go back to normal' That's what has got us into this place in the first place. We should take the opportunity to reset things. I believe in transforming our economy and way of life to support and enable a just, fair, transition to a sustainable, circular economy.

The connections between the current health pandemic and the climate crisis should act as a spur to solve each other. The pandemic, gives us a unique chance to enact government policies that steer the economy away from carbon at a lower financial, social and political cost than might otherwise have been the case.

Think about it. Scrapping fossil fuel subsidies and enacting carbon taxes are actually easier when fossil fuels are cheap - as consumers, you can more easily weather any short-term increase in costs. Businesses at the heart of the fossil fuel economy are already shrinking - so the government needs to support their transition rather than force it. The need for recovery packages actually suits investment in job-creating, clean infrastructure, funded by low-interest rates and the carbon taxes which can now be delivered. With renewables and electrified transport ready to go those taxes would push fossil fuels further out of the picture . Subsidies and direct government investment are needed to ensure that tomorrow's consumers and firms have the technologies which carbon prices will encourage. As for the current and potential bail-outs proposed by fossil fuel companies, avaiation industry etc., it's much better to focus on insisting that governments must not skew their bail-outs towards fossil fuel use.

Yes, these changes will be politically hard. However, there is strong cross-party support for far-reaching carbon targets. In June last year, the UK government passed a law to strengthen these targets, committing the UK to end virtually all emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases within the next 30 years. There was next to no opposition - in fact, Labour and the Liberal Democrats argued for an earlier phase-out date. But, you won't hear much from politicians at the moment wanting to talk about it. We, as ordinary members of the party and the public need to force this. We need to rely less on the experts and speak to the heart as well as the head.

People care about family, fairness and decency, and an enabling state, looking out for the interests of its citizens. This is exactly how our new world could be framed. Following the health pandemic shutdown, there's an opportunity to involve people in shaping the way we rebuild our societies and economies, to increase resilience against future threats - not least, those arising from climate change.