THE BLOG
07/01/2019 07:00 GMT | Updated 07/01/2019 07:00 GMT

As The Government Focuses All Eyes On Brexit, These Are The Green Policies Westminster Is Overlooking

The urgency of the crisis we are facing could not be clearer.

baona via Getty Images

2018 was a sobering year for our climate and the environment. The UN’s stark warning that we have 12 years left to limit climate catastrophe was preceded by countless extreme weather events and swiftly followed by the worrying finding that over half of vertebrates species globally have been killed off in less than 50 years. The urgency of the crisis we are facing could not be clearer.

The effort employed to effect change last year was far more than should have been necessary for the small steps that were taken. They included the UK Government committing to look into a net zero emissions target, city mayors in London, Manchester and Bristol starting to step up to the climate emergency, renewables achieving a record share of our electricity supply, and the Government increasing funding to decarbonise heavy industry.  

Indeed, governments across the world failed completely to act with the ambition, pace and vision so desperately required. We need only look at the frustrating outcome of the international climate conference in December as an example. Despite all the fanfare, little progress was made at COP24 to increase countries’ commitments to cut emissions – and as a result, the world remains on track for 3C of warming.   

As we turn a new leaf into 2019, the words of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg seem to ring true as a message to those in power: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.”

Greenpeace however, is as focused as always on what needs to be done now and the measures against which we must unwaveringly judge our politicians to deliver this year. 

These are the policies the Government and all major UK political parties must commit to in 2019 – at a minimum – to stand a chance of a cleaner, fairer and more peaceful future.

Triple renewable energy generation in the 2020s from genuinely sustainable sources (wind, water, solar). This means increasing funding for renewables rather than taking it away, introducing more competitive auctions to distribute the funds, unblocking planning restrictions, and boosting skills training so workers in declining industries can move into cleaner jobs.

No new airport runways and introduce a frequent flyer levy – we need to face up to the fact that growing emissions from flying do not fit with our long term climate obligations. A frequent flyer levy would be a socially just system for curbing our aviation emissions.

Ban fracking – it pollutes our environment, it’s incompatible with climate targets, and it’s not necessary for energy security. 

Properly protect the public from air pollution and significantly invest in public transport – restrict the most polluting diesels cars and vans from city centres, roll out a national scrappage scheme so drivers can swap to cleaner solutions, introduce legal targets for air pollution in line with World Health Organisation standards, and redirect funds from HS2 and the new road building programme to expand and electrify the rail network and boost public transport in towns and cities, especially beyond the South East.

Dramatically increase the roll-out of electric vehicles – bring forward the target for all new cars and vans to be electric from 2040 to 2030, introduce a comprehensive package to retrain and reskill workers in the auto industry, increase leadership in expanding charging infrastructure, and increase public sector procurement of electric vehicles.

Boost energy efficiency and start decarbonising our heating – introduce a zero carbon standard for all new buildings, make energy efficiency in existing buildings an infrastructure priority and provide funding to match, and increase investment in large scale heat trials over the next 6 months to test solutions. 

Reduce waste from plastic and other materials, and promote a genuinely circular economy – introduce a UK-wide deposit return scheme for drinks containers of all materials and sizes, ban problem plastics, make corporate producers of waste pay for 100% of disposal costs and commit to eliminating single-use packaging in the 2020s. 

Protect and restore the health of our oceans, both within and beyond the UK’s jurisdiction – implement a strongly protected Blue Belt in UK waters, don’t cave to industry and instead stick to the science when it comes to setting sustainable fishing limits, lead in negotiating an ambitious UN Global Oceans Treaty and continue to fight to protect the Antarctic. 

Restore nature in our countryside and set up a sustainable, local food system – legislate to reallocate agricultural payments to farmers who protect and enhance nature and use sustainable,agroecological methods, return soils to a healthy level, improve the quality of habitats, and help struggling fishing communities by redistributing fishing quota to local, more sustainable fishers. 

Guarantee that no gaps in environmental protections are opened up through Brexit – make the enforcement of the environmental principles legally binding for all future policies and set up a new green watchdog with sufficient funding and independence from government to robustly enforce environmental law.  

By taking up these actions over the next year, UK politicians would set us on the right track for achieving net zero emissions in the future, and restoring nature back to sustainable levels. Unfortunately, all of the main political parties currently fall short against this standard – so we have our work cut out to push for action over the next year. Here’s to a radical and ambitious 2019.