Archive for the 'Environment' Category


Marf on TMay’s big idea – the war on plastic waste

Friday, January 12th, 2018

She needs to be careful that it doesn’t become a “cones hotline”

If the object was to move on from the bungling of the reshuffle then Theresa May’s remarkable move on plastic waste has certainly achieved that.

For this is something that will affect almost everyone certainly those who have to shop and, no doubt, most people have a view.

For the reshuffle simply highlighted to the world what a weak position she was in and that there is little that she will be able to do to deal about the tight parliamentary arithmetic which was created, of course, by the general election result of which she has ownership.

But the plastic effort all seems a little petty and trivial for the PM to be announcing although, of course, the overall problem is one that government’s should be concerned about.

And why wasn’t the environment secretary, Michael Gove, the one who was making these big announcements. He is the one who has developed her an interesting narrative in his new role and this would just build on that?

It all reminds me of John Major’s “cones hotline” in the 1992-97 parliament which came to become a symbol of the then PM’s weaknesses rather than strengths.

Mike Smithson


Climate change denial is dead – but the fight for green votes is starting

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Donald Trump and the politics of climate change

Donald Trump’s tweet that the snow-blasted US east coast would benefit from some global warming has reignited attention to his climate-change denial. But after a year of his presidency, it’s increasingly clear that, in terms of both public opinion and policy, rejection of climate science is a sideshow.

Having a climate-change denier in the White House might seem like a triumph for people who want to stop action against global warming. Trump’s plan to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement certainly gives the impression he’s winning that fight.

But in reality, Trump has only shown that climate denial is defunct. When he tried to topple the climate deal, the rest of the world pushed back. No other country has joined his planned defection – instead several have accelerated their timetables for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And investors are giving up on climate denial. Major fund managers like BlackRock are now demanding to know how emission cuts will affect their investments and are selling businesses that depend on fossil fuels.

And climate denial is a far weaker electoral force than it seems. Only about 10% of Americans firmly oppose climate action, with another 11% doubtful about it. While Trump won among both groups, most of his voters can’t be described as climate deniers. And in the rest of the world, vanishingly few people think climate change is a hoax. Recent data found that at least 97% agree climate change is happening, in 19 of the 22 countries polled for the European Social Survey.

If anything, the evidence points to climate change being an untapped electoral opportunity for environmentally-conscious politicians. In most European counties at least 20% are very or extremely worried about climate change.

In the UK, where 1 in 4 are very or extremely worried about climate change, it’s effectively been off the electoral battleground since Cameron’s husky-hugging Arctic trip. To most voters, it seemed there was a consensus among the major parties about the issue. But that could now change.

The Tories are hunting for ways to stop, and reverse, the loss of younger voters, put off them by values-driven concerns like foxes, Brexit and citizens of nowhere. Burnishing their approach to climate change might help the Tories: a UK YouGov poll for think tank Bright Blue found it’s the second-top subject that under40s wants politicians to talk about more, ahead of education, housing and immigration.

Meanwhile, other parties may see an opportunity in hitting the government harder on climate change. The Lib Dems, in particular, might wonder if they can appeal to the voters looking for a party with a more robust message on climate change.

Most voters, though, are in the middle on climate change. Around half the public have little doubt it’s real and a threat, and want it dealt with, but don’t think about it much. Satisfying them, while meeting increasingly tough climate targets over the next couple of decades, will be a growing challenge.

Trump’s climate denial will get attention as long as he’s in power, but we shouldn’t let that fool us into thinking he’s doing any more than appealing to a section of his base. The rest of the world has moved on, and the risks are far greater to parties that drag their feet than those that set the pace.

Leo Barasi

Leo Barasi is a regular with Keiran Pedley on the PB/Polling Matters podcast. His book,  The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism (New Internationalist), is now available