British Leaders Sign Climate Pledge Ditching Fossil Fuels, Destroys U.S. GOP’s Stance
All three leaders of Great Britain’s major political parties — Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labor — announced they have signed a pledge to tackle the problem of climate change. The resolutions that they adopted totally undermine the position of our GOP, which still refuses to concede the fact that climate change exists.
What makes the agreement most remarkable is the fact that the three men are approaching a bitter general election. Nevertheless, on this issue, they stand united — a phenomenon that is currently unthinkable in the United States.
Their first resolution commits the leaders to working for a global deal on climate change. The deadline they set is December. Yes, December of this year, which is when the United Nations’ climate summit will take place in Paris.
The second resolution pledges that they will work across party lines to achieve the nation’s carbon budgets — cuts in carbon emissions that are mandated by law. The levels they are trying to reach are below what was specified in 1997’s Kyoto Protocol Treaty, which is due to be replaced by the agreement in December.
The third resolution directly targets the fossil fuel industry. Its goal is:
“ … to accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy-efficient low-carbon economy and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation.”
The leaders — David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Milliband — are receiving widespread kudos for their initiative from activists like Al Gore and the Sierra Club, as well as from the CEOs of companies that are developing alternative energies. The politicians’ declaration further states:
“Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity.”
Considering that new polling shows that the vast majority of Americans acknowledge climate change and want our government to act, the contradictions to what is going on in this country, with the GOP, are sharp. First of all — beyond their questions of whether climate change is real — Republicans in Congress have been arguing against taking action because other nations won’t follow. They’ve been reinforced in this position by conservatives in Australia and Canada — Canada being home to the tar sands oil industry, of course.
But Great Britain is our oldest and strongest ally. Theoretically, at least, they carry more weight and, fortunately, their conservatives don’t look or act like our conservatives. In the words of Grist’s Ben Adler, British conservatives “seem to accept the Enlightenment values of scientific inquiry, rationality, and reason.”
Secondly, the GOP argues that jobs will be destroyed by actions that diminish the fossil fuels industry and that the country’s prosperity will be threatened. These arguments come largely, of course, from lawmakers whose states produce coal and oil. However, Great Britain is already seeing the economic growth that clean energies can produce. For example, the multinational corporation Siemens is building a wind farm off the coast. Siemens’ CEO, Juergen Maier, issued an enthusiastic thumbs-up for the declaration:
“The low-carbon transition represents a major economic opportunity and this demonstration of cross-party support sends a clear message that the UK remains a good place for global companies to do low-carbon business.”
The UK is open for business, welcoming low-carbon enterprises, while the GOP continues to do everything in its power to discourage such development. But they better wake up and smell the coffee — or the fresh air, while they can still find some. According to the Guardian, analyses show that the combined coal, oil and gas industries are poised to extract more than three times the fossil fuels that can be burned if countries hold to their vows to lower carbon emissions. Thus Republicans are desperately trying to protect profits by staving off the development of clean energies.
Too late, GOP! The global movement to get governments and companies to divest their investments in the fossil fuel industry is growing. Growth goes up, the profitability of fossil fuels goes down — dramatically.
The British declaration was timed for the same day — Valentine’s Day, as it happens — as a worldwide day of action by the #GoFossilFree movement. The growing message to love the earth and love clean air also sends a memo to the GOP: reject destructive fossil fuels or become irrelevant.
Image: Creative Commons.
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