Environmental policy has always been the preserve of the left. The Green Party of England and Wales ran in the last election in 2019 on a tax and spending manifesto that would have raised corporate taxes and established a universal basic income. In Germany, Die Grünen partnered with the center-left SPD in government at the turn of the millennium, while in the United States – lean soil indeed for environmentalists – the Greens have long worshiped at the altar by Ralph Nader and in 2016 formally rejected capitalism in favor of “eco-socialism”.
This was not the case at first. The English Green Party has its roots in the early 1970s and –spoken miracles—In the August 1970 edition of Playboy, which included an interview with Dr Paul Ehrlich, the Stanford biologist who had written The demographic bomb two years before. The professor’s warnings about the devastating effects of overpopulation were read by Lesley and Tony Whittaker, a couple from Kenilworth left dismayed by Ehrlich’s warnings; they founded a group of like-minded individuals in the Midlands, the Club of Thirteen, which quickly grew into a political party, PEOPLE, which in turn became the Green Party in 1975.
They weren’t leftists cut out of cardboard. Tony Whittaker had been a Conservative adviser, two first Confederates, Freda Sanders and Michael Benfield, were estate agents, and they were later joined by Edward Goldsmith, editor-in-chief of The ecologist, whose approach to saving the planet was distinctly reactionary: he preached the gospel of neotribalism and the Gaia paradigm.
There is no reason why the Conservative government of today cannot seize and absorb the green agenda over the next decade and shape the issue in its own image. The circumstances support this approach.
First, and the factor behind this argument is that the UK will host the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, later this year. This environmental meeting was supposed to take place in Glasgow last fall, but was delayed for 12 months due to the pandemic.
This is a huge diplomatic and presentation opportunity for the UK, while offering hope for real political progress. And it conveniently intertwines with the second factor, that of the new administration in Washington DC.
President Biden does not appear to be an instinctive Anglophile. His (distant) Irish roots undoubtedly play a role, and Boris Johnson’s apparent enthusiasm for Donald Trump’s presidency, excusable to some as a diplomatic necessity, has not warmed the old ‘special relationship’. It’s hard to imagine that the prime minister’s silly and complacent description of the previous president as “Britain Trump” helped matters in any way.
If the UK stock in Washington is not at an all time high, there are some promising omen. Biden’s enthusiasm for tackling climate change was evidenced by the appointment of former Secretary of State Patrician John Kerry as special representative on the issue, a cabinet-level appointment with administrative support from the state department. COP26 is therefore a perfect opportunity for the Prime Minister to show Americans a carbon-free peg.
Boris Johnson also has environmental influences closer to home. His fiancee, Carrie Symonds, served as a senior advisor to the Alliance for Marine Conservation Oceana, inc., and is a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. She recently returned to work after maternity leave as a communications manager for the Aspinall Foundation, an important wildlife conservation group. (To strengthen the link between the capitalist right and the roots of environmentalism, the organization was founded by John Aspinall, a bookie, player and founder of the Clermont Club in Mayfair.)
The Prime Minister therefore has strong reasons to embrace the environmental agenda on his bearish chest. A command performance on the world stage, an opportunity to redeem its reputation with Washington, and in keeping with the passionate beliefs of a politically open and outspoken partner: these are stars that clearly align themselves. And they are joined by another. The UK is approaching the third anniversary of its much-vaunted “Global Britain»Vision of our place in the world after Brexit. For its supporters, the concept is beginning to take on a consistent form, and a favorable reading of the recent Integrated review gives details and direction. COP26 is another showcase that the Prime Minister should seize.
What should the government’s rhetoric be? What impression do the decisions of COP26 give?
Last fall, Johnson laid out his ten point plan for a “Green industrial revolution“, Whose subtitle sums up its vision:” to rebuild better, support green jobs and accelerate our path to net zero “. These are fine principles to respect. They can be woven together with Global Britain and COP26 to shape a story worth telling: how the UK will engage technology and research to transform home power generation and trade with the world, not just by reducing carbon emissions at the source, but addressing what is left through carbon capture and storage. Finally – and this is what is most interesting to me – all of this will be fueled by financing and investment systems that will be specifically designed to reach net zero as soon as possible.
There is the price at stake. If COP26 is managed skillfully and with incisive, strategic and innovative thinking, it can be the legacy not only of the current Conservative government, but also of the UK for a decade or more. The potential is great. For those on the right, there might be symmetry in the green movement returning to its roots after half a century dominated by the lefts. So let’s look at Downing Street, and see if the incumbent has the ability, stamina, and support around him to become a transformative figure. Remember that Fates only spin a thread for every man.
Eliot Wilson, is the co-founder of Pivot Point Group