5 June 2017

How green are our politicians?

After President Trump’s climate change U-turn, Anthony Foxlee-Brown, marketing & communications manager, at Grundon Waste Management, asks: ‘How green are our politicians?’

So Donald Trump has torn up the US’s commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, saying the accord “punished” the US and would cost millions of American jobs.

In a line that will doubtless go down in history, he declared he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” a move which spoke loudly and clearly to his patriotic followers.

And given that he once called global warming a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese – pretty rich when you consider his rhetoric about fake news – I suppose we cannot really be surprised by the decision of this most unpredictable of Presidents.

Trump has indicated that he’s ready to negotiate, but he might find that he’s the only one.

Several key European leaders already have slammed his decision to pull out of the accord and have stated that there won’t be a new deal, whilst themselves pledging to stick by the agreement.

The newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron even went so far as to rephrase Trump’s infamous “Make America great again” electioneering slogan (which was in turn a rehash of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign watchword) by saying “wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: make our planet great again.”

Trump has also faced fierce resistance from within the US, with Senator John Kerry, whom negotiated the Paris agreement on behalf of the Obama administration, calling it “a moment of grotesque abdication of fundamental responsibility and leadership”.

Echoing Sentor Kerry’s lead, the Democratic Governors of California, New York and Washington quickly vowed to commit to the terms of the Paris accord.

If President Trump has given a virtual two fingers to the environment, what are politicians closer to home saying and how big a part are energy and environmental issues playing in the run-up to the General Election?

If you read the small print of the Conservative’s manifesto (it was a long night), it says….”we will form our energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire – reliable and affordable energy, seizing the industrial opportunity that new technology presents and meeting our global commitments on climate change.”

If I’ve understood that correctly, it could mean they are in favour harnessing the strengths of industrial heritage and technologically innovative ideas to generate more of our own energy.

Perhaps one day they might even come round to the idea of favouring more power-generating Energy from Waste facilities, instead of allowing a potential and valuable energy source to be exported week-after-week from our shores to help meet Europe’s energy demands.

Labour would like to see a ban on fracking and a new clean air act to legislate against diesel fumes. Air pollution was something Jeremy Corbyn could be heard haranguing Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, about during last Wednesday’s televised political debate as she tried to make her point about how much the Tories had invested in renewable energy.

The Liberal Democrats are also exorcised about air quality, demanding that a legally binding target of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 be set and ultra-low emission zones be extended to 10 more towns and cities.

Not surprisingly, it is the Green Party which is shouting most loudly about green issues, calling for an Environment Protection Act to safeguard and restore the environment – whatever that might mean in practice.

Certainly Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, speaking at the TV debate, called for “a massive investment” in renewable energy and said there was economic proof that renewables will be cheaper than the fossil fuels they are replacing.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru want to do their bit for the environment by reducing plastic waste with a deposit return scheme; while in Scotland, the SNP favour keeping existing EU environmental rules and to continue cutting carbon emissions.

Although at the time of the TV debate, Trump’s formal announcement to withdraw from the climate change agreement had not been made, there were enough leaks to make it sound like a foregone conclusion.

And while most of the participants were only too keen to criticise him – “appalled, wrong and disappointed” were among the descriptions – it was left to UKIP’s Paul Nuttall to speak up as Trump’s loan political supporter, saying: “He is putting America first and frankly, I think we should put Britain first as well.”

Anthony Foxlee-Brown, Marketing & Communications manager, Grundon Waste Management

For the rest of us, who care deeply about the environment for ourselves and future generations, we can only hope that if there is a silver lining to this momentous decision it is to have put the environment back at the top of the political agenda.

Even if it is for all the wrong reasons…



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