Comment Editor Kat Smith discusses the pressure to obtain the 'perfect' body image, and how we should focus on more important personal qualitiesWritten by Kat Smith on 21st March 2018
Is Theresa May’s Environmental Plan Credible? Hardly
Comment Writer Rhi Storer questions the Conservative's environmental policy
If 2018 is about fresh starts and new beginnings, then you can be rest assured that this year is make-or-break for the Conservatives, to rein in a disastrous year of a botched election, cabinet scandals, and memes mocking the premiership of a prime minister who not only makes being miserable an art-form but is, frankly, painful to watch.
Or was painful to watch. That’s what the Conservatives were hoping for at the launch of their new ‘Green Plan’ - a 25 year commitment to eradicating the environment scourge that is plastic waste from Britain. It includes proposals to deliver a ‘Green Brexit’; a fund of £10 million towards helping school-children engage more with the environment; and to challenge our “throwaway culture”.
To put this into perspective, data by Greenpeace reveals British companies shipped more than 2.7m tonnes of plastic waste to China since 2012 - two-thirds of the UK’s total waste plastic exports. As Theresa May said: “In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.”
“data by Greenpeace reveals British companies shipped more than 2.7m tonnes of plastic waste to China since 2012 - two-thirds of the UK’s total waste plastic exports
It’s a plausible plan for re-branding the Conservatives as the party of social justice. Why not appeal to both young, socially conscious Britons and older conservative voters? Surely both demographics would agree that planting more trees, breathing cleaner air, and enjoying litter-free landscapes for their Sunday walks are all rather sensible ideas? Rallying around the cause of environmental degradation, in the mind of the Conservatives, will be the unifier this country needs after a year of division and uncertainty. Or, to more cynical minds, it makes sense for the Conservatives to start off the year discussing the environment - it’s difficult to frame, and will only be forgotten about once more traditional policy issues - the economy and defence - unfold as the year progresses on.
To the credit of the Conservative party, the appointment of Michael Gove to Environmental Secretary has been a step in the right direction. Initially criticised for his controversial role as Education Secretary, his decisive action on introducing a ban on ivory sales, reintroducing beavers into the UK, and a forcible ban on microbeads has made even the most left-wing environmentalists praise him for his work. On top of ratifying the Paris Agreement - it’s all looking rather rosy for the Conservatives on the environmental front.
Except when you look at the inconsistencies.
“How is a new runway at Heathrow compatible with climate change, given that aviation emissions make up 4.9% of man-made global warming, and are predicted to increase by 70% by 2020?
When an environmental plan is tagged as “inspiring”, that’s normally code for “vague.” It doesn’t help either, that the environmental plan is backed neither by money or tangible legislation. Then there’s the delay in the plan itself - promised two years, then expected last year, and now finally here. Brexit may have play a part in tearing down a typical government schedule, but the Conservatives has always had a rather patchy record on environmental issues.
How is a new runway at Heathrow compatible with climate change, given that aviation emissions make up 4.9% of man-made global warming, and are predicted to increase by 70% by 2020? Why should we trust a government that wants to re-introduce beavers in the UK, but is negligent on planting trees with only 13% of the UK’s total land area is covered in trees? Let us not forget that the Conservatives the only party in last year’s general election who supported fracking, but scrapped subsidies for renewable energy sources, abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and failed to challenge Donald Trump’s recklessness by pulling out of the Paris Agreement.
It’s also inconsistent to make claims that conservatism and conservation are “natural allies”. Roger Scruton, a green philosopher that Theresa May mentioned in her speech, has claimed that conservatism is the only perspective necessary to engage with environmentalism. Socialist-led government have led to environmental disaster and ineffectual bureaucracy, and for Scruton, this is one of the key reasons why small, regional groups should take the lead in promoting environmental stewardship in local communities. It heralds back to David Cameron’s vision of a “big society” - people power marked under a blue banner. Yet there is a glaring contradiction here - how can the Conservatives claim to be for the environment and the people when their economic policy of continuous growth does nothing to solve the issue of depleting resources and inequality? Even more worrying are the tax breaks on companies - those same companies who are polluting our planet.
This all relates to a rather anthropocentric view of our environment, that it is only useful in its instrument value of providing current and future generations the necessary resources to continue existing on our planet. That’s something to go by when Theresa May said she plays her part in tackling climate change, by making boxes for birds, owls, and bats in her garden.
“Yet there is a glaring contradiction here - how can the Conservatives claim to be for the environment and the people when their economic policy of continuous growth does nothing to solve the issue of depleting resources and inequality?
And instrumental for who? As VICE has pointed out, there is barely any mention of refugees in the plan. There are people in countries who are being affected by climate change as we speak, from their own governments playing catch-up in matching the economic growth of countries like ours who then pass the bucket of environmental degradation back onto them.
No wonder then, that this environmental plan is but a subtle form of greenwashing designed to make us believe the Conservatives really believe they are making progress in tackling climate change, when in reality, they continue to misled us.