Article 3 of 20- “The politics of climate change in the UK”

Another stonkingly good piece, which helped me further contextualise the history of climate policy in the UK. Particularly good on the shift from 2005 onwards…

Carter, N. 2014. The politics of climate change in the UK WIREs Clim Change 2014, 5:423–433. doi: 10.1002/wcc.274

Before 2005–2006, the environment (including climate change), was low on the national UK political agenda. No political party could afford to ignore environmental issues, so the Conservative and Labour parties had both pursued a strategy of ‘preference accommodation’: they moved their rhetoric and policies closer to the preferences of those voters wanting greater environmental protection. However, the two major parties resisted serious party competition over the environment as that might result in costly environmental protection policies which could alienate large numbers of voters.

(Carter, 2014: 424)

From 2003 onward a plethora of reports, including government reviews, parliamentary select committees, and independent bodies, revealed the major inadequacies in the existing CCEP. UK emission reduction targets needed to be tougher, and far more ambitious policies were required even to deliver existing targets.

(Carter, 2014: 424)

… when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, proposed the new Climate Change Levy in 1999 he was subjected to an extremely hostile, well-organized business lobby demanding that his proposals be watered down. This was a bruising experience for a Chancellor keen to be regarded as business friendly, so it made him question the political benefits to be gained from supporting progressive climate mitigation policies.8 Second, the fuel protests led by hauliers and farmers dried up petrol pumps in September 2000, bringing the country to a virtual standstill, reflected widespread public discontent at high fuel prices. With the Opposition Conservative leader William Hague praising the protesters as ‘fine upstanding citizens’, the Conservatives overtook Labour in opinion polls for two months—the only time Labour was behind in its entire first term of office (1997–2001). The episode caused panic within the Labour Government.

(Carter, 2014: 424)

With eco-taxation now largely ruled out as regressive and unpopular, the Treasury and the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI, incorporating energy policy) developed a new shared view that carbon markets, via the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, were the most efficient and effective means of achieving emission reductions. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was nominally the lead department on climate policy, but it lacked the political clout to persuade other key departments—notably the Treasury, the DTI, and the Department for Transport—to prioritize climate change objectives.4

(Carter, 2014: 425)

The business lobby seemed almost uniformly opposed to any new environmental regulation or eco-tax, which made business-friendly New Labour tread very carefully. Although the green lobby was large, professional and well resourced, its political influence was limited compared to the access afforded to major business actors. Moreover, between 2000 and mid2005 relations between the Chancellor and the Green lobby were particularly frosty because Brown felt he had not received the public support he deserved from the ENGOs for his proposed Climate Change Levy, which was criticized by groups like Friends of the Earth (FoE) for being too weak.

(Carter, 2014: 425)

I could go on… The article is full of these sorts of insights..

I already knew most of the references, (which is not to say I have read them). Two however, leapt out, and the latter, a PhD thesis from 2010, looks to be a goldmine for my purposes…

McLean, I. (2008). Climate Change and UK Politics: From Brynle Williams to Sir Nicholas Stern. The Political Quarterly, 79(2), 184–193. doi:10.1111/j.1467-923x.2008.00916.x 

Strong, L. 2010. Understanding the role of the business community in the making of UK climate policy between 1997 and 2009. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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