The Minister’s speech was given on the 24th July 2015; the full transcript is available at: secretary-of-state-speech-on-climate-change
The Secretary of State’s eloquent speech is long on rhetoric but short on coherence. Let’s be blunt, whilst the Minister has chosen to view her Department’s responsibilities solely through a parochial financial lens – many poor people living in climatically more vulnerable parts of the globe will face the life and death repercussions of her Government’s increasingly weak stance on climate change.
In evoking the legacy of Margaret Thatcher in support of her Government’s position the Minister demonstrates the contortions she and her Department are having to go through to comply with the Chancellor’s austerity diktat. Since Thatcher’s 1990 speech, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, have risen by over 60%. For the UK, consumption-based emissions (including CO2 associated with imports and exports) were up 12% prior to the economic collapse, with the latest post-collapse data still putting UK emissions 1% higher than they were in 1990. All this points towards a future with catastrophic levels of climate change. Only an urgent rejection of the incremental escapism that dominates the UK and international policy arena can now deliver the necessary rates of emission reduction. Yet the Minister’s speech acknowledges no such urgency – instead she chooses to focus on how responding to climate change dovetails with the Chancellor’s drive for short-term financial growth.
The Minister closes with an assertion that the 2°C goal remains an imperative for her Government. Yet her own policies are premised on the UK’s receiving a hugely inequitable share of the global 2°C carbon budget, alongside the large-scale uptake of highly speculative negative emission technologies sometime in the far distant future.
Behind the eloquence of the Minister’s rhetoric lurks a UK Government’s position on climate change increasingly informed by a muddled blend of policy machinations and Dr Strangelove technologies, rather than by rigorous analysis. Ultimately there is something deeply concerning about the most vulnerable communities’ being forced to pay the cost of the ineptitude of the banks and the spinelessness of the legislature. Yet it is exactly this approach that informs the scientifically illiterate basis of the Minister’s speech.