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  • Dr Alex Chapman is a Climate Change Researcher at the University of Southampton

It's time for A Progressive Alliance for reform and for our environment

Dr Alex Chapman

2nd August, 2016

Actors across the UK political spectrum are recognising that the time is ripe for fundamental change; a Progressive Alliance of the left and centre parties, offering comprehensive constitutional, electoral, policy reform and tough measures on climate change, writes ALEX CHAPMAN

This move to a more principled politics has potential benefits from an environmental perspective; dealing with climate change is not about political expediency but is a moral imperative

Labour is at an impasse. However the upcoming leadership contest finishes, it doesn't look likely the party will emerge fit to win a general election. The most probable outcome in September - a Corbyn victory - could leave us with a party without a functioning parliamentary force. A defeat for Corbyn would decimate the morale of the door knockers and leafleteers who salvaged unlikely victories in Labour's last three by-elections.

Labour's mess is merely a microcosm of a country in crisis. And of course large numbers of disenfranchised voters demonstrated their frustration with the status quo in the recent EU referendum; the exit they demanded will now be managed by the most unrepresentative government ever, led by an un-elected Prime Minister, overseen by an unelected second chamber.

Amid the chaos, climate change has been all but forgotten.

Far removed from the internal wranglings of the British political parties are the 18 million Vietnamese living in the Mekong Delta, whose homes are sinking into the sea, along with the rice which feeds many of the poorest around the world. The people of the Mekong Delta, so imminently threatened by climate change, need a progressive government in power in the UK and, frankly, needed it years ago.

A government is urgently required which, for instance, treats renewable energy technologies as far more than just new entrants into the economic market, and fracking as what it is; an attempt to sustain the fossil-fuel status quo. The Vietnamese people need a government that will, in the event of Brexit, rewrite and even improve the climate change legislation we lose.

New Prime Minister Theresa May's move to scrap the Department of Energy and Climate Change and appoint Andrea Leadsom (see here) as Environment Minister suggests these tasks cannot be entrusted to what is *certainly not* the "greenest government ever". The Conservatives' unconvincing record on climate change action, which will likely culminate in the missing of our 2020 renewable energy targets, has implications far beyond Britain's borders. The hypocrisy is that this inaction will exacerbate migration challenges in countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh which would dwarf the controversial (and now even more unlikely) entry of Turkey into the EU.  

Actors across the UK political spectrum are recognising that the time is ripe for fundamental change; a Progressive Alliance of the left and centre parties, offering comprehensive constitutional, electoral, and policy reform. To name but a few: George Monbiot, Caroline Lucas MP (Green), Clive Lewis MP (Labour), and Tim Farron MP (Lib Dem) have all made the call in recent weeks. Important reforms are on the table for a Progressive Alliance (notably a shift to proportional representation) but, absent from the dialogue thus far, is what the Alliance could offer the UK's environmental and climate change credentials.

The Labour movement is the final piece of the jigsaw. Despite the damage Labour's in-fighting is doing to their ability to govern, there are reasons for optimism. Sit in on Labour or Momentum meetings around the country (when they're not suspended) and you'll hear thousands of people from all backgrounds reluctant to capitulate on their beliefs for the sake of expediency. This move to a more principled politics has potential benefits from an environmental perspective; dealing with climate change is not about political expediency but is a moral imperative. For them, and indeed for me as a young Labour member, the leadership feels like a fundamental decision which will define the future course of UK politics.

Perhaps the most common accusation against Jeremy Corbyn is that he stands for ‘the politics of protest' and not the ‘politics of winning'. Corbyn could set out a robust counter to this claim if he joined with fellow left MP Clive Lewis and committed to forming a Progressive Alliance at the next general election. Even if Labour did make losses due to the much touted un-electability of Corbyn they would, based on 2015 numbers, be able to win a general election as part of a Progressive coalition.

People for a Progress Alliance has identified 49 seats that could be won from the Conservatives by joining forces with the other progressive parties; the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, and (only on certain votes) the SNP; many of whom have already stated they are open to the idea. All of these parties cite tough action on climate change repeatedly in their manifestos; indeed, based on their manifestos there is more that unites than divides them.

The time for a Progressive Alliance for reform, and for our environment, is now.

This Author

Alex Chapman is one of the Ecologist New Voices contributors. A Labour Party Member, he is a Climate Change Researcher at the University of Southampton, and founder of the Facebook community People for a Progressive Alliance

 

 

 

 

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