Governments that set ambitious targets — with no intention or realistic plan to meet them — are fundamentally deceptive and intrinsically anti conservative. This is especially apparent when it comes to UK efforts to combat climate change.
A true conservative is pragmatic and has realistic plans for the future. They understand gradual change is preferable and the relative success of societies is based on the ingenuity and empowerment of their people. Conservatives have also typically adopted a market-based approach on the belief that this is the most effective way to boost our quality of life and achieve policy aims.
Boris Johnson’s Government has seemingly abandoned these principles in the environmental space. Instead, the state is demanding substantial behaviour change from individuals, using taxes and bans ranging from nappies to gas boilers, plastic straws to polystyrene cups.
The messaging has been mixed and the proposals extremely costly: Rishi Sunak has suggested Net Zero could cost over a trillion pounds. It is this cost that has backed the Government into a corner.
As they find themselves in a financial black hole, the solution has been to shift that burden of cost onto the consumer, with ineffective and immoral taxes on the most basic of supplies. Any policy which unnecessarily burdens the most vulnerable to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds is simply unjustifiable. If nothing else, it is politically unviable. Anyone who truly cares about realistic and effective solutions to environmental challenges should be concerned about an approach that is inevitably going to lead to a large backlash.
The nanny statism that has boomed over the past decade is unfit for the 21st century. Our country is awash with sharp minds and ingenious solutions to the world’s problems that conservatism is perfectly poised to harness, yet, at its current rate, that colour of thought and innovation is being dulled by a government comfortable to pick it’s own winners, in an act of dangerous self deification. The Conservatives appear to have forgotten their own core principle: the solutions we are looking for are more often to be found in the people rather than in Whitehall.
Unfortunately, the loudest voices in opposition to Government policy have been those who believe that smearing blood over the streets of London, dumping rubbish outside Downing Street and abusing members of the public are the most sure fire way of dealing with climate change – by all accounts all they are doing is distracting from debate and turning the general public away from environmental affairs at all.
That is why the Adam Smith Institute and British Conservation Alliance’s new report, It’s Easy Being Green, is such a breath of fresh air. It is a reminder that we are already in possession of the framework through which climate change can be best dealt with – the free market. We need not rip up society by its roots, nor live in some depressing socialist dystopia of international squalor and poverty. All we need to do is put faith in the systems that have given us virtually every innovative technology and solution throughout all of human history. We need to simply provide profit incentives for environmental responsibility – positive affirmation for behaviours that safeguard, not only the existence of the companies themselves, but also our survival as a species.
Even in the current space, wherein innovative companies are hamstrung by the defacto subsidy of fossil fuels all over the world through tax breaks and lower rates of VAT, sustainable companies already perform better than damaging ones. One need only imagine what could be done if that balance was tipped in their favour. A carbon tax that is offset with tax breaks in other, eco friendly, areas could offset the heightened costs of being an innovator or the huge costs currently projected to hit every household in the UK as they endeavour to be more green.
To conservatives up and down the country, these policies are simply common sense. Yet, for a government that has consistently chosen the easy option that absolves themselves of responsibility, they seem a world away. The Government must remember what it means to be truly Conservative and put their faith back in the British people.