what can I do

Well, that was weird, wasn't it? The winners lost and the losers won.

The whopping Tory majority everybody expected (me included) didn't happen, and PM Theresa May now has a minority Government supported by an agreement with 10 Northern Irish DUP MPs. 'Unelectable' Jeremy Corbyn's much mocked (by me amongst others) rallies turned out to have struck a chord with the public, particularly the younger voter, and he gained rather than losing seats, although too few to form any kind of Government.

So what does this mean for the Sustainability movement? Here's my take:

1. The Kippers are dead in the water, but the Greens aren't going anywhere fast

UKIP, whose approach to climate change is one of outright denial and destructive policies for renewable energy, has died a quiet death during the recent local elections (where they managed to lose every council seat they were defending) and the general election (failed to hold the one seat they won in 2015).

At the other end of the political spectrum, despite Caroline Lucas' excellent personal performance during the election campaign, an increased majority in her own seat and the massive turnout amongst younger voters, the Green Party managed to shed more than half their 2015 votes. Corbyn's Labour party has simply gobbled up much of their actual or potential support. Now that Corbyn has strengthened his previously wobbly grip on Labour, it's hard to see how this will change anytime soon.

2. Climate deniers may be close to Government, but it probably doesn't matter

While a handful of Tory backbenchers cling to denial of climate change science, one of the worries about the DUP influence is that they appointed an out-and-out climate change denier to the post of Northern Ireland Environment Minister. However, climate denial is not a formal DUP party position (unlike UKIP's), and I suspect that their demands of the May Government will relate to Northern Irish issues (e.g. the status of the Irish border post-Brexit, local investment) so they have something tangible to show for their arrangement back home. Their main motivation to co-operate will be to keep the pro-United Ireland Corbyn out of No 10 rather than changing UK-wide social or environmental policy.

Many eco-commentators are decrying the appointment of Michael Gove as Environment Secretary after his stint as Education Secretary where he considered removing climate change from the syllabus. Again I'm not so worried as he claimed this was about slimming the syllabus rather than disagreeing with the science, his predecessor Andrea Leadsom was no low carbon cheerleader, and the real action will take place in the business department where pro-climate action Greg Barker stays in command.

3. Whither Brexit?

The Brexit situation remains unclear – and with it the future of EU Directive-based environmental legislation. If the UK decides to stay inside the Single Market, then much of that legislation will have to stay, if we don't, then it is up to the Government of the day what to do with it.

It appears from early voting analyses that 'Remainers' chose Labour over the overtly pro-Europe Liberal Democrats, despite Labour's support in the Commons for the Conservative 'hard Brexit' approach and Corbyn's past-Euroscepticism. As moderate, pro-remain Labour MPs seem to be giving up on their dreams of ousting Corbyn and return to the fold, no-one knows what Labour's Brexit position will be (it softened noticeably during the election campaign, but seems to have hardened again since). If Labour decides to go all out for 'soft Brexit' then it would only take a small Tory rebellion to stymie the hardline approach.

And the potential for that rebellion has grown as the new Scottish Tory MPs, widely credited with saving Mrs May from complete failure, are noticeably more keen on a softer Brexit than their southern counterparts. The DUP, while pro-Brexit, are softer than the pre-election Tories as they recognise that cross-Irish-border trade is essential for Northern Ireland. That adds up to a fascinating combination of uncertainties.

4. A Couple of Big Sustainability Beasts Return

While the Liberal Democrats only made modest progress due to the Labour surge, the return of ex-business and climate change ministers Vince Cable and Ed Davey to the House of Commons brings intellectual heft to Parliamentary debates on Sustainability and climate change. Cable was the architect of the Green Investment Bank and Davey fought constant battles with the Tory-run Treasury to keep the renewables revolution on track. Both took a very pro-business approach to Sustainability which is often lacking on the Labour side.


Given the precarious position of the PM, we could be in for further turbulence and even another general election (please, no!). It is worth noting that at lunchtime on the eve of polling day, renewable energy was providing over 50% of the UK's electricity for the first time ever, with low carbon nuclear providing another 20%, despite virtually no high profile political leadership on the issue for some time. So, whatever happens, I think the low carbon economy will just keep growing of its own accord, driven by economics and corporate responsibility, hindered by Government action almost as much as it is helped.

But I cry out for the day that we get Macron/Obama levels of political leadership on Sustainability in the UK. Imagine what would happen then.

[Usual disclosure, I'm a member of the Liberal Democrats]


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