Over the past month I’ve spoken with omore than 1800 people who came along to my 61 ‘Big Conversation’ events. We talked about pressing daily concerns, but also about bigger challenges like climate change. For me, there’s no more important issue. Unless we do more to reduce carbon emissions and tackle global warming, an increasingly unsustainable planet will make life more difficult for everyone.
It worries me that, since the bankers crashed the world economy in 2008, attention has shifted from climate change. The idea has developed that green policies were for good times, but now they’re a luxury we can’t afford. David Cameron once urged people to ‘vote blue, go green’, but now tells Ministers to scrap the ‘green crap’ to boost growth. He’s wrong. As the planet heats and extreme weather becomes more common, climate change isn’t going away.
Tackling climate change and economic recovery aren’t alternatives. They go hand-in-hand. We must ‘hardwire’ reducing emissions into the economy and everyday life. Investing in a national programme of home insulation, for example, would cut both emissions and domestic fuel bills, as well as creating low-carbon jobs and businesses.
Government critics of renewable energy fail to see its potential to create skilled and well-paid jobs. Renewables, like wind and solar, have created 800,000 ‘green’ jobs in Germany, and could do the same here if investment is encouraged. On Humberside, Siemens are building two factories making offshore turbines that will create 1000 jobs, with thousands more in their supply companies.
Politicians must work to secure an international action plan at next year’s UN Climate Change summit, but we can also act locally. Last year, I worked with Green Alliance on promoting new community energy schemes, something on which Sheffield Renewables is doing great work. I’m also encouraging primary schools to join Friends of the Earth’s project to provide them with solar panels. As has been said, ‘we don’t inherit the earth from our parents, but hold it in trust for our children’. Their future, and that of subsequent generations, looks bleak unless we act now.