The faces of the green transition (XXII)
Director del Conservative Environmental Network (CEN)
He believes that many of the most successful measures in the fight against climate change have their origin in conservative principles.
Sam Hall (York, 1990) has been in the shadow of power in the interstices of the Conservative Party. He was an advisor to the current Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove when he served as Secretary of State for the Environment, and he continued his “blue” and “green” concerns in the Bright Blue “think tank”, where the more liberal wing of the “Tories” converge. Now he heads the Conservative Environmental Network (CEN), the organization created a decade ago to advocate for environmental causes from the right. More than a hundred Conservative MPs have joined the network, which now spreads across half a dozen countries; among them, Spain.
- The environment has until now been the exclusive territory of the left. What has changed so that the right finally enters the rag?
- It is true that, at the level of public consciousness, the environment has long been a “left wing issue.” But in the UK, and for decades, conservative leaders – from Margaret Thatcher a Boris Johnson– have shown leadership on environmental issues. Although the issue has not been central to the policy of their governments, substantial progress has been made in reducing emissions and protecting habitats. Some of the most successful environmental policies are rooted in conservative principles, such as highly competitive auctions to increase the capacity of renewables. As we move through the more difficult phases of decarbonization, it is necessary to emphasize those principles: the free market, private property, and technological innovation.
- And is there not some opportunism in that turn of the last months?
- Support for environmental policies by the center-right has been growing significantly for years, largely because it has increased people’s concern about the decline of wildlife, about the impact of climate change, about the effects of climate change. pollution or the proliferation of plastics. At the same time, conservative voices have been heard in environmental debates. In the last elections in the UK, a poll put Conservatives seven points ahead of Labor on environmental issues. We want to show that center-right parties can win politically with a green agenda.
- But we cannot forget that the “denial” of the climate comes from the right, and from politicians like Donald Trump. Isn’t it going to be difficult to leave that image behind?
- I would say that there has always been a green thread in the Conservative Party and that there has always been a concern for those issues within the mainstream. We’ve had climate skeptics on the move too, but they’ve been on the fringes and are now a minority. I won’t say that Donald Trump he is a true conservative: his positions on the environment and the economy have been short-term and morally reckless.
- To what extent is Trump’s connection to Boris Johnson taking its toll on the “premier”? Can we believe in your “green conversion” by now?
- Boris Johnson always made it clear that he disagreed with Donald Trump on the issue of climate change. With Joe Biden As president, ambitious climate action is high on the agenda, we just saw it at the G7 summit. The “premier” has always been an environmentalist. He was as Mayor of London, with the creation of miles and miles of cycle lanes and the promotion of what would later become the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London. It is true that in the last year he has spoken more about climate change, which is inevitable in his capacity as host of the COP26 in Glasgow in November. But his green policies have always been there, even when he was Foreign Secretary, with the worldwide action against the illegal trafficking of species.
- Boris’s father, Stanley Johnson, has by the way been appointed “ambassador” of the network of conservative environmentalists. Do you hope to have a direct influence on your son?
- Stanley’s passion for the environment has a long history, and he has undoubtedly been one of the great influences on the prime minister. He was a pioneer of environmental research in the Conservative Party and an advocate for biodiversity and action on climate change in the Unin Europea and in the world Bank. And indeed he has been appointed “ambassador” of the CEN to increase environmental awareness among conservatives and raise the bar for the government’s commitment to international summits.
- CEN is expanding its networks to other countries, including Spain …
- Yes, we have intensified contacts with conservative legislators from around the world in the run-up to COP26. It is crucial that conservative voices are heard in favor of action on climate change. We also want to be a forum on climate policy around the world and share perspectives in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany or Spain. It fills us with satisfaction to know that the Oikos think tank has been created in Spain, and we hope to hold Spanish-British meetings with center-right deputies willing to discuss how climate change can be tackled in a free market context.
- What are the expectations for COP26? Does the UK measure up as an international leader?
- COP26 will be the most critical meeting to keep the objectives of the Paris Agreement within reach and avoid a warming of more than 1.5 degrees. Financing for developing countries, so that they can mitigate the effects or adapt to climate change is the other great challenge. It is certainly going to be a great moment for the UK and a litmus test for both our national policies and our diplomatic strategy. But we will not solve climate change in Glasgow. This is a challenge that will continue year after year, over several decades, although the leadership of the United Kingdom will be important.
- Despite the ambitions of the British Government (a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030), major contradictions are coming to light, such as the Cumbrian coal mine or the continuation of oil exploitation in the North Sea. time to end fossil fuel subsidies?
- UK leadership has to go beyond the targets, however bold. And the truth is that we are the G20 country that is reducing its emissions the fastest, we have practically stopped burning coal to produce electricity, we have stopped financing oil projects abroad and we have put a moratorium on “fracking”, at the same time. that we have increased the capacity of the marine elica more than any other country in the world. But it is true that there are decisions that occasionally seem to go against the goal of zero emissions. In the two specific cases that you mention, there have been mitigating actions, such as the open investigation of the new coal mine to find out its “compatibility” with the climate objectives, as well as the new oil and gas exploitations. Still, there are parts of our climate strategy that aren’t covered yet, like efficiency cures in buildings or changing heaters. These are gaps that the Government has promised to fill this year.
- There is fear that Brexit will translate into a lowering of environmental standards and new points of litigation with the EU. To what extent is this risk?
- The EU has certainly helped us to raise the bar on issues such as water quality or the protection of habitats. But some EU policies have had a negative environmental impact, such as incentives for farmers to dedicate the maximum of their land to intensive production. Farmers have to be good stewards of the environment, and in this sense a new system is going to be created that precisely rewards farmers for storing carbon, protecting wildlife or improving air quality. Faced with an issue like climate change, the UK and the EU should be aligned on a global stage. That is why it is vital to continue working together to make the Glasgow summit a success, despite the lack of agreement on specific points of the implementation of Brexit.
- In Spain these days “Green Philosophy” (Homo Legens) by Roger Scruton is published, considered the “bible” of conservative ecology. To what extent did Scruton’s ideas influence the creation of CEN?
- Sir Roger was undoubtedly one of the greatest influences on green conservatism, particularly for his idea of ”oikofilia”, or instinctive love of our home, which is at the root of local action to protect the environment. Edmund Burke is considered the grandfather of modern conservatism, and Sir Roger updated some of his great contributions, such as the need for an intergenerational contract, between the living, the dead, and the unborn, to protect nature in “small ways. sections “and where we live. That is for me the quintessence of the conservative cause, which has been precisely focused on preserving the environment with community actions at the local level. Sir Roger also came from the traditionalist wing of the party and demonstrated that the environment is not an exclusive concern of the liberal wing, but can at heart be a unifying cause for all conservatives.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism