Friday, November 05, 2010

Will Cameron live up to this statement??

David Cameron Strategy Challenge (Jonathon Porritt)

“Our action to cut the deficit might be making the headlines today. But if we get it right, our action to cut carbon emissions and move to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy could become one of the defining stories of the new politics of the Coalition. This Government will back strong rhetoric with decisive action”.(David Cameron)

Great quote. And good to see a contrast made between the kind of leadership required to deal with the deficit and the kind of leadership required to address climate change.
Six months on from the General Election in May, not a single citizen in the UK will have any residual doubt about the deficit priority. But apart from the usual suspects that make up the Green Movement today, that quality of leadership on the environment and climate change has been largely invisible to everyone else.

Sometime soon, the Prime Minister is therefore going to have to get his vision of “the greenest government ever” out and about. However beautifully crafted by his speech writers, one or two ‘keynote green speeches’ just won’t cut it. Warm words sort of help people feel better about things, but, in reality, they are next to useless when it comes to making things happen.

Happily, David Cameron has a perfect opportunity to hand to get this sorted before the first anniversary of the General Election next year – via the simple process of developing a brand new Sustainable Development Strategy for the UK.

The current (but time-expired) strategy played a hugely important role in getting Sustainable Development out of the clutches of DEFRA and properly embedded across the whole of government – and indeed across the whole of the UK. It helped make a lot of things happen, and the Sustainable Development Commission was able to use it to make considerable progress in a host of areas. It was widely admired by other countries struggling to make sense of their own sustainable development challenges.

So all the Prime Minister has to do is to take the same approach as he did with CO2 emissions through the organisation 10:10 – committing to a 10% reduction in emissions from the central government estate by May next year, and then instructing his Cabinet Ministers (and Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell) that there was to be no further discussion about this – something that Tony Blair (let alone Gordon Brown) never did in quite such robust terms.

So all he has to do is to instruct Caroline Spelman to get on and do what she already should have done in committing to a new Sustainable Development Strategy, given that the existing five year strategy came to an end in July. Instruct Chris Huhne, Vince Cable, Michael Gove, Philip Hammond and Andrew Lansley to help get it sorted out as expeditiously and as positively as possible. And instruct George Osborne not to let the Treasury bugger it up.

With that kind of prime ministerial push behind them, “delivering a new Sustainable Development Strategy” seems a suitably modest additional test for Spelman and Huhne. After all, these were the two that were stupid enough to make a knee-jerk decision to get rid of the Sustainable Development Commission, before they had any clue at all about what they were really doing, and have rather pathetically been trying to put things right since then. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the evidence that the Sustainable Development Commission has just presented to the Environmental Audit Committe’s Inquiry into what should happen to SD in Government, once the SDC disappears next April.

Far more eloquently and reasonably than I could possibly manage (still being more than a bit pissed off about what happened earlier in the year), it lays out exactly what it is that the SDC does, exactly how it gets it done, and exactly what the outcomes have been. No false claims, no whingeing – just a comprehensive, very professional account of what happens today and what the Government will now need to get done by other means.

So do have a look at it:

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