Green Liberalism, Green Social Democracy and Green Conservatism each set out proposals for government to improve environmental and resource policy.
They conclude that short-term thinking by the Treasury is damaging UK environment policy; infrastructure legislation must include better public consultation if major infrastructure projects are to progress successfully; and the UK can maintain an open economy, tackle environmental impacts and be more resilient if it addresses resource productivity.
Duncan Hames MP – “Treasury orthodoxy has long been a barrier to holistic policy making, regardless of which parties are in government”
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank, focused on ambitious leadership for the environment.
The latest pamphlet, Green Liberalism, published today (6 October), argues for changes to the way the government’s most powerful department operates, to enable “proper consideration of long-term economic risks to the UK economy”.
The publication highlights that short-term analyses and overly generous discount rates characteristic of current Treasury practice, are failing to take account of the impacts of climate change and other long-term threats to economic security.
Three possible ways to reform the Treasury are considered:
- breaking up Treasury: creating a finance ministry to ensure the health of public finances, and extending the power of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to control longer term economic strategy
- changing the Treasury: giving the Treasury a clear objective in its business plan to ensure a low carbon economy, championed by a junior minister and adopting a longer-term budget horizon; reviewing the way it accounts for the costs and benefits of environmental policies; and becoming more transparent about its analysis of environmental issues
- making the Treasury more accountable: setting up a new office for environmental responsibility to review the suitability of current policies for environmental impacts, with the chancellor expected to report against the Treasury’s environmental objectives.
“The Treasury has a crucial role to play in the UK’s transition to a sustainable, low carbon and resource efficient economy, but at present its role is almost entirely negative. This welcome pamphlet sets out the options for reforming the Treasury which should be debated as a matter of urgency,” sais Duncan Brack, former special adviser to Chris Huhne and vice chair of the Liberal Democrat’s Federal Policy Committee.
“Treasury orthodoxy has long been a barrier to holistic policy making, regardless of which parties are in government. It’s time that narrow approach is challenged, to allow a wider assessment of long term costs or benefits and help build a more sustainable future,” said Duncan Hames MP.
Green Social Democracy
The Green Social Democracy pamphlet concluded that infrastructure legislation must include better public consultation if major infrastructure projects are to progress successfully.
The pamphlet argues that the renewal of transport and energy systems in the UK can’t be delivered if the government continues to follow the traditional route of low level engagement with the public and proposes amendments to Sir John Armitt’s proposed legislation on infrastructure.
Alastair Harper, Green Alliance– “With all parties committed to providing more power at a local level, we have a real opportunity to ensure our low carbon infrastructure is decided and delivered in a more exciting way for the country”
It proposes two new levels of intervention to include a public voice the planning process:
- a stakeholder council: providing broad civil society input into the national infrastructure assessment and subsequent reviews, as well as overseeing the localised public dialogues;
- city and county infrastructure dialogues: providing cross-sectoral input to infrastructure planning, via dialogues that include local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, civil society and local communities.
“With all parties committed to providing more power at a local level, we have a real opportunity to ensure our low carbon infrastructure is decided and delivered in a more exciting way for the country,” said Alastair Harper, head of politics at Green Alliance.
“Britain’s infrastructure needs to change significantly over the next decade to become both smarter and greener. This cannot be something which is ‘done to’ people, it must be done by and with the people of this country, in everyone’s interest. This paper seeks to set out the way in which the public mandate for low carbon infrastructure can be strengthened so we can build out the infrastructure we need,” said Chi Onwurah MP.
The Green Conservatism pamphlet argues that the UK can maintain an open economy, tackle environmental impacts and be more resilient if it addresses resource productivity.
It can also do its bit to reduce the carbon emissions and other impacts caused by resource extraction.
Dan Byles MP – “This pamphlet clearly highlights the importance of strengthening our understanding and management of our natural resource use and dependency”
Britain is a trading nation open to global markets and has grown its economy using natural resources from around the world. This means the country is now more exposed than other economies to fluctuations in global prices, the publication states.
It sets out four key commitments the government should make to address the long-term neglect of resources by politics.
- a new Commission on resource responsibility to actively monitor resource risks, identify where the UK is vulnerable and outline options available to address the risks
- improve regulation such as the WEEE directive, ensuring reuse is promoted over recycling
- ensure incentive for remanufacturing are created through public procurement
- support entrepreneurs to create new technologies and start-ups that the UK and the rest of the world needs to cope with resource volatility.
“With the cost of resources sky rocketing in recent years, and no sign that trends will or can be reversed, there is no responsible alternative to becoming more efficient with the resources we use. This will be a defining challenge, and those companies and nations that fail to meet it will be left at a huge disadvantage,” said Zac Goldsmith MP.
“This pamphlet clearly highlights the importance of strengthening our understanding and management of our natural resource use and dependency. It is not only the right thing to do for the environment but for business and national security too,” said Dan Byles MP.