Author Archives: angelo@percorso.net

A climate insurgency: building a Trump-free, fossil-free future

As the thousands of foot-weary protesters leave the April 29 Peoples Climate March in Washington, DC – and its scores of sister marches around the country – one question will no doubt be foremost on their minds:

How can a march, or indeed any other action they take, force a reversal in the world’s hurtle to climate doom?

After all, a single march, no matter how large, is not going to force President Trump and his administration of fossil-fuel company executives and climate-change deniers to reverse course.

They have already cancelled the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, authorized drilling and mining on public lands, and gutted regulations that protect local people and environments against the extraction of fossil fuels.

He has cleared the way for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. His allies in Congress are whetting their knives to gut the Clean Air, Clean Water and Environmental Policy Acts. The fossil fuel industry is lining up for permits to build new infrastructure that will accelerate global warming and threaten local environments to boot.

Americans’ love of Trump is turning sour

The unintended consequence of these actions has been to isolate Trump and his allies from the American people. This is revealed in polls taken since Trump’s election. Half of Americans call climate change a ‘major threat’ to the nation’s well-being.

Three-quarters of voters said carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant and 70% support strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants – even if it raises the cost of electricity. Meanwhile, 81% said the United States should use more renewable energy, whereas only 3% said it should use less.

The public believes – by a factor of six to one – that the U.S. government is doing ‘too little’ rather than ‘too much’ to protect the environment. Moreover, 61% of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the environment, which is higher than his disapproval rating for all other issues, including health care and immigration.

This overwhelming rejection of Trump’s assault on the climate and general embrace of a shift toward climate protection opens the way to massive support for the global nonviolent constitutional insurgency which has been undermining the very legitimacy of those destroying the earth’s climate.

The immediate goal of the climate insurgency is the same as that enunciated by the nations of the world in the Paris climate agreement: to prevent more than 1.5 degrees Celsius additional warming.

No, Mr Trump – we do not consent to your war on our planet!

The fundamental strategy for the nonviolent constitutional insurgency is to withdraw the support of the people from climate destruction.

It uses nonviolent direct action – or civil disobedience – to express the popular refusal to acquiesce in the burning of fossil fuels and to force a transition to climate-safe energy. It defends such action as both the right and the duty of the people – and proclaims climate destruction to be illegal and unconstitutional.

It mobilizes both those who are willing to engage in activities the authorities claim to be illegal and the wider population who support these objectives. It seeks to create an irresistible momentum of escalating popular action for climate protection.

While many have been stricken with pain and foreboding by Trump’s climate agenda, such feelings haven’t paralyzed them from taking action. Even before Trump’s inauguration, EPA workers put their jobs at risk to expose Trump’s climate lies.

Shortly after Trump’s election, the Illinois legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Package, which will invest at least $500 million in new solar – especially community solar – and energy efficiency programs targeted at low-income communities, combined with job training for work in the solar industry.

Chicago also recently announced that it will transition all of its municipal buildings and operations to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2025. Meanwhile, 23 state and local governments vowed to fight Trump’s ‘Energy Independence’ executive order in court. A US district court judge ruled that there is a constitutional right to a stable climate.

Leading corporate executives urged the United States not to leave the Paris climate agreement; Maryland has just banned all fracking; and anti-pipeline campaigns are under way in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Saturday’s Peoples Climate March represents a culmination and celebration of this activity, as well as the launch of its next phase.

No overnight victory, but building a movement

Despite the emergence of the climate insurgency and the overwhelming public support for climate protection, Trump and his fossil fuel allies control virtually all the levers of governmental power.

The Peoples Climate March is unlikely to stop that, but it can be part of building the momentum for a movement that can defeat Trumpism and set us on the course for a transition to a fossil-free economy.

Here are three strategic elements – drawing from my new book ‘Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual‘ – that may be crucial in the aftermath of the march.

1. Build the Trump resistance around climate protection

The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented wave of civil resistance to Trump and Trumpism – what movements of resistance to tyranny elsewhere have called ‘social self-defense‘.

It includes millions of aroused individuals and community members, social movements, non-profit advocacy organizations, lawyers and judges, scientists and librarians, and much of the Democratic Party.

Many advocacy groups have climbed out of their issue silos to cooperate in the Trump resistance. And there is powerful synergism between those taking direct action in civil society and those challenging Trump and his allies within the political system.

The Trump resistance has so far blocked the Muslim and refugee ban, forestalled the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, stymied the building of Trump’s wall with Mexico, and successfully pushed back against much of the rest of the Trump agenda. In the process they have significantly undermined public and institutional support for both the Trump administration and its right-wing Republican allies.

The Trump resistance creates a new political context for the climate protection movement. It opens the opportunity for the climate movement to be a central part of the broad and powerful anti-Trump movement that can force a reversal of his climate agenda. Victory for this broader movement is essential for climate protection. Mass repudiation of Trump and Trumpism that breaks the power of the president and his allies are necessary conditions for effective climate protection.

Fortunately, the climate movement is already reaching out and supporting the other elements of the Trump resistance. For example, says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, “The Sierra Club stands in solidarity with Muslims, refugees, immigrants, people of color, women and all those threatened” by the Trump administration.

“Protecting our communities and our environment go hand-in-hand, and everyone who values a just and free America should continue to resist hateful actions” – like the Muslim ban.

An open letter from environmental and climate justice organizations declares, “We support workers who choose to walk off their jobs on May 1 because we know that the fight to protect land, water, air and soil is inseparable from the fight to protect the life and dignity of workers, migrants, and communities of color.”

Conversely, climate protection can provide a major unifying and empowering focus for social self-defense. Much of the Trump resistance is rightly focused on his attacks on particular groups: immigrants, Muslims, women, people of color and many others. But climate change is a universal threat that creates a universal common interest. As such, it can be a unifying thread among the many diverse elements of the Trump resistance.

Climate protection has wide support across almost all the constituencies that need to come together to break Trump’s power. For example, the policy platform of the Women’s March stated that “our environment and our climate must be protected” and that “our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed.”

The need to protect the climate is in direct contradiction to Trump’s “America First” rhetoric. There is no way that America can survive, let alone thrive, unless climate change is reduced, and there is no way that can happen without international cooperation and agreement.

Creating millions of jobs protecting the climate is also the most effective way to address the economic needs of American workers that Trump exploited to win the presidency. A program of jobs for climate and justice can be the centerpiece of an alternative economic program that can draw away support from Trump’s false promises.

2. Impose the transition to fossil freedom

Without pipelines, oil trains, power plants and other infrastructure, coal, oil and gas would remain harmlessly in the earth where they have lain for millions of years. All over the world, climate campaigns are focusing on halting all new fossil fuel infrastructure – a so-called ‘fossil freeze‘.

Meanwhile, state and local policy is increasingly rejecting new fossil fuel infrastructure based on the greater economy of grid modernization, distributed energy, energy efficiency and the falling cost of renewables. These two pincers can converge to slow and eventually defeat new fossil fuel infrastructure throughout the country.

Of course, Trump is trying to expand fossil fuel infrastructure. But the Trump era will see massive resistance to his plans. One harbinger: In early April, an advance guard set up camp in Eagle Butte, South Dakota to lay the groundwork of resistance to Trump’s plan to revive the Keystone XL pipeline.

Climate protection requires not only a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure, but also a planned transition to a fossil free economy. That means not just changing energy sources, but changing every institution that utilizes energy. Ultimately, it means using forests, farms and other ‘sinks’ to begin withdrawing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.

This transition requires planning. The climate movement should insist that every institution – from schools, churches, states and municipalities to the federal government – develop and immediately start to implement a climate action plan that will eliminate fossil fuel burning by 2050 at the latest.

Portland, Oregon just announced a plan for transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Such plans must include protection for workers and communities whose livelihoods may be adversely affected by the transition to a fossil-free economy – not to mention strategies to use that transition to reverse the economic, racial, generational and gender inequality and injustice that the Trump administration seems to be advancing.

Local and state fossil freezes and climate action plans can lay the groundwork for – and prove the feasibility of – a national fossil freeze and climate action plan.

In the lead-up to the Peoples Climate March Sens. Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley plan to release a Clean Energy for All bill “to transition away from fossil fuel sources of energy to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050.” Trump can’t stop us from implementing the elements of such a plan at a state and local level.

3. Claim a stable climate as a constitutional right

Two days after the election of Donald Trump, Federal Judge Ann Aiken ruled in a case now dubbed Climate Kids v. Trump that “the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” A stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, “without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

In short, the right to a stable climate is protected by the US Constitution’s guarantee of the right to life and liberty.

Climate protection advocates do not need to wait for the legal process to play out in order to argue that the Aiken decision establishes that the people have a right, grounded in the US Constitution, to force the government to protect the climate. If the courts won’t enforce that right in time, it is up to the people to do so.

The climate movement can assert that it is not just advocating an environmental policy, but fighting for a basic human and constitutional right for all people. It thus makes defiance of Trump’s climate agenda not just opposition to bad policies, but the basis for a constitutional insurgency that defines climate-destroying policies and the activities that enforce them as criminal acts that the people have a right, indeed a duty, to resist.

And now, the People’s Climate March

While it is impossible to know what future course the Trump era will take, we do know that the future of the planet and its people depend on resisting and overcoming the president’s anti-climate agenda – and reversing it to eliminate fossil fuels.

If the global nonviolent climate insurgency succeeds, Trump and Trumpism will be remembered by historians as a failed attempt to prevent humanity from protecting itself against climate catastrophe.

And the People’s Climate March may well be recorded as a historic marker on the way to a fossil-free future.

 


 

Jeremy Brecher is a co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, historian and author of ‘Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival‘. See his website here.

Petition: Add your name to ‘support the Merkley-Sanders 100% Clean Energy Bill and to urge all Democratic Senators to do the same‘.

The book:Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival‘ is available as a free download.

This article was originally published here by Waging Nonviolence (CC-BY). This story was made possible by WNV members – become one today!

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


This article
was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Creative Commons License

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


This article
was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Creative Commons License

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


This article
was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Creative Commons License

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


This article
was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Creative Commons License

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


This article
was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Creative Commons License

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


This article
was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Creative Commons License

 

Conservatives’ hard right Brexit plans: UK’s great leap backwards to ‘dirty man of Europe’

As any dodgy dealer knows, the best way to sell something duff is to harry the unsuspecting buyer.

Theresa May in calling an election with less than seven weeks’ notice is bullying the voter into a panic decision: one that could jeopardise the health and happiness of future generations.

The spin from Number 10 is May wants to be even stronger in negotiating in Europe and the Tories want to take advantage of the division in the Labour party.

It seems just as likely that the prime minister wants to shore up her authority before it is undermined by the gaping chasm opening under her among her own warring tribe.

May was after all the compromise candidate: a Remain campaigner trusted to abandon her principles and drive home the Brexit agenda. She is hoping we fail to notice she is quickly becoming the compromised candidate.

The united front between the Dirty Brexit industrialists and the Clean Brexit conservatives cannot hold. So which Tory party is Britain being asked to vote for?

We can unpick them one by one as we please

The Conservatives simply cannot deliver the Brexit the right-wingers promised: the party is now slowing pulling apart under the weight of its internal contradictions. The most significant and serious of these contradictions, in terms of the long-term wealth and health of the country, concerns the environment.

May is proposing that 12,000 regulations are copied and pasted into the UK statute book through the Great Repeal Bill: but an estimated 1,000 will need to be changed in the process. There are more than 200 laws “covering water and air quality, waste management, nature protection, industrial pollution control, chemicals and GMOs, noise and forestry”.

“All EU laws will transfer into British law, May explained. “And then we can unpick them one by one as we please.”

Who would want to unpick environmental protections? The middle-ranking businessmen who funded the Leave campaign, who populate the neoliberal wing of the party, and who supported Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, are desperate to revive their profits.

The environmental splendour symbolic of ‘greatness’

And their claim that capitalist competition drives innovation simply does not hold any more. The return on investment must instead come from creating new markets at the margins, and reducing the costs of production: this means destroying decades of negotiated environmental regulations.

‘The Great Unpicking’. This is the real agenda for many of the bankrollers of Brexit.

A contradiction and split in the party arises because the business class needs the support of millions of workers to win an election. This includes well educated, highly paid workers. It includes those concerned about their own immediate natural environment. And those worried about the impact climate change will have on their children.

A significant number of the Conservative party want to, well, conserve much of this country’s environmental splendour. It forms part of their foundational myth as evidence of the greatness of Britain. It grounds their patriotism.

The environmentalists in the Tory party who have clustered around the Bright Blue think tank recently performed an extremely canny manoeuvre. They polled the membership, and found extraordinary levels of support for the current European Union regime of environmental regulation among its grassroots.

Rebecca Pow, the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, used the poll to hook her arguments into the news agenda. “I have found huge support among Conservatives from old to young for protecting our precious environment”, she told the press.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.”

The industrialists again set the agenda

The split between conservative Conservatives and desperate profit-seeking Tories was brilliantly personified by David Cameron and George Osborne not so long ago. Cameron wooed those threatening to defect to the Green party with, Vote Blue, Go Green. Osborne attacked the environmental Taliban to the delight of carbon intensive industry.

Osborne allowed the green rhetoric to continue, knowing that to investors actions speak louder than words. He began the process of cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind, abandoning Zero Carbon Homes, announcing plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank, and crapping the Green Deal. In addition we have seen scrapping of £1 billion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, reducing tax breaks for clean cars and allowing fracking under National Parks.”

May as the ‘strong’ leader of the Tories now has to hold together the two competing halves of the party. The signal at the beginning, was she would serve the industrialist, climate denying wing. This is why on taking office she abolished the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. But mostly, she has tried to ignore this issue.

Lord (Kate) Parminter, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, wrote in the Ecologist magazine: Since Brexit, the Conservative government has avoided questions about the future of environmental protection. For example, Government ministers were asked seven times if the government would retain EU air quality limits following Brexit. They still declined to make a commitment.”

It seems May remains beholden to a small, vocal, hardened and influential faction within the Conservative party which is determined to strip away environmental protections agreed in Europe. This faction seems to be getting the most air time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a wealthy descendant of Somerset’s coal barons, told a hearing of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that Britain can and should go “a very long way” towards destroying current environmental standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that. We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that. We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine.”

Plans to ditch ‘spirit crushing’ EU regulations?

Andrea Leadsom stood against May in the leadership contest for the climate-denying right wing. She is now Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the imposition of an estimated 25% of all EU environmental regulations.

Leadsom argued that a third of these environmental rules “won’t be easy to transpose” during a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee in October last year. She denied any “ulterior motive” before asserting: “There are roughly a quarter that cannot be brought immediately into law either because it requires technical attention or falls away, and that’s the bit we will be looking at to see what steps need to be taken.”

She said the Great Repeal Bill would bring comfort to environmental groups and businesses alike, with a smooth transition of EU into UK law, but then added that ” … over a period of time, we will be able to repeal, amend, and strengthen laws at leisure.”

George Eustice MP, the farming minister, has advocated an end to “spirit-crushing” environmental regulations. “The birds and habitats directives would go”, he said, referring to two key pieces of European environmental law. “A lot of the national directives they instructed us to put in place would stay. But the directives’ framework is so rigid that it is spirit-crushing.”

David Bannerman MEP reinforced the message by describing Brexit as “a huge opportunity” to end “over-regulation”, his comments not targeted specifically at the environment. Owen Paterson, one time environment secretary, welcomed the suggested scrapping of the Renewable Energy Directive, adding: “It’s distorting the whole energy market.”

The Express, the in-house magazine of the extreme right of the Tory party, could barely contain its excitement. “The Renewable Energy Directive is thought to be among of raft of EU policies set for the post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels diktats … [It] resulted in the Government spending billions on subsidies for wind and solar farms…”

And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the Climate Change Act!

The Telegraph, jockeying for position as the extreme right newsletter, wants to see the end of EU regulations as just a beginning for its war on bureaucracy;

“[T]here is a great deal of UK red tape that needs looking at, too. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a unilateral decision to commit Britain to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent within five decades. It proved that the British are capable of making mistakes all by themselves.”

The industrial core of the Conservative party is also well represented by think tanks and lobbyists. Key among them is Open Europe, which has used donations from rabidly right-wing think tanks to fund anti-EU research.

As the country is crushed under government austerity the PR team focused attention on the potential costs of EU laws, while downplaying any benefits. The most expensive regulation, The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, is priced at £4.7bn a year.

This is clearly designed to feed resentment, including among people relying on foodbanks to feed their children. Children who are currently protected by environmental regulation.

As the accumulation of billions in capital swirls into offshore tax havens, the electorate are being told it’s a choice between food or health. As a nation, we apparently cannot afford both.

May promised Red, White and Blue Brexit. The Conservative party promises Hard Brexit. The terrifying reality is we are headlining perilously close to a Dirty Brexit.

 


 

Brendan Montague is a regular columnist for openDemocracy in our ‘Brexit Inc: the environment and corporate power in the new Britain’ series.

Related Articles by Brendan Montague


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was first published by openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

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As government delays pollution plan, study shows how killer nanoparticles cause heart disease

Inhaled nanoparticles – like those released from vehicle exhausts, in particular from diesel vehicles – can work their way through the lungs and into the bloodstream, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The findings, published today in the journal ACS Nano based on research part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, build on previous studies that have found tiny particles in air pollution are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, although the cause remains unproven.

However, this research shows for the first time that inhaled nanoparticles can gain access to the blood in healthy individuals and people at risk of stroke. Most worryingly, these nanoparticles tend to build-up in diseased blood vessels where they could worsen coronary heart disease – the cause of a heart attack, state the authors:

“Translocation of inhaled nanoparticles into the systemic circulation and accumulation at sites of vascular inflammation provides a direct mechanism that can explain the link between environmental nanoparticles and cardiovascular disease”, they write.

Dr Mark Miller, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Edinburgh who led the study, said: “It is striking that particles in the air we breathe can get into our blood where they can be carried to different organs of the body.

“Only a very small proportion of inhaled particles will do this, however, if reactive particles like those in air pollution then reach susceptible areas of the body then even this small number of particles might have serious consequences.”

Meanwhile government delays publication of air pollution plan

The news of the link between air pollution and heart disease has been released just as the UK government has been  ordered back to the High Court in London tomorrow at 10.30 am to explain its refusal to publish its long-overdue Air Pollution Strategy. The coincidence can only be embarrassing to ministers.

Following legal action by non-profit environmental lawyers ClientEarth the court had ordered the government to publish the document by 4pm last Monday. But on Friday – after the court closed, and less than one working day before the judge-imposed deadline – government lawyers applied to defer publication citing “pre-election proprietary rules”.

Astonishingly, ministers claimed that it would be unfair on opposition parties to reveal their plans now, and that publication claiming must therefore be delayed until after the general election. The original plans had been dismissed by judges as so poor and ineffective as to be unlawful.

James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “We are preparing our response to the government’s application. This is a public health issue and not a political issue. Urgent action is required to protect people’s health from the illegal and poisonous air that we are forced to breathe in the UK.

“This is a matter for the court to decide once the government has made its arguments because it is the government which has not met, and instead seeks to extend the court’s deadline for the clean air plan, to clean up our air.”

Why the reluctance to publish?

The government is currently failing to comply with its own pollution laws, which give efecct to the EU’s Air Quality Directive. A total of 37 out of 43 regions of the UK are in breach of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide.

It has been suggested that the real reason for the refusal to publish its new plans is that they may bear heavily on the owners of the diesel cars that are responsible for much of the problem in highly polluted urban areas – for example by restricting the access of diesel cars to urban areas, or forcing the early scrappage of vehicles. This could cost the government votes.

Another fear could be the enormous cost or an early scrappage scheme to taxpayers. For example, to pay £1,000 per car to compensate diesel car owners to scrap 1 million cars would cost a cool £1 billion. A more ambitious scheme to scrap 5 million vehicles with a £2,000 payment would cost £10 billion.

Alternatively the plans may be so feeble as to be little more effective as the last ones – demonstrating the government’s lack of concern for the premature deaths of tens of thousands of people every year – again, costing votes in the general election.

Figures obtained by Labour last week showed that more than 38 million people, almost 60% of the UK population, lived in areas where nitrogen dioxide concentrations were above legal limits. Children are especially vulnerable because exposure to the pollutant restricts lung growth causing long-term health problems.

How pollution reaches the heart and blood vessels

Around the world, air pollution is responsible for millions of deaths from heart attack and stroke each year. But how particles inhaled into the lungs can affect blood vessels and the heart has remained a mystery.

It is not currently possible to measure environmental nanoparticles in the blood. So, researchers from the University of Edinburgh, and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, used a variety of specialist techniques to track the fate of harmless gold nanoparticles breathed in by volunteers.

They were able to show that these nanoparticles can migrate from the lungs and into the bloodstream within 24 hours after exposure and were still detectable in the blood three months later.

By looking at surgically removed plaques from people at high risk of stroke they were also able to find that the pollution nanoparticles accumulated in the fatty plaques that grow inside blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes.

Dr Nicholas Mills, Professor of Cardiology and a co-author of the work, said: “We have always suspected that nanoparticles in the air that we breathe could escape from the lungs and enter the body, but until now there was no proof. These findings are of wide importance for human health, and we must now focus our attention on reducing emissions and exposure to airborne nanoparticles.”

‘Government must put forward bold measures’

Cardiovascular disease – the main forms of which are coronary heart disease and stroke – accounts for 80% of all premature deaths from air pollution. The current findings add to a large body of evidence that inhaled particles can damage our heart and blood vessels in many different ways.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said: “There is no doubt that air pollution is a killer, and this study brings us a step closer to solving the mystery of how air pollution damages our cardiovascular health.

“More research is needed to pin down the mechanism and consolidate the evidence, but these results emphasise that we must do more to stop people dying needlessly from heart disease caused by air pollution. Crucially, individual avoidance of polluted areas is not a solution to the problem.

“Government must put forward bold measures to make all areas safe and protect the population from harm.”

But nanoparticle risks don’t stop with pollution!

The paper also makes it clear that ill-health from pollution is just one of the risks of environmental nanoparticles. “These findings have immediate relevance for the nanotechnology industry where a diverse range of engineered nanomaterials is being developed for an ever-increasing number of applications“, the authors write.

“The fate of engineered nanoparticles and effect on health following exposure are largely unknown, especially in relation to the cardiovascular system.

“These studies use gold nanoparticles; a commonly used nanoparticle and one that is being developed for clinical therapeutics. However, the biokinetics we observe here for gold, may also extend to other nanomaterials including those with greater surface reactivity.

“Different classes of nanomaterials vary greatly in their ability to cause inflammation and cytotoxicity, thus it follows that there will be marked differences in their impact on health in both occupational settings and in the wider community exposed to nanomaterials.

“While data is still relatively sparse, a number of studies suggest that pulmonary exposure to a range of different inhaled nanoparticles may promote cardiovascular disease. A better understanding of how nanomaterials cross physiological barriers, and their fate thereafter, will be vital to allow for a safe-by-design approach for new nanomaterials.”

 


 

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

The paper:Inhaled Nanoparticles Accumulate at Sites of Vascular Disease‘ by Mark R. Miller et al is published in ACS Nano DOI:10.1021/acsnano.6b08551.

Petition to UK government:Release your air pollution plan!

The authors acknowledge funding from the British Heart Foundation, the Colt Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructures and Environment and the U.K. Department of Health.

 

Worthless mining waste could suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and reverse emissions

The Paris Agreement commits nations to limiting global warming to less than 2C by the end of the century.

However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that, to meet such a massive challenge, societies will need to do more than simply reduce and limit carbon emissions.

It seems likely that large scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere may be called for: so-called ‘negative emissions‘.

One possibility is to use waste material from mining to trap CO2 into new minerals, locking it out of the atmosphere. The idea is to exploit and accelerate the same geological processes that have regulated Earth’s climate and surface environment over the 4.5 billion years of its existence.

Across the world, deep and open-pit mining operations have left behind huge piles of worthless rubble – the ‘overburden’ of rock or soil that once lay above the useful coal or metal ore.

Often, this rubble is stored in dumps alongside tiny fragments of mining waste – the ‘tailings’ or ‘fines’ left over after processing the ore. The fine-grained waste is particularly reactive, chemically, since more surface is exposed.

A lot of energy is spent on extracting and crushing all this waste. However, breaking rocks into smaller pieces exposes more fresh surfaces, which can react with CO2. In this sense, energy used in mining could itself be harvested and used to reduce atmospheric carbon.

Speeding up the ‘slow carbon cycle’

This is one of the four themes of a new £8.6m research programme launched by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, which will investigate new ways to reverse emissions and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The process we want to speed up is the ‘carbonate-silicate cycle’, also known as the slow carbon cycle. Natural silicate rocks like granite and basalt, common at Earth’s surface, play a key part in regulating carbon in the atmosphere and oceans by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into carbonate rocks like chalk and limestone.

Atmospheric CO2 and water can react with the silicate rocks to dissolve elements they contain like calcium and magnesium into the water, which also soaks up the CO2 as bicarbonate. This weak solution is the natural river water that flows to the oceans, which hold more than 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere.

It is here, in the oceans, that the calcium and bicarbonate can recombine, over millions of years, and crystallise as calcite or chalk, often instigated by marine organisms as they build their shells.

Today, rivers deliver hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon each year into the oceans, but this is still around 30 times less than the rate of carbon emission into the atmosphere due to fossil fuel burning.

But can we do it fast enough?

Given immense geological time scales, these processes would return atmospheric CO2 to its normal steady state. But we don’t have time: the blip in CO2 emissions from industrialisation easily unbalances nature’s best efforts.

The natural process takes millions of years – but can we do it in decades? Scientists looking at accelerated mine waste dissolution will attempt to answer a number of pressing questions.

The group at Cambridge which I lead will be investigating whether we can speed up the process of silicate minerals from pre-existing mine waste being dissolved into water. We may even be able to harness friendly microbes to enhance the reaction rates.

Another part of the same project, conducted by colleagues in Oxford, Southampton and Cardiff, will study how the calcium and magnesium released from the silicate mine waste can react back into minerals like calcite, to lock CO2 back into solid minerals into the geological future.

Whether this can be done effectively without requiring further fossil fuel energy, and at a scale that is viable and effective, remains to be seen. But accelerating the reaction rates in mining wastes should help us move at least some way towards reaching our climate targets.

 


 

Simon Redfern is Professor in Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The ConversationRead the original article.