Friday 3 February 2012

Farewell Huhne...

Natan Doron is a Senior Researcher at the Fabian Society

In Winter 2012 I had the pleasure of sitting opposite Chris Huhne at a Fabian Society Environmental Policy Network dinner. He quoted Trotsky and poked fun at the Big State Fabians. In the main though he spoke as someone who was on top of his brief, understood the scale of the challenge and most importantly, had the gravitas to stand up to George Osborne in cabinet. However you look at it today is a bad day for the battle to avoid the worst effects of dangerous climate change.

Because in 50 years, no one (except perhaps Paul Staines, Harry Cole & hardened Lib-Demologists) will care about Chris Huhne’s driving offences. They will however, care about what the UK did to show radical, innovative and effective leadership on the challenge of shifting our energy portfolio to a more sustainable place. This does not mean Huhne should be excused, but rather that the political debate needs to focus now on getting the right person for one of the (if not the) most important brief in Government.

A wealth of research from the Fabian Society’s Environment & Citizenship programme shows that in an age of creeping scepticism and uncertainty on climate, the public need and expects a Government that shows strong leadership on climate change. This was something that, despite his faults, Chris Huhne understood. That’s why Huhne was right to push for increased ambition in Durban when everyone had written off the chances of any deal at all being made.

As the Fabian research makes clear, the public see the Government as a legitimate voice on issues of climate and they want a framework of policy initiatives that ensures everyone is involved in efforts to reduce the climate impacts of behaviour. This Government needs to understand the importance of rules and regulations in sustaining co-operation: ‘nudging’ in itself is not enough.

The coalition is increasingly making a mockery of its self-awarded greenest government ever title. This only maximises the level of expectation on the incoming secretary of state. Ed Davey has a hell of a job on his hands to fill the boots of Huhne and to make sure we don’t fail future generations by sacrificing the stability of our climate at the altar of Osbornomics.

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