28th September 2023
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you as chair of and on behalf of Just Transition Wakefield. We feel compelled to write to you about the shifts you have made in government policy on net zero and nature.
As our name suggests, we focus on ensuring the transition to a zero carbon economy is socially just, for the existing workforce, but also for the socially and economically marginalised. This, so that no-one is left out or disadvantaged by this critical economic transition. We believe that decisions you have made recently undermine social justice and will exacerbate global heating and consequent extreme weather events.
Our members (both individuals and community organisations) have been alarmed by extreme weather events both last year and this year, but also by the knock-on effects of these weather events. This alarm is clearly shared by Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency who has said this week that wealthy western nations, including the UK, must accelerate their decarbonisation plans and bring target dates forward from 2050. We fully support that call but your policies are pushing targets back. He also gave a qualified positive recognising progress globally on EV and renewables roll out, but your policy changes have undermined progress in these areas too. We note data this week showing that the UK is already falling behind European neighbours in the rate of EV take-up, before you further delayed the switch.
Whilst we take the time to understand what is happening to our climate and the impact that such changes are having, it appears that you continue to put short term political expediency above our collective need for rapid cuts in emissions to keep the world within Paris targets of 1.5°C.
We are frightened that the combination of drought, extreme heat, fire and flood in Spain, Italy and Greece has caused harvest failings for two consecutive years, harvests that we rely on. We are extremely worried by the forest fires across many parts of the world, we are shocked by the accelerating ice melt at the poles, in glaciers and tundra, and we are extremely worried by the persistent global ocean temperature anomalies.
With so many visible and growing signs of global heating and its impacts, you will not be surprised that our members express climate anxiety at every monthly meeting and in our social media chats. You will also not be surprised that our members have been shocked and appalled by the succession of announcements from Downing Street this summer.
The approval of new North Sea Oil and this week’s licencing of the Rosebank field has caused anger. The rolling back of energy and transport policies has caused shock and dismay, as our efforts to educate and encourage people to retrofit their homes and install heat pumps has been undermined, as has our work on sustainable transport. When we see members of your own party coming out in public and condemning your policy actions; when we hear the CEO and past chair of your own Climate Change Committee condemning your policy actions; when we hear global voices condemning your policy actions, we know we are not alone. We take strength from that, but we also see that you are not listening to reason.
On top of these climate change policy reversals, we note that you blocked nutrient neutrality rules for new developments, and we have yesterday read that you have delayed the Biodiversity Net Gain policy for new developments. It was not the best nature recovery policy, but it was better than the policy vacuum you have just created. Local Authorities are geared up for this policy that no longer exists. We worry that you simply do not understand the risks of biodiversity collapse both globally and locally. Perhaps your lifestyle is so disconnected from nature that you think you can survive without functioning ecosystems, but we know that is not possible.
We are wiser and better educated in the ways of the real world outside of your political-economic bubble. We are connected to the lives of real people who cannot afford to run any sort of car, never mind a new EV, but find their buses have been cancelled. We are connected to the lives of real people who cannot buy healthy food, who struggle financially, emotionally and socially. So we know that your move to let landlords off the hook with energy efficiency standards has just condemned the most marginalised to continuing energy poverty. You may have received applause from landlord MPs, but the rest of society can see that you have made policy choices that make the lives of ordinary people harder in both the short term and the long term.
You have made decisions that will accelerate the breakdown of climate and nature and will delay meaningful mitigation and adaptation. You have therefore increased future deaths from intensifying heatwaves and you have increased the flood risk on people’s homes.
Finally, by making these policy reversals, you have undermined future green growth, future green employment and future prosperity. All of these damages are your personal choice and your personal responsibility.
If we sound angry, it is because we are.
We can all see that you have made policy decisions that you apparently believe will increase your electoral chances, but this gamble is at the expense of the majority population. Thus it is incumbent on you now to call a general election this autumn, so the people can decide whether they want to join you and gamble away their children’s futures, or be part of a more optimistic drive to tackle the climate emergency for everyone’s benefit.
On behalf of our members, we urge you to go to the country so we can all have a chance to vote for a better, zero-carbon, future.
Just Transition Wakefield