It’s been a bad week for Ed Milliband’s renewables aspirations. The RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage have come out all nimby against the planned Shetland wind farm. And the Vestas jobs protest in the Isle of Wight is being joined by disappointed festival goers from the canceled Big Green Gathering.
BP is again defending their ‘beyond petroleum’ branding in the press. The not so enlightened BP CEO Tony Hayward shows no willingness to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps. In the Guardian last week he has said that he thinks demand for oil will not diminish for decades and that “More than 60-% of the world’s energy needs in 2050 will still come from fossil fuels.” That rather suggests that he either does not believe in climate change and peak oil or is badly uniformed. I’m disappointed in BP but not surprised by Hayward’s words.
But I am more disappointed and underwhelmed by Mr Milliband. He and his Government have only themselves to blame for the backlash against things like wind farms. That’s because they have relied almost entirely on a technofix growth obsessed build-out solution to climate change rather than thinking more imaginatively. Its no wonder the public aren’t bought-in to the need for wind farms. Precious few of them have really been engaged by the terrifying consequences of not shifting to zero-carbon. The Government’s efforts on this front have been appallingly weak. The Government have recognised the concept of ‘we’re all in this together’ but failed badly to make sure the public feel urgency and agency on climate change.
And if you have tried to install energy efficiency or renewables to your own home you will have found out how little support and encouragement the Government or our energy companies provide. Charles Clover makes this point well here.
So what’s needed? Well for a start Milliband et al need to dump the technofix growth obsession. At this years Transition Towns conference Milliband said “In a way I’m less optimistic than you are… you’re optimistic that you can persuade people to adopt a sort of “no growth” model of society – I’m pretty convinced that you couldn’t persuade people of that… Even if you were right about your model of society, I just don’t believe that you’re going to convince people of that”. Well that’s pretty pathetic. Almost as bad as his lack of ambition over aviation .
Government also need to get far more punchy at changing the rule of the game in the market so that companies like BP are forced/encouraged/supported to change their ways. Progressive companies now recognise that without these market shifts driven by Government we don’t have a hope in hell of meeting our now-mandated emissions targets.
They also need to sort our dreadful media sector out with some clarification of the public service broadcast responsibilities for the TV world and by bringing the written press under the same sorts of responsibilities. We can have freedom of speech and editorial independence but this needs to be within some agreed framework of responsibility. We will never get the public onside until the manufactured consent of our media is shifted towards progress.