Climate Obstructionism Runs Deep in the UK — Watch Out for It at the Election

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Original article by Freddie Daley and Peter Newell republished from DeSmog.

Credit: Lindsay Grime.

Regardless of who wins next month, fossil fuel interests have multiple levers for influencing policy.

The UK is heading to the polls on July 4. Although it doesn’t get enough attention, the two major parties — the Conservatives and Labour — have chosen climate change and, in particular, fossil fuel production in the North Sea as a clear political dividing line for the electorate. 

As polling day draws closer, and election fervour takes hold, we will see the forces of British climate obstruction in full effect. Influential individuals, organisations and media outlets that seek to block, dilute, delay, or even reverse climate policies will attempt to widen that political dividing line with a mixture of claims to be defending individual freedoms, putting growth first, being ‘climate realists’, or by displacing concerns about the UK’s responsibility to act on climate change through ‘whataboutism’.

The Conservative government, under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has pushed ahead with issuing hundreds of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea. The government was due to further reform the licensing regime so permits are handed out on an annual basis, all under the auspices of ‘energy security’, but the election has halted the bill’s progress through Parliament. Future licences are expected to yield just three weeks’ worth of gas per year

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, however, announced that it will end new licensing for oil and gas in the North Sea, with the very large caveat of honouring those already approved. But even this announcement ignited fierce resistance from the media, trade unions, Labour’s political opponents and some figures it deemed allies. The plan was labelled as “Thatcher on steroids”“naive”, and risked “creating a cliff-edge” for industry and investment in and around the North Sea. In response to the vitriol, Starmer conceded that fossil fuels will continue to be used in the UK “for many, many years”.  

This episode provides a useful insight into how climate obstructionism operates in the UK. In a new publication for the Climate Social Science Network (CSSN) based at Brown University, alongside Dr Ruth McKie and Dr James Painter, we identified three major channels through which obstructionism operates in Britain and the network of organisations that sustain it. 

Financial Power

The first is the material. This speaks to the financial and structural power of the fossil fuel industry that allows it to use threats of capital flight and job losses to curry favourable policy conditions and fend off tax hikes that would dent profitability. It also speaks to party donations, where fossil fuel firms, or those that benefit from their expansion, provide funds to individual politicians or the wider party for access and a say over policy. 

Since 2019, the Conservatives have received £8.4 million in donations from big polluters and those with direct links to fossil fuel production. The current Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary, Claire Coutinho, accepted a £2,000 donation in January 2024 from Lord Michael Hintze, a funder of the UK’s leading climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Labour too have taken money from big polluters, most notably Drax, whose North Yorkshire power plant is the UK’s single largest source of emissions.

Alongside the material sits the institutional. The policy making process in the UK provides a multitude of opportunities for actors to shape policy, all within the bounds of proper procedure and due process. All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), informal groups of politicians organised around key themes or policy issues, have provided an effective fora for obstructionist actors to garner access and shape policy. The rules governing APPGs often inhibit public scrutiny. Trade associations, and the companies they represent, can be omitted from official parliamentary transparency logs as only benefits in kind above £1,500 a year must be declared — a threshold many industry bodies claim not to meet. 

Revolving doors between industry and government are another institutional means through which fossil fuel interests can determine policy. An investigation by The Ferret found that since 2011, 127 former oil and gas employees have gone into top government roles and been appointed to ministerial advisory boards. At least a dozen of these individuals were given roles in the North Sea Transition Authority, the organisation tasked with governing oil and gas production, as well as within departments responsible for writing energy and climate policy. Shutting this revolving door, or even just slowing it down through ‘cool-off’ periods, would go some way in curtailing obstructionism. 

Climate Delay

The final, and perhaps most pronounced, thread of climate obstructionism in the UK is discursive, primarily promoted through the media. The right-leaning media in the UK, such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, have persistently opposed climate policy and action. This opposition used to be grounded in outright denial, where the integrity of climate science was disputed and denigrated. Now, though, a more pernicious form of discursive obstructionism is prevalent; that of climate delay. 

Countless op-eds and articles have been published that acknowledge climate change but dispute the necessity of addressing it, the cost of implementing climate policy (both economically and in terms of national security), and the efficacy of green technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps. These interventions, which are sometimes made by individuals with direct links to sceptic organisations or else use their framing, often push blatant untruths to the public, such as renewable energy pushing up household energy bills or solar panels  jeopardising British farming. The media continues to both demonise climate activists and undermine public support for key climate policies. 

In this election, watch out for climate obstructionism. While institutional channels may be curtailed due to purdah, others will pick up the slack. With all parties now firmly on an election footing, donations will become a crucial resource for knocking doors and getting out the vote in marginal seats. The sources of these donations, and the interests behind them, will bear the thumbprint of the fossil fuel industry. The media will increase its scrutiny of manifesto pledges and publish a litany of analyses. It is highly likely that Labour’s climate policy will be painted as a threat to national security, an insurmountable cost to the public purse, and reflecting the demands of both Vladimir Putin and Just Stop Oil simultaneously. The foundation of this framing has already been set. 

What is less clear, though, is what comes after July 4. With a change of government comes a reconfiguration of interests and, for the winners, concessions will be made to those actors and constituencies that helped get them past the post. For the losing party, most likely to be the Conservatives, there may be an ideological reorientation that ends the cross-party consensus on tackling climate breakdown, making them the party of climate obstructionism that challenges the necessity of net zero and fights for more oil and gas. 

This election might be the one that ends 14 years of Conservative rule, but it’s not likely to be the one to end climate obstructionism in the UK.  

Freddie Daley is a Research Associate at the Centre for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex.

Peter Newell is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex.

They are the authors of a chapter in Climate Obstructionism across Europe, a new collection of essays analysing the organisations, politicians, think tanks and media outlets seeking to delay, derail and denigrate climate policy, produced by the Climate Social Science Network.

Original article by Freddie Daley and Peter Newell republished from DeSmog.

dizzy: I don’t agree that there is “cross-party consensus on tackling climate breakdown.” I suggest that instead the Conservative and Labour parties are indistinguishable in their support of plutocracy, sucking up to the rich and powerful. The Conservatives under Sunak have made no pretence of their intention to forge ahead with exploiting North Sea fossil fuels all they can and Labour do not intend to stop the Rosebank North Sea oil and gas field. Starmer has abandoned so many pledges that he should be recognised as as much a liar as Tony Blair or Boris Johnson.

The title of “… the party of climate obstructionism that challenges the necessity of net zero and fights for more oil and gas. ” is currently shared by the Conservatives and climate denier Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.

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Priti Patel slammed over ‘law and order’ campaign video next to photo of Boris Johnson

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https://leftfootforward.org/2024/06/priti-patel-slammed-over-law-and-order-campaign-video-next-to-photo-of-boris-johnson/

‘Hmm, but that bloke in the picture behind you broke the law, didn’t he?’

Priti Patel has been ridiculed after posting a general election campaign video on social media in which she talks of law and order, whilst standing next to a framed photo of Boris Johnson who was fined for breaking lockdown rules. 

The former Home Secretary was attempting to appeal to voters in the constituency of Witham in a video posted on her X account, in which she declared she is a “passionate believer of law and order”. 

In the video Patel said: “I have also been responsible for changing our laws to ensure that those who do the most terrible things, the most heinous crimes, serve longer prison sentences and I’m unapologetic about that because I believe in law and order and making the right punishment and deterrent to fit the crime.”

Hanging on the wall next to Patel, along with a Vote Conservative banner and a Union Jack flag, is a framed photograph of Boris Johnson. Patel was a key ally to Johnson and was rewarded in Johnson’s honours list. 

Not only was the former Prime Minister fined in 2022 for breaching lockdown rules but he was also found to have deliberately misled Parliament over Partygate and was part of a campaign to abuse and intimidate MPs investigating them, an official inquiry found. 

https://leftfootforward.org/2024/06/priti-patel-slammed-over-law-and-order-campaign-video-next-to-photo-of-boris-johnson/

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Patient safety at risk as Tories’ ‘40 hospitals’ project mired in delays

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/patient-safety-risk-tories-40-hospitals-project-mired-delays-campaigners-slam-pledge-scam

Campaigners slam pledge as a ‘scam’ while Trust leaders say costs have spiralled by 25 per cent

THE Tories’ faltering pledge to build more hospitals is a “scam” designed to make it look as if the government is committed to investing in health services, campaigners charged today.

The government promised 40 new hospitals in England by 2030 under Boris Johnson’s leadership in 2019.

The scheme sparked criticism after it transpired that not all of them would be new but included refurbishments and extensions.

Five years later, NHS trust leaders are voicing their frustration as the New Hospital Programme (NHP) continues to be mired in delays.

They say that patients are increasingly at risk in crumbling buildings, with out-of-date equipment that is hampering care.

Some trusts are being forced to cough up £1 million a month from already stretched budgets, to cover on-hold building projects and the bill for having to patch up dilapidated sites, says NHS Providers, a membership organisation for NHS trusts.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/patient-safety-risk-tories-40-hospitals-project-mired-delays-campaigners-slam-pledge-scam

Continue ReadingPatient safety at risk as Tories’ ‘40 hospitals’ project mired in delays
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Boris Johnson turned away from polling station after forgetting to bring photo ID

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Image of Elmo and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson
Image of Elmo (left) and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson (right)

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/article/2024/may/02/minister-sorry-as-veterans-find-id-card-not-valid-for-english-elections

Former PM made the requirement to bring photo ID a stipulation of the Elections Act in 2022

Boris Johnson was turned away from his local polling station when trying to cast his vote in Thursday’s elections after forgetting to bring the required photo identity.

The former prime minister was initially told by polling station staff he would not be allowed to vote in the police and crime commissioner election in South Oxfordshire without proving his identity.

The misstep was embarrassing for Johnson because the requirement to bring photo ID is a stipulation of the Elections Act he introduced in 2022 while in Downing Street.

The Electoral Commission has warned that hundreds of thousands of people could be excluded from voting because of the law, which it said could have a disproportionate effect on some groups.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/article/2024/may/02/minister-sorry-as-veterans-find-id-card-not-valid-for-english-elections

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‘Where are those 40 hospitals?’: Tory Health Secretary in car crash interview over failed election pledge

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https://leftfootforward.org/2024/04/where-are-those-40-hospitals-tory-health-secretary-in-car-crash-interview-over-failed-tory-election-pledge/. Many articles from LeftFootForward featured today.

Tory Health Secretary Victoria Atkins endured a car crash interview on LBC earlier today, after being grilled on yet another failed Tory pledge.

In the run-up to the last general election, the Tories had promised to build 40 new hospitals in their 2019 manifesto under Boris Johnson, yet no one in the government seems to know how much progress has been made towards the target.

On LBC earlier today, presenter Nick Ferrari asked Atkins: “I know it was a number of years ago and I know it was under a previous leadership, but where are those 40 hospitals?”

Atkins replied: “Well we are making progress and we will be opening, I think, four of these hospitals this year and there will be many other sites around the country.

“I’ve been to visit one or two of them that are not completed but very much rising out of the ground. Alongside that we have the programme of works to upgrade existing hospitals.”

Ferrari hit back: “Of the 40, how many will be built by the time we come to a general election?”

A clearly frustrated Atkins replied: “We’re opening four more this year, so depending on when the election is … we will have around four this year, we’ve already opened a few more.”

https://leftfootforward.org/2024/04/where-are-those-40-hospitals-tory-health-secretary-in-car-crash-interview-over-failed-tory-election-pledge/. Many articles from LeftFootForward featured today.

Continue Reading‘Where are those 40 hospitals?’: Tory Health Secretary in car crash interview over failed election pledge
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