Right wing politicians claim Conservatives have always been environmental crusaders – and they still are
By Sophie Yeo
Political conservatism and environmentalism are often portrayed as two opposing camps.
While green politics is usually seen as the preserve of the left, right wing politics has become associated with scepticism on the causes and possible solutions to climate change.
The cause wasn’t helped when the UK’s Tory prime minister David Cameron was accused of saying he wanted to roll back the “green crap”, while obdurate Republicans are a constant foil to President Obama’s attempts to tackle climate change.
But a report published today by the London-based Conservative Environment Network attempts to reverse this perception.
A selection of right wing thinkers in politics and business highlights how some of the central tenets of Conservatism – decentralised government, free markets and competition – sit comfortably alongside action to preserve and protect the environment.
“From Burke to Mrs Thatcher, Conservative thinkers have aligned themselves with the prerogative to conserve the bases of human society for future generations,” said Ben Goldsmith, founder of the multi-million pound sustainability investment group, WHEB.
Here are some extracts from the essays by five key right wing voices on how their political convictions have aligned to environmental action.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California. Former Terminator.
Early in my political career, I recognized that real action can and does take place at the state and local level. And California in particular has proved to be a showcase of what is possible on a regional level – particularly on energy efficiency, where the State leads the rest of the US by 40%.
I was fortunate as Governor to continue this tradition by implementing several groundbreaking efforts. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 was created to not only put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions but to promote renewable energy development, alternative transportation fuels, and even carbon trading. All of these directly served to boost the economy and create thousands of new jobs.
Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York
Government doesn’t have all the answers. Especially in thriving commercial hubs like New York, public-private partnerships have enormous potential to help cities become more sustainable and resilient.
For example, New York City teamed with private partners to provide low-interest loans to building owners for energy-saving retrofits – a win-win arrangement that has enabled thousands of building owners to cover costs they otherwise couldn’t and then begin saving money on energy.
Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for Education
We don’t just want children to learn about nature but to venture outdoors and see it for themselves. There will be opportunities at all ages for learning outside the classroom. Throughout the curriculum, teachers are encouraged to make use of their school’s local environment.
Children will have the opportunity to observe plants and animals in their natural habitats from the very first year of school. They will be able to watch flowers and vegetables they themselves have planted grow; examine how habitats change through the year; and analyse life-cycle changes in the natural world around their school.
Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for the Environment
The forestry sector demonstrates the marriage between environment and economy. Britain now has three times as much woodland as it did a century ago. Woodland cover in England reached a nadir of 5 per cent at the end of the First World War. Today, it stands at just over 10 per cent – similar to the level in Chaucer’s time.
Government and the forestry sector working together could achieve 12 per cent woodland cover by 2060 – an increase equivalent to a county the size of Derbyshire. This growth will continue to be driven by industry initiatives such as Grown in Britain, which works to increase demand for British wood products and in turn provides an economic driver for well managed woodland.
James Wolfensohn, former World Bank chief
Social Impact Bonds…introduce a pay-for-success methodology to the delivery of social services, attracting private investment to the delivery of social interventions. As these are primarily preventative – for instance in reduction of re-offending rates among ex-prisoners – the savings from such prevention can be used to fund returns for investors.
This principle of borrowing from the future to spend on preventative solutions should be extended from these social outcomes to smarter infrastructure. Introducing a ‘pay-for-success’ relationship to infrastructure investment would encourage governments to take into account cost-savings not just as modeled, but on a performance basis.