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Positive politics for the 21st century

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The electorate is often highly sceptical of politicians and the Westminster, Holyrood, Pierhead and Belfast villages. But healthy scepticism has slipped into an unhealthy cynicism and apathy. To face the challenges of the 21st century, we need our democracy and politics to function effectively on a national and global stage.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Democracy 2014.  

The list of broken politics is long. The expenses scandal; cash for honours; cash for access; the breaking of manifesto promises; the dishonest use of statistics for political point scoring; endless spinning; opaque corporate lobbying and party funding all bring politics into disrepute. The fact that 35% of the electorate regularly don’t vote, even more in the case of the upcoming local and European elections, is worrying for those who believe in democracy. Politicians blame the voters, when in reality the blame is much closer to their own door.

The challenges we face are vast. Our decline as a global power in relative terms, rather than absolute, is not one of them. It’s not that we’re declining economically; more that other developing nations are rising. This means fewer poor people and greater trade and travel opportunities for our brightest and best individuals and companies. It is very likely that we’ll still be in the top 10 global economies by GDP in 2050.

We need a skilled and flexible workforce, but we do not need a race to the bottom on safety and wages. Our education system needs to be much more meritocratic rather than plutocratic, to ensure social mobility improves and the brightest and best, rather than the wealthiest, have the opportunity to rise to the top. Rather than wrecking the best independent schools, a significantly greater number of fully-funded scholarships should be offered (as the excellent two-part CBBC programme, My Life: Most Famous School in the World, demonstrated). More investment and innovation in state schools should be deployed to raise the standards to independent school levels.

Early learning through creative play is essential for the new economy. Rather than focusing on earlier cramming and testing, we need much more creative education until seven, to unleash the imaginations our future economy needs. The price of rising educational standards should not be stifled, stressed, depressed and suicidal children.

The challenge is not our relative economic position but much more complicated and intractable problems. The rise of developing world middle classes is positive but it puts an ever greater strain on finite resources, especially food, energy and water. This is a case of overconsumption rather than overpopulation. The rise of meat eaters is bad for our planet as livestock is much more resource intensive than crops.

Resource scarcity is compounded by overconsumption. Just as it is harder to supply resources, the demand for them is rising. Disequilibrium in supply and demand creates volatile but inexorably rising prices. Rising prices make previously uneconomic areas viable, putting the polar regions and rainforests at risk, degrading natural habitats and threatening future biodiversity loss. This tragedy of huge commons cannot be overstated. Extracting every last drop of oil is madness. What we need are alternatives.

Pollution has reached pandemic levels. It impacts the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. It threatens our health and wellbeing, but most unforgivably, harms our children. The list of things you cannot eat when you are pregnant grows longer as more toxic chemicals concentrate in the food chain. If you or your children have respiratory, dermatological, gastric or circulatory health issues, look no further than the car outside your home or the energy you buy for a cause.

This leads us to climate change. We are passing, if we have not already passed, the point where mitigation will work. We are left in a position of having to adapt to a radically altered climate where extreme weather events are more likely, food supplies are under threat and global security from mass migration and resource conflicts become inevitable. This is not a good place to be. Had we listened and acted on the clear calls for action in the 70s, 80s and 90s, we would be in an entirely different and sustainable place. Sadly, many of those responsible for our circumstances are no longer around and we are where we are.

Parochial, tribal and shortsighted politicians are not fit for purpose. We need international statesmen who are willing to put global issues at the forefront of their policy and agenda. A race to the bottom in negativity, blame and tribalism will get us nowhere and is an altogether more depressing tragedy of the (House of) commons.

A positive vision of Britain in the world sees us as more equal and meritocratic society than we are today. We should be leading on international diplomacy and engagement rather than warmongers. We have the skills and ingenuity to lead the world on abundant clean energy and resource efficiency. We should be proud advocates of the international laws on human rights that we created. It is right that we defend free trade under the rule of law, but also staunch critics of crony capitalism. Finally, we can and should be a model of open, transparent and functioning representative democracy.

Photo: Alison Scott via freeimages.com

Further reading:

Voting with your voice: why elections should be shaped by policies, not parties

‘Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?’

One size doesn’t fit all: democracy is not always the best form of government

Russell Brand’s revolution: should we vote at all?

The Guide to Sustainable Democracy 2014

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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