Climate change: Conservatives' new fondness for coal risks driving voters into arms of hard-left Greens – Scotsman comment

The hard-left Scottish Greens may see increased support from voters desperate for a step change unless all parties, including the Tories, take climate change seriously

In a speech before Glasgow’s COP26 climate summit, its president, Conservative MP Alok Sharma, urged the world to put an end to coal power. At the conference’s close, an emotional Sharma fought back tears after a commitment to “phase out” coal was reduced to “phase down”. His efforts to persuade the world that the end of coal was necessary to accelerate the “clean energy revolution” during “this vital decade” – which he had said would “determine the course of our planet’s future” – had failed.

Yesterday, the UK Government revealed it plans to remove a ban on opening new coal mines from an energy bill currently going through parliament. Despite some 120 Tory MPs previously expressing support for a ban, this decision sends a strong message to those who want tough action on climate change: don’t vote Conservative.

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And this is a problem. The climate fight needs strong voices on the political right offering a credible vision of the path to net-zero. If they are sidelined, some voters may be persuaded that more radical measures are needed and back hard-left Greens who disdain economic growth to deliver them.

As Scottish Green minister Lorna Slater’s mishandling of the deposit return scheme (DRS) shows, their practical skills sometimes don’t match their ability to dream of utopia, with very real effects on people’s lives, for all that she narrowly survived a vote of no confidence by MSPs. Just ask the employees of Circularity Scotland, the firm set up to manage DRS, which has just gone into administration.

Instead of being preoccupied with that debacle, one might have thought Slater would have been focussed on the top climate priority: cutting greenhouse gas emissions. After all, as new figures reveal, Scotland has, once again, missed its emissions-reduction target. Replacing gas boilers with climate-friendly heating systems, a mass programme of home insulation, and decarbonising and promoting public transport should be top of the agenda.

As we said yesterday, Labour seems to have grasped the scale of the challenge. However, if a descent into dangerous climate change is to be prevented, we also need more “green blues” like Sharma and fewer impractical, if earnest, dreamers like Slater.



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