As has been pointed out by many commentators in the past few weeks, now is a time for the Lib Dems to engage in some protracted soul searching. This is our eat, pray, love moment if you will. The familiar camps of the liberal left and the orange bookers will be out in force trying to assert which direction would be best for the party. Potential leadership candidate Tim Farron has even reportedly considered rebranding the party with a new logo and colour. While the new colour and logo would no doubt be a disaster, if it were to change then green would be a solid option.
During the election there was one notable election issue which was barely addressed by any of the parties in any significant way, climate change and the environment. The Lib Dems had the ‘green laws’ policy, but that was alongside a host of other ‘red lines’ so received little national attention. The party needs to ensure that the public recognises that the Lib Dems are the only party that can transition the country to a low carbon economy.
The Greens aren’t a credible pro-envionmental choice
It is a big problem for the Lib Dems when many environmentally conscious activists support the greens by default. There are two main reasons for this. First is the widely acknowledged truth that the greens are a marginal party and are unlikely to ever be able to form a coalition. I am aware that this was often said of the liberals, but perhaps at least one positive aspect of the coalition is that the Lib Dems now do have some credibility in government. The second more important reason is that the greens are completely crazy and would be disastrous for the environment. If you support the green party you’re not only expressing your desire to see action on climate change, but you are only supporting action that runs against the consensus of 21st century capitalist society. Over the past decade, the advances in renewable technology have come at the hands of globalisation and market forces. Any action on climate change must also be compatible with people’s lifestyles in order to be readily accepted. That is not to mention the other host of policies unrelated to the environment which mainstream society could never, and indeed should never, accept.
The greens also have a worrying relationship with science and scientific evidence. On the one hand they berate the rest of society for ignoring the scientific evidence on climate change. Yet at the same time they still hold onto an irrational hate of nuclear, shale gas and GMOs, in the face of scientific evidence. They are fearful of new technology and of compromise, and these are two things that are fundamental and inescapable elements in fighting climate change.
Conservatives and the Labour party will never enact the radical change that climate change necessitates
For three successive parliaments since 1997 the Labour party neglected renewable energy and climate change. The UK was severely behind in terms of installed capacity of renewables and is only just, under the stewardship of the coalition, starting to catch up. While the left often has supported environmental causes, the Labour party’s constant attempts to occupy the centre ground makes this unlikely. What’s worse is that today the Labour party has no ideology. It’s working class roots are being ironed out by a leadership of ex-special advisors who could never bring about the radical change required by climate change.
The conservative party, by opposing onshore wind, have already made it clear they have little desire to fight climate change.
The Liberal Democrats are the only party that has the values necessary to prioritise climate change.
Fighting climate change needs to be at the core of the Lib Dem identity. It is fundamental to the social liberal ideology of the party, that we should respect the environment as well as each others individual liberties. Technologies such as wind, solar, and other small scale renewables, fit with our ideology of decentralisation and the empowerment of individuals and communities. The party should also be proud of the steps taken under the coalition to increase the share of renewables and to invest in energy efficiency.
It can be a rallying cause for party members who want to take a stand on a defining issue of our times. The party should start talking about climate change and take the fight to the greens on the issue. We need to ensure the public knows that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the environment. I’m not sure if the turning our beloved bird of freedom green would help this, but perhaps it’s something that the overpaid marketing company that does the party’s rebranding can take note of.