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An anti-green backlash could reshape British politics – The Economist

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WHATEVER A British voter’s natural political hue—Tory blue, Labour red or Liberal Democrat orange—these days it ends up green-tinged. The Tory government talks effusively about “building back greener”. Labour wants a “green industrial revolution”. Liberal Democrats have used their position as the third party to argue for everybody to go further and faster. And then there are all the people who want to raze the carbon economy to the ground the day after tomorrow: not just the Green Party but also extremist groupuscules such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.

Which leaves a gap in the market for something different: anti-green politics. Brexit transformed Britain by tapping into ordinary people’s resentment of distant elites, and anti-greenery could do the same. Environmentalism is driven by populists’ two big bogeymen, scientific experts and multilateral institutions. Green campaigners vie to befuddle the public with acronyms and jargon. Multilateral institutions override democratic legislatures in order to co-ordinate global action. In the public mind, greenery is coming to mean global confabs that produce yet more directives, and protesters who block city centres and motorways.

Greenery suffers from the classic problems of technocratic policymaking, namely offering distant rewards in return for immediate sacrifices and imposing uneven costs. Over-50s, the most reliable voters, won’t be around to see the world boil. Poorer people are likely to suffer more than richer ones from the green transition, not just because they have less disposable income but also because they are more likely to work in the dirty economy. The impression of injustice is reinforced by the fact that many of the most vocal green activists have a material interest in the green economy as bureaucrats, lobbyists and entrepreneurs.

A fuel-price rise in 2018 inspired France’s gilets jaunes; Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland and Finland’s Finns Party have lambasted green hysteria. In Britain, by contrast, anti-greenery is still nascent. Some on the Tory right have complained that their party is in the grip of the green lobby. A few MPs in the “red wall”—once-safe Labour seats in northern England that turned Tory over Brexit—have warned that green levies on driving could see those voters switch back again. The closure of some London streets to through-traffic has sparked protests.

But such rows are about to get a lot louder. Turbulence on the global energy market is drawing unflattering attention to British energy suppliers, which are struggling with the transition from coal- and gas-fired plants to renewables. The more the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, says about there being “absolutely no question of the lights going out”, the more consumers will worry. And other environmental policies on the horizon will also hit them hard. From 2030 the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned. The electric cars that will replace them are rapidly improving, but not yet as cheap or as convenient. For city-dwellers it is hard enough to find parking without having to look for a charging-point too, and long journeys require planning.

Since the discovery of gas in the North Sea in 1965, most British homes have used the fuel to heat their homes. But the government plans to take gas-fired boilers off the market in the coming years, to be replaced by hydrogen boilers or heat pumps. The date for the switchover is slipping, since neither technology is ready for mass roll-out. Air-source heat pumps are larger than gas boilers, produce lower temperatures and cost much more. People’s enthusiasm for greenery may reach its limits if familiar, well-functioning products are replaced by more expensive, inferior ones.

In the past decade climate-change denialism has given way to something cannier and harder to pin down. Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party and a major force behind Brexit, claims that he is as green as the next man—indeed that he voted for the Green Party back in the 1980s—but that he’s in favour of “sensible environmentalism” rather than the establishment kind that taxes “poor people to give money to rich people and big corporations while China’s going to ignore it all”.

Anti-greens are also seeking to reshape politics indirectly: not just by creating new parties, but by changing the hue of the established ones from inside. For neither of Britain’s biggest parties is as deep-dyed green as they appear to onlookers. The Conservative Party certainly has big names who preach environmentalism, like Zac Goldsmith, an aristocratic Brexiteer. But it has always also been the party of homeowners who care about their energy bills, motorists who want to get the last mile from every gallon and older people who don’t want to change their ways. More recently, they have been joined by red wall voters with little spare cash. Labour, for its part, is an uneasy coalition of graduates, who cheer every green initiative, and lower-paid workers, who are nostalgic for the days of well-paid jobs in heavy industry and primarily concerned with making ends meet.

Hot air emissions
How to avert an anti-green backlash? Politicians need to avoid unforced errors, such as making everyone rip out perfectly good boilers before replacements are ready. They need to shield vulnerable groups from the costs of the energy transition, remembering how the mood turned against globalisation when politicians failed to honour promises to compensate the losers. They need to see the world through the eyes of people who accept that climate change is a problem but must ceaselessly struggle to get by in the here and now. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, won easy applause at a UN round table on climate action this week by expressing frustration that the “something” the world is doing to limit global warming is “not enough”. The audience he really needs to convince is the one that laughed along to his provocations before he re-entered Parliament in 2015, such as mocking wind power as too weak to pull the skin off a rice pudding.

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UN envoy says has agreement on drafting new Syrian constitution

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The United Nations Special Envoy said on Sunday that the government and opposition co-chairs of the  Syrian Constitutional Committee agreed to start a drafting process for constitutional reform in the country.

Geir Pedersen, speaking to reporters in Geneva after meeting the Syrian co-chairs ahead of week-long talks, said they had agreed to “prepare and start drafting constitutional reform.”

The talks will be the sixth round in two years and the first since January.

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Venezuelan government suspends negotiations with opposition

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 Venezuela on Saturday said it would suspend negotiations with the opposition that were set to resume this weekend, after Cape Verde extradited Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a Venezuelan envoy, to the United States on money laundering charges.

The announcement was made by Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the government’s negotiating team. Rodriguez said the Venezuelan government would not attend the talks set to begin on Sunday.

The Venezuelan government in September named Saab – who was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped in Cape Verde to refuel – as a member of its negotiating team in talks with the opposition in Mexico, where the two sides are looking to solve their political crisis.

Rodriguez, reading from a statement, called the decision to suspend negotiations “an expression of our deepest protest against the brutal aggression against the person and the investiture of our delegate Alex Saab Moran.”

Opposition leader Juan Guaido condemned the decision.

“With this irresponsible suspension of their assistance in Mexico, they evade once again urgent attention for the country, which currently suffers from extreme poverty of 76.6%,” he said on Twitter. Guaido said he would continue to insist on finding a solution to the country’s crisis.

Venezuela, in a Twitter post by the Ministry of Communications, denounced the extradition as a “kidnapping.”

Hours after Saab’s extradition, Venezuela revoked the house arrest of six former executives of refiner Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, two sources with knowledge of the situation and a family member told Reuters.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme to take advantage of Venezuela’s state-controlled exchange rate. The U.S. also sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a corruption network that allowed Saab and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to profit from a state-run food subsidy program.

Saab’s lawyers have called the U.S. charges “politically motivated.”

Cape Verde national radio reported the extradition on Saturday. The government of Cape Verde was not immediately available to comment.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson confirmed Saab’s extradition and said he is expected to make his initial court appearance on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

In a Twitter post, Colombian President Ivan Duque called Saab’s extradition “a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption by the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.”

The former Citgo executives, who were arrested in November 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at PDVSA headquarters in Caracas, were taken from their homes to one of the headquarters of the intelligence police, two sources said on Saturday.

The six former executives had been released from jail and put on house arrest in April.

The group is made up of five naturalized U.S. citizens and one permanent resident. The U.S. government has repeatedly demanded their release.

“My father cannot be used as a bargaining chip,” said Cristina Vadell, daughter of former executive Tomeu Vadell. “I’m worried for his health, even more given the country’s coronavirus cases.”

The Ministry of Communications and the Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Julio Rodrigues in Praia; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Writing by Bate Felix and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau to visit Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation next week – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted an invitation to visit Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation on Monday, after not visiting the community two weeks ago on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The B.C. First Nation had previously said that Mr. Trudeau did not response to an invitation to attend a ceremony near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to mark the inaugural event. Mr. Trudeau apologized last week for travelling to Tofino for a vacation on that day instead, calling it a mistake that he regrets. He said he was looking forward to visiting the community.

Monday’s visit will not be a public event, according to a press release.

People listen as drummers begin to play after a moment of silence during a Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc ceremony to honour residential school survivors and mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Mr. Trudeau’s office also confirmed Friday that the swearing-in ceremony for his new cabinet will take place on Oct. 26, and that Parliament will resume a month later on Nov. 22.

The release from the Prime Minister’s Office said that early priorities for the government will include introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy, 10-day paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers, accelerating climate action and working with Indigenous communities on reconciliation.

There will also be a focus on vaccination against COVID-19: the government outlined five vaccination commitments in the first 100 days, which includes ensuring everyone 12 and up who travels by air or rail in Canada has had their shots.

Speculation continues about which MPs will be in the new Liberal cabinet, though Mr. Trudeau promised last month that his cabinet will once again be gender-balanced, continuing a trend established in his first two mandates. He’s also confirmed that Chrystia Freeland will remain Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The party lost four female cabinet ministers in the last election: three who did not win re-election and one incumbent who chose not to run again.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Today’s newsletter is co-written with Menaka Raman-Wilms. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Opposition parties and military observers are criticizing the federal government for not disclosing the latest sexual misconduct investigation into a senior military officer during the recent election campaign. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and acting chief of the defence staff General Wayne Eyre were notified about the investigation into Lieutenant-General Trevor Cadieu on Sept. 5, but neither the military nor government disclosed the information publicly at the time.

Canada could retaliate against American companies should the U.S. go too far with a Buy American approach, suggested Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, after meetings on Thursday with her counterparts in the G20 and International Monetary Fund. U.S. President Joe Biden said this summer that Buy American provisions would be an important part of boosting a postpandemic recovery.

David Amess, a Conservative MP in the U.K, died on Friday after being stabbed during a meeting with constituents in Essex, England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested and a knife recovered. From the CBC.

Ontario launches its digital vaccine passport app on Friday, a week ahead of the initial Oct. 22 target date. The province has had a paper-based proof of vaccination system since Sept. 22, and the new scannable app moves Ontario to a system like the ones already in place in B.C. and Quebec.

The U.S. will announce on Friday that it plans to reopen its land borders on Nov. 8 to non-essential vaccinated travellers, according to a White House official.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister is in private meetings in Ottawa on Friday, according to his public itinerary.

LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Toronto on Friday morning, where he delivered remarks to the Ontario Building Trades Convention.

No public itineraries were issued by the other leaders on Friday.

HOW TO BE A PRIME MINISTER

From Governing Canada, A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics by Michael Wernick (Published by On Point Press, an imprint of UBC Press)

The Politics Briefing newsletter is featuring excerpts from Governing Canada, a new book by Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the privy council. Our focus is a key chapter, Advice to a Prime Minister. (Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup reported on the project here.)

Today’s concluding excerpt sums up Mr. Wernick’s advice to Prime Ministers:

“The tenure of our prime ministers has ranged from a few months to 21 years. In the “modern era” of politics, the attention and the pressures are unrelenting, and at some point personal burnout and weariness by the electorate will set in. However long you hold the office, every week will be an opportunity to make a difference. If you are mindful of what you want to accomplish and pay attention to time management, to team dynamics, and to your own personal resilience, you will get a lot done and leave important legacies. Try not to govern one day at a time, fighting fires and feeding media cycles. Managing the short-term challenges is just a shield, one that lets you aim higher and bend the curve – of history.”

DATA DIVE WITH NIK NANOS

Nik Nanos, the chief data scientist at Nanos Research, writes about how the 2021′s federal election was a wake-up call for Canada’s leaders – but awakening to what? “The campaign should make us ask whether it’s time for a rethink of our parliamentary democracy – and remind us that Canada is not immune to populist politics.”

OPINION

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on how the Prairies are showing Canada what a COVID-19 disaster looks like: “Thanks to the governments’ slow adoption of vaccine passports and other measures designed to halt the spread of the virus, the unvaccinated have not been convinced to do what is necessary – which has produced the bedlam we are now witnessing.”

Diane Fu and Emile Dirks (contributors to The Globe and Mail) on how Ottawa may have emerged a loser after Meng Wanzhou’s release, but it can still challenge and co-exist with Beijing: “Many contentious issues will continue to haunt bilateral ties, including Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan. What’s more, even if relations thaw in the short term, the political values of the two countries remain fundamentally at odds.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on how politicians who recently travelled now have a message for Canadians: Don’t travel: “Travelling a year ago was a hard thing to justify. But fully vaccinated individuals who have followed the rules until now ought to be able to escape for a mental-health reprieve without the scorn of federal officials who might not even have unpacked yet from their campaign jaunts across the country.”

Parag Khanna (special to The Globe and Mail) on how if you’re searching for the American Dream, go to Canada: “After all, the “Canadian Dream” is much more attainable. Canada is a policy lab for experiments in reducing inequality. The country is far from perfect, but it ranks far higher than the U.S. in social mobility.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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