Climate change and GDP

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Thank you to Anthony Kimber for an excellent series of informed, evidence-based, articles on the subject of climate change. There is still much need for science education and raising awareness on this issue.

Anthony quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres as having stated that “the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

Our government is no better and has continued with “business as usual” since Theresa May stated in June last year that we would achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. At the recent UK-Africa investment summit, 90% of the £2bn in energy deals struck were for fossil fuels – is this not hypocrisy?

The Chancellor back in June was Philip Hammond. By his reckoning, it would cost £1 trillion to achieve carbon neutrality. To put this figure into context, it is about the same as the value of second homes in the UK.

If this figure is correct, then in the last eight months alone £28 million should have been made available to Rother district area to address the climate crisis. Instead, we have not only had nothing, but our district council is expected to somehow find £3.2 million in cuts this year. Where and when is the funding coming our way?

Meanwhile, East Sussex County Council (ESCC), despite having declared a climate emergency last year, has £172m invested in oil, gas and coal through the East Sussex Pension Fund, and ESCC refuses even to instruct its financial consultants to investigate the consequences of divesting from fossil fuels.

Rye’s new MP Sally Ann Hart (flanked by ESCC leader Keith Glazier and Rye deputy mayor Rebekah Gilbert)

The A21 Reference Group, which includes local MPs Sally-Ann Hart, Huw Merriman, Greg Clark and Tom Tugendhat, as well as Keith Glazier, leader of ESCC, has recently pushed for £20 million in funding for short-term improvements along the length of the A21 road. This is hard on the heels after having stolen £5 million from the ring-fenced Walking and Cycling Capital fund to deal with the over spend on the Hastings to Bexhill link road.

Sadly, there is a huge disconnect here between what needs to happen and what is happening. Why? Because the powers that be – governments, multi-national corporations, banks, institutions and the wealthy elite – are locked into a belief that economic growth (measured by GDP – Gross Domestic Product) will continue in perpetuity, even though this is demonstrably absurd and un-achievable.

This overshoot of growth results in increased immiseration (economic impoverishment), both between and within countries, and a wholesale degradation and destruction of our environment, through a methodical exploitation of all earth’s resources, whether it is the soil, the seas, the air, the flora and the fauna. It has gone too far.

In light of all we know, it is not doom-mongering to think about the future. Humans are gifted with a large brain which allows us to do so. If we know that things might get bad, then the right thing to do is do everything in our power to avoid that future and to imagine and to achieve a world which is better, where communities of people as well as nature can thrive.

A place where happiness and wellbeing are valued above economic wealth, all too often inequitably distributed. A world in which there is social justice as well as environmental justice. Yes, this requires a profound system change, away from the current toxic behaviour to a genuinely sustainable future. Is that too much to ask for?

Image Credits: Dominic Manning , John Minter .

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