Both Labour and Conservative politicians have been spooked by the narrow by-election win in Uxbridge which has been squarely attributed to campaigning on the proposed extension of the Ulez scheme. Few commentators pointed out that Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Bradford received a combined £230m in Government funding for their scrappage schemes, but London and the South East have received none.

Press coverage has rightly pointed out that people should not be made poorer by ill thought out schemes which could be said to put the cart before the horse. There are politicians in both parties who are calling for unpopular policies to be dropped or postponed but neither party is denying the need to reach net zero.

Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network, told The Observer that …“Environmental policies are an electoral asset when they are fair, affordable, and deliver for people and their communities. I’d warn Conservatives against listening to calls to ditch environmental commitments following the Uxbridge result. Insulating people’s homes, building more renewables, and attracting investment into new clean industries are popular, bill-cutting and job-creating.” 

A blog he wrote for CEN points out thatThe Conservatives secured a victory against the odds by focusing the campaign on ULEZ expansion. They effectively pulled off a protest vote against an unpopular mayor instead of the usual dynamic of voters protesting the government. This strategy won’t work at a general election, when the party will be asking for a fifth term in government. Senior Conservatives must resist calls to ditch conservative environmental policies. (Over 150 MPs and Peers have signed up to the CEN).

What the by-election shows is that policies which create financial hardship won’t work and in fact will be as counter productive as the tax imposed in France which led to the Gilet Jaunes revolt. Climate Income along with grants or loans based on future carbon dividend payments would go a long way to achieving the decarbonisation of the economy without penalising most people (as outlined in our report published last October). 

Whilst not asking directly for Climate Income the Times editorial today puts the case for a Carbon Tax…..The message from policymakers must be that mitigating climate change can best be tackled through the continual innovations that are characteristic of market economies. And that doing so, using the price mechanism to encourage new technologies, is practical. It is widely understood that a carbon tax would be highly effective in persuading consumers and businesses to switch their energy consumption and behaviour. This would need to apply to carbon consumption and not only production, lest richer countries merely outsource their production to poorer economies. Revenues from a carbon tax could be used to subsidise renewable sources of energy and thereby encourage their wide adoption.

Update 25/7/23

Today Lord Deben (outgoing Chair of the CCC) has asked that parties build a cross party consensus on tackling climate change and getting to net zero, based on the recommendation of Chris Skidmore’s UK Net Zero Review. ….“If I were leader of the Labour party at this moment, I know exactly what I’d do,” said Deben. “I would say to the current government: ‘Here is Mr Skidmore’s report, he is a Conservative ex-minister, he was asked to do this report to show how best to deliver net zero by Liz Truss. Now we will accept, if you put it forward, we will do the following basic things [acting on the report’s recommendations]. We will do that. We won’t oppose it. You put them forward, we’ll back it.’” ………..There are those who don’t really take onboard the urgency of climate change, and they are in all political parties.”

Let’s remind our politicians that there is not only no justification for dropping commitments to net zero while Rhodes burns and people die, but also no need!

 Tomorrow’s national meeting will be dedicated to this action