Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Politics doing little to stop climate wildfire

It’s been the hottest summer ever. Of all time. Since the days of the dinosaurs and long before. Or, at least, since records began.

Green policies appear to have taken a back seat despite more scenes like these

And as Europe burns and Britain is deluged by rains that are a symptom of our ever-changing climate, you’d expect one thing – that politicians might be united on the need to implement the green agenda.

As nations start to crumble before our very eyes, as people are displaced from their homes, and as homes are washed into raging rivers, it’s clear we need to act now, while there’s still time – or, if there isn’t still time, to prevent a dreadful situation becoming catastrophic.

Politicians, therefore, are doing the very opposite. By waging some sort of perverse culture war, they’re embracing climate disaster by inching ever further away from taking action. The green policies that have become a part of our daily discourse are now being shunned as politicians do what they do best – focus on self-interest and forget the bigger picture.

When there’s a need to take tough decisions, you can rely on those in charge to shirk them. And so while Rishi Sunak holidayed in the US, Greenpeace took to the roof of his mansion and unfurled a banner in protest.

It seems some within the Conservative Party are keen to ditch green policies – like Nadine Dorries ditches appointments in the House of Commons – following the result of the Uxbridge by-election.

The Tories retained Boris Johnson’s former seat, by pinning the blame of a plan to clean up London’s air onto the Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, rather than acknowledging the fact that it was all about not providing adequate funding for a scrappage scheme, to take polluting vehicles off the road.

That unexpected victory has been followed by intense debate about the party’s climate commitments, at a time when the world is showing its inability to cope with any further warming. And Downing Street has since confirmed ministers are scrutinising existing pledges “in light of some of the cost of living challenges”, which the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg have described as “unpopular” and “expensive”.

Greenpeace, the organisation that dispatched protesters to climb onto Rishi’s roof, has been declared persona non grata by the Government. Rishi, for his part, has defended the 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences, saying the move is “entirely consistent” with the Government’s goal to reach net zero by 2050. Which is a bit like a hungry snake saying it’s entirely consistent to consider an ailing hamster safe if it’s put into its modestly-sized vivarium.

Still, it’s good to know that the UK is entirely unprepared for the looming heat. As southern Europe endured temperatures of up to 46C, the UK was doing next to nothing to prepare itself for a new climate in which higher temperatures will drive down the productivity of workers and drive up the risk of calamity.

Our preparedness for climate change will be a major issue in the decades ahead as the number of hot days soar and work places become increasingly unbearable.

While it’s a statutory requirement that offices are heated to 16C, there’s no legal limit on controlling the upper limit when days are long and hot. Nor, one imagines, does Rishi plan to do anything about that when he flies home from the US. Still, while Rishi goes AWOL on his responsibility to slow the pace of the climate crisis, Nadine Dorries remains, well, AWOL.

The Boris Johnson-loving, TV-show-hosting, toys-out-the-pram-if-she-doesn’t-get-a-peerage member for Mid Bedfordshire has kinda given up on the Commons’ hallowed green benches.

Having been overlooked for elevation into the UK’s upper chamber, she’s gone on an informal strike, after vowing to leave but then deciding she won’t leave after all.

Now moves are afoot to dethrone the MP, who has not spoken in the Commons since July 2022 and who has not voted since April 2022.

The thing is, however, if attempts to remove Nadine from Parliament are successful – how will any of us know?