Politicians come and go, but pension funds precede and succeed them. The money in them matters, not just to politicians but to the people who benefit from them and the planet they will retire on.
Yesterday, the British Prime Minister promised his electorate that Britain could meet its 2050 emission pledges without pain to “hard-working households”. Ordinary people know this is not true. We know there is a price we must pay to slow down climate change and we have agreed to pay it. Now the Government has decided to roll back decisions it has taken for no good reason and one bad reason – to stay in power.
There is no “purpose” in the Prime Minister’s new stance but self-interest.
Pensions should continue to invest for a sustainable future and report on their investments to ensure that the management boards of the enterprises who benefit from people’s money, behave with due consideration for the future.
We cannot allow short term opportunism to derail us on our long journey.
What did Sunak decide?
Sunak’s most contentious decision was to delay the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, a move that has infuriated some carmakers.
He insisted the shift meant the UK was now aligned with countries such as Germany, France, Australia, Sweden and US states including California and New York.
The prime minister argued that the upfront cost of electric cars was still “higher” than their fossil fuel equivalents and admitted that UK charging infrastructure was still insufficient.
Sunak has also relaxed the 2035 phaseout target for the installation of new gas boilers, and delayed a ban on new oil boilers from 2026 to 2035.
He is introducing an exemption on both types of boilers for a fifth of households so they will “never have to switch at all”.
Other changes Sunak announced included abandoning tougher energy efficiency rules for landlords.
Why we should be so angry
Here is the reaction of a friend and colleague, he speaks for me in our outrage at this craven u-turn by a politician we had put our trust in.
Not only has he resorted to naked populism by planting fear of transition costs in voters’ minds. The political opposition is not proposing to force these costs directly onto people; or to penalise flying or eating meat – he is simply scaremongering.He is also perpetuating the myth that the UK somehow needs new exploration licenses to produce oil and gas in 15 – 20 years time, when it will be superfluous.He’s doing exactly the same long-term damage to the UK and the climate as Cameron did 10 years ago when he cancelled energy efficiency support. The Govt’s own climate commission wouldn’t have warned we are so much off course (BEFORE today’s stupid announcements) had we done the simple things earlier.The same climate fundamentals still apply:– the world has a finite, fixed carbon absorption “budget” for the Paris 1.5C limit. This will be exceeded before 2030 unless we act now.– exceeding this 1.5C limit IS and WILL continue to destroy 10,000 years of climate stability on which current human and other living life forms depend– the UK and other Western countries have the financial, intellectual, technical, physical and governance capacity to manage a just transition without impoverishing their populations– the transition solutions are already available, the only thing missing is the political will– acting now is less costly, less damaging and less painful than trying to delay the transition, which is inevitable– the govt has control of the support people need to manage a sensible transition. As well as the subsidies given to fossil fuel companies.A simple suggestion: why not restrict the 93% tax relief currently given for new oil & gas exploration & development to renewables and transition investments only?Sunak sounds so reasonable in his proposals. It masks the breathtaking cynicism of a politician desperate to avoid certain electoral defeat – at the expense of our and our children’s futures.It’s SO important we keep broadcasting to fight for the positive future that science says is achievable, and not to succumb to bogeyman populism.
As the editorial board of the FT pointed out
Britain had shown leadership as the first major economy to enshrine a 2050 net zero target in law. Surrendering the moral high ground gives cover to other big economies to slow their efforts and makes it harder to persuade developing markets to do what is needed.
The baton of leadership on sustainability now passes to us. We must show resolve where our elected leaders fall short.