ANDREW ADONIS: Extinction Rebellion needs to merge with the Remain cause
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The Extinction Rebellion campaign is silent on Brexit but, says ANDREW ADONIS, it should make common cause with the pro-EU movement.
It is a total disgrace that London is being brought to a halt. I don't normally want to break up peaceful demonstrations, but after 80 days squatting in Downing Street, Johnson and Cummings should make way for people whose mission isn't to wreck the country.
Brextinction is vital to the success of Extinction Rebellion because the European Union is so much more willing and able to combat climate change than the British government.
Size and geography speak for themselves. The only way to take back control of climate change is to exercise public control at European and global levels. Add in the stark reality that Brexit is a hard-right project intended to dismantle social and environmental regulation, and the case is open and shut.
Brexit and climate change denial even share a godfather: Nigel Lawson, Margaret Thatcher's privatising and tax-cutting chancellor. Lawson let the cat well and truly out of the bag when, after the 2016 referendum, he wrote triumphantly in the Financial Times: "Brexit gives us the chance to complete the Thatcher revolution."
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Under Theresa May there was a pretence that the heirs of Thatcher might observe EU environmental standards after Brexit. 'Dynamic regulation' was the vogue term. Britain would mimic the EU 'dynamically'. Michael Gove, prone to the big lie, suggested we might have higher environmental standards, without giving particulars.
This pretence died with Johnson and Cummings. Among the changes they are seeking to May's Brexit deal is the deletion of commitments to observe EU regulation. Environmental 'red tape' has once again become a 'burden' on business to be dismantled in the name of the free market - aka a race to the bottom.
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The Extinction Rebellion campaign itself is silent on Brexit. In its briefing for organisers it warns of "being pulled into a polarised debate and alienating us from large chunks of the population". Its 'theory of change' is that if you convince 3.5% of the population to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, that's when "real systems change happens".
I don't quibble with the 3.5%, last week being the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. But the surest way to recruit a minority of passionate activists is to draw from a larger pool committed to your broad aims. The 48%, and rising, of Remainers are this generation's internationalists, particularly the 70%, and rising, of Remainers among under-30s.
The EU needs to raise its game, but it is now clearly the international standard setter on environmental protection. Its trade clout gives it huge leverage, particularly since announcing it would sign no new trade deals with countries that do not ratify the Paris Agreement.
The UK has received over £5 billion from the EU for projects that tackle climate change, and a further £8 billion in loans from the European Investment Bank, doubling the amount lent by the now privatised UK Green Investment Bank. Meanwhile, the May and Johnson government scrapped subsides for onshore wind and dismantled the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Brexit will force the UK to leave the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), since membership requires accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. This is an archetypal case of Brexit destroying the gains of international cooperation in a nationalist spasm. The ETS is the world's most ambitious effort to cap emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, covering 11,000 installations. Does anyone seriously think Johnson and Cummings will replace it with anything half as tough? The heirs of Thatcher and Lawson?
You don't need a crystal ball. Johnson has already announced that if we leave with no deal, the domestic tax on CO2 emitted from power stations and industrial sites will be far lower than under the ETS, and the aviation sector will be exempt.
It is largely thanks to the EU that we have even half-decent environmental protection today. The UK was the last European country to stop dumping raw sewage into the sea. Before EU membership, we were losing 15% of our protected nature sites a year and our pollution was causing acid rain.
If you can bear it, listen on YouTube to Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, lauding the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, Washington's most libertarian think tanks, fervently opposed to the Paris Agreement. She loves their idea of a UK-US trade deal based on radical deregulation.
The sooner Brexit becomes extinct the better. Then we can save our planet too.
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