Friday 17 December 2010

Theory and Practice

There was a lengthy piece in yesterday's Western Mail questioning how effective the Welsh Government will actually be in implementing its strategy for reducing emissions and fighting climate change.  It echoes a concern that I've expressed previously about the gulf between strategy and implementation. 

I sometimes wonder whether the production of government strategies is something done entirely independently of actual implementation of policy; once the strategy is produced and published and has attracted all the positive headlines, they all breathe a huge sigh of relief and carry on as before.

In a roundabout way it seems to me as though the Tory Environment Spokesperson has, albeit unintentionally, put her finger on the nub of the problem.  Her statement "While we accept the need to take urgent measures to reduce harmful carbon emissions, if this were at the expense of creating jobs and increasing social prosperity, there would in the long term be less money to maintain effective public services or to tackle the impact of climate change." seems to me to highlight the way in which politicians see the issues of creating jobs and taking action on climate change as being somehow in conflict.

It's an attitude, not restricted to her own party, which helps to explain why politicians can happily extol the virtues of a strategy one day and then welcome proposals which run directly counter to it the next.  And it's an attitude which gives me a degree of pessimism about Man's ability to tackle climate change, because the people taking the decisions are all too often driven by their assessment of their own short term electoral considerations and therefore unwilling to do that which needs to be done.

It doesn't have to be that way, though. 

In the first place, I'm not certain that the electoral assessment is correct.  I have rather more faith that people will be willing to take a longer term view if we're willing to be open and honest and consistent with them.

And in the second place, there is absolutely no reason why a strategy for getting to grips with emissions and man-made climate change cannot produce at least as many jobs as we can get from simply carrying on as usual.  The problem is that the 'free market' won't achieve that aim; it needs a much more directed approach.  Unless and until we elect governments which are prepared to take that more directed approach, no strategy is likely to be successful. 

To get such a government means that politicians have to be significantly braver in proposing alternatives.  Currently, that strikes me as being an unlikely scenario.

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