Ex-Tory adviser: UK politicians failing on climate change

By Alex Stevenson

A former adviser to David Cameron has said none of Britain’s leading politicians seem able to push through the changes in society needed to “radically decarbonise” the economy.

Sustainability expert Jules Peck told politics.co.uk a “paradigm shift in society” is required to “radically decarbonise” the economy.

“Right now the responses from politicians are looking really really poor on that challenge,” he said.

“At the moment. there’s a very, very poor political discourse on the scale of change that’s needed. It’s not about a few wind turbines – it’s about transforming our society away from consumerism.”

Mr Peck, who was director of David Cameron’s quality of life policy group for two years, has previously worked for the European Commission and in government and corporate positions in both the US and Britain.

He says only US president-elect Barack Obama has the capability and capacity to create the changes needed and that, in Britain, political leaders are wary of connecting political and philosophical debate because of concerns they will not be taken seriously.

“Any politician or business leader or media person who puts their head above the parapet ends up being ridiculed by the media,” Mr Peck added.

“That’s a great shame because it’s exactly that kind of leadership which we need to debate in society now.”

Oxfam is devoting 80 per cent of its 2009 campaigning to climate change, according to Mr Peck, who believes “much more aggressive advocacy” can be expected from NGOs in the run-up to the crucial Copenhagen climate change summit this December.

Despite their work he believes only ordinary people can provide the political impetus required to fuel the political sea-change required by his agenda.

His book, Citizen Renaissance, highlights the examples of transition towns like Coventry, Chepstow and Dorchester as places where “average” individuals have set up sustainable communities from the bottom-up.

“It’s participatory democracy in action on the ground,” he explained.

“This is not something which is being led by centralised politics – they’re largely unaware of this – but if there’s one thing a politician will listen to more than their leader or their whip, it’s their constituency. This has spread like wildfire.”

Mr Peck says banning advertising, controlling and regulating marketing and imposing stringent public service broadcasting requirements for all media are among the “radical” measures needed to “inform and educate the public”.

“I’m by nature an optimist,” he finished.

“I do think that things like transition towns. [reflect] the trust and relationships that are being developed between citizens and communities.

“If that’s going to spread like wildfire then there is hope of a renaissance of citizenship which will then drive politics to transform itself in response.”