Whenever I talk about post-Brexit Britain still betting big on clean tech, I hear surprise from some quarters. Wasn't Brexit a rejection of the European social democratic world order? Doesn't the anti-immigrant rightwing populism that fueled Brexit also reject the basics of climate science?
Yet as Britain gears up for its general election, Business Green reports that every major party platform remains firmly committed to climate action. True, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) was and continues to be vehemently climate skeptic/denialist, but with Brexit now underway, and with Conservatives coopting some of their anti-immigration rhetoric, UKIP support has now cratered.
That's not to say there aren't disagreements. Indeed, from the role of nuclear power to the impact of wind turbines on the landscape, there are many issues that will be hashed out in the political sphere. And that's as it should be. But it is being done from a framework where climate change and the need for climate action is almost universally understood.And Britain is not alone. From China and India getting out ahead of their climate commitments to a likely massive expansion of renewables in France, there is broad, cross-partisan support for climate action and renewables in many parts of the world.
So if we have public support, how do we begin to form political consensus?
The New York Times ran a fascinating article last week about the Citizens Climate Lobby, which has been doing the painstakingly hard work to build bipartisan consensus for a revenue neutral carbon tax. And it's been doing this the old fashioned way:
Over the past year, volunteers have held 1,429 meetings with their representatives’ offices, organized 2,597 outreach events, and prompted or written 3,339 editorials, op-ed essays, and letters to the editor. In 2010, the organization’s annual conference drew 25 participants; next month, the network expects to welcome 1,200 in Washington.
The group has been instrumental in building the Climate Solutions Caucus. And it's done so by pursuing a "Noah's Ark" approach, growing in twos to make sure there are an equal number of Republicans and Democrats represented. It's an interesting model. The group now boasts 38 members—19 from each party—and it's beginning to flex its muscles.
It's worth noting, of course, that the importance of "consensus" can often be overstated. Sacrificing ambition in order to achieve consensus should not be tolerated when the stakes are so high. Indeed many groups which once derided the idea of anthropogenic climate change now appear to question the cost of tackling it, or advocate for delay tactics while we "science it out". Let's not mistake attempts at bipartisanship for a willingness to back down.
Still, our jobs as environmentalists and climate activists will be a whole lot easier when we're no longer arguing about whether climate change is real, but how do we best go about tackling it. Looking at much of the rest of the world, that goal is not only achievable—but it might not be as far off as it may seem.