Amidst the thoroughly reactionary Republicans and the chronically out of touch Democrat old guard, a small but vigorous progressive political front is rising in the US. They are more left-leaning, and thus outsiders to the notoriously plutocratic political scene. But despite their initially small influence, the progressive front is already making waves.
Chief amongst the movement is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose constant social media presence and intense agitation of the US government’s entrenched dogmas immediately sets her apart as a force to be reckoned with. To the Pelosi loyalists she is a black sheep, to the Republicans a joke, but to an increasing number of people in and outside government, she is proving to be the only politician focused on the greatest threat of the day: climate change.
The climate policies of the progressive front are people-oriented, placing greater focus on the poorest and most disenfranchised of society, as it is these people who will ultimately bear the greatest burden of its effects. Alongside the promise of a huge new (and sustainable) employment sector, the boldly named ‘Green New Deal’ pushed for by the progressives is gaining ground in an otherwise unfavourable atmosphere. The question is then, why is Britain still lagging so far behind?
It should first be noted that there is no shortage of public will. The huge protests of the Extinction Rebellion brought much of the capital to a standstill earlier this year, and the ‘People’s Walk for Wildlife’, led by naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, was well received and widely praised. As much cannot be said for the United States, where mass action has been smaller and more dispersed in relative terms, yet has had significantly more political impact.
Across the channel as well, France has been ripped apart by violent protests, sparked by hypocritical ‘green’ taxes that hurt the poor while giving the petrochemical industry tax breaks. Is there no fear this sentiment might spread to the UK?
The most likely cause of the ineffectual attitude of government here in the UK is the same issue that endlessly congests our newsfeeds: Brexit. With our leadership mired in difficult negotiations and a large segment of Parliament uncooperative, political will is being sapped from more urgent issues.
With the long-term economic impact of climate change estimated to be in the trillions, the few economic arguments for Brexit pale in comparison, and the lack of political attention towards the climate agenda becomes more alarming day by day. All Brexit does is posit the question of whether we will have to face a climate breakdown alone or under the guidance of the EU; either could be possible, but not without the political will for it.
The most alarming concept by far is that the second-largest polluting nation on Earth may soon be where we look to for our green policy cues. Although Britain has never stood out for its forward-thinking in environmental policy, to fall so far behind is not merely the sign of a sluggish government, but an actively regressive approach. It remains to be seen how much longer we can put off a rational approach to climate change, and if political action will come soon enough.