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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


UK political leaders show climate leadership

Eliot Whittington

18 February 2015

This Valentine’s Day the main political leaders in the UK took a break from electioneering to 'show the love' and sign a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to work across political dividing lines to fight climate change whatever the outcome of the upcoming election.

The statement commits the leaders to the global two degrees target, ambitious domestic targets, and support for low carbon energy, including an end to the use of unabated coal for power generation.

This intervention, which reasserts the UK political consensus on climate change that The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group has consistently called for, sends a powerful message about the future economic direction for the UK. This is particularly significant to business leaders and investors, who need certainty to plan their investments, and to political leaders around the world who will be involved in negotiating a new global climate deal in Paris at the end of this year.

Importantly, the pledge to end unabated coal power is in effect promising new action to deliver on this phase out. This follows a growing consensus that unabated coal needs to be addressed urgently, a recommendation put forward most recently by the landmark New Climate Economy report.

Of course, many questions about the UK’s climate and energy strategy are left unanswered, and will remain so until after the election. What will be the role of onshore wind, for example, and when will the last unabated coal power station be closed? But this misses the point. The statement establishes an overall direction during an uncertain time, and in doing so it provides certainty that the next government will be committed to driving forward low carbon growth and job creation.

Business in many other countries would benefit from such a bipartisan approach; there are already calls to Australian political leaders to take a similar initiative.

However business leaders also need to take note, not only of the content of the statement, but also of the leadership it demonstrates. Setting aside political differences in the heat of an election campaign in this way requires both courage and insight – attributes that are needed in the face of the social and environmental challenges the world faces.

Such leadership is urgently needed from across the business community, who, in the run-up to the Paris climate negotiations should be making their support for a fair, ambitious, and legally binding global deal loud and clear.

About the author

Eliot Whittington

Eliot leads a body of work to support business and policy action on climate change. He is the Deputy Director of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group which brings together businesses to work towards a step change in policy and action on climate change.

Eliot has over 15 years’ experience in working to unlock systemic change, including providing policy analysis around climate action for Save the Children and Christian Aid, leading Christian Aid’s UK lobbying work with parliamentarians and political parties, and working on mobilising grassroots campaigning in locations from Addis Ababa to Birmingham.



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