Britain needs a "war footing" to tackle climate change and energy crisis

20 January 2011

Britain must move to the equivalent of a "war-footing" if we are to overcome the threat of climate change, according to the New Home Front initiative, launched at the Imperial War Museum on Thursday 20th January 2010.

The New Home Front is launched by Green MP Caroline Lucas, with a report written by Andrew Simms, Fellow of nef (new economics foundation) and author of The New Economics. Along with experts on climate change, food and community organisation, the new initiative looks at how Britain finally mobilised in the approach to World War Two, in order to see what can be learned to help with the urgent threat posed by climate change and the end of cheap, abundant oil.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion said: "While the nature of the threat we face from climate change is clearly very different from that which we faced in 1939, the level of the threat means we will need to mobilise on a scale not seen since the war. If we're to overcome the climate crisis, we must move onto the equivalent of a ‘war-footing', where the efforts of individuals, organisations, and government are harnessed together - and directed to a common goal.

"In doing so, we can learn much from the creativity and boldness shown by the public in those years which we can re-interpret for today.

"That's why we're also launching today the 'Home Front Wisdom' initiative, to spend time talking to people whose imagination and resilience helped Britain to survive and thrive all those years ago. We want to learn from their experience, and not let it go to waste. All the best ideas will be collected, published and presented in Parliament, and to the government."

  

Andrew Simms, fellow, new economics foundation, added:

"More recently, it took a war-like effort internationally to stage a short-term rescue of the economy. Almost overnight, the billions required to bail out the banks were found - something that, in a properly regulated system, should never have been necessary.

"Yet it sets a real precedent for what governments can do when the political will is there. The New Home Front, responding to climate change, energy security, peak oil, and threats to the food chain, presents the next battle line and call to action. No longer should anyone be able to say, this cannot be done."

The report reveals that:

• In just six years from 1938 British homes cut their coal use by 11 million tonnes, a reduction of 25%.

• By April 1943, 31,000 tonnes of kitchen waste were being saved every week, enough to feed 210,000 pigs.

• Between 1938 and 1944, there was a 95% drop in the use of personal motor vehicles, while public transport use increased 13%.

• The nation's health improved as diets changed and people become more active, while infant mortality fell. 

• A determination to enjoy life grew. Spending on "amusements" went up 10%, while suicide rates fell.

Over the next six months, the New Home Front is calling on people to speak to friends and relatives who lived through those times to see what can be learned from how they survived and thrived. We want people to tape, film and write down their ideas and experiences which might help us deal with the new realities of changing climate and needing to make a rapid transition to a low carbon economy.

Prof. Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre, said:

"Matching step for step the relentless rise in emissions has been the escalating rhetoric on the importance of climate change. The Rio Earth Summit was in 1992, yet the subsequent nineteen years have seen little more than appeasement - with national initiatives on mitigation, international agreements on climate change and many conferences - but no sign of emissions abating.

"Whilst elaborate mechanisms and markets to make carbon count have failed to bring emissions down, this report goes back to basics and demonstrates how lessons from history may offer practical guidance to meaningful mitigation. At a time of abject failure to curtail emissions, the New Home Front offers a refreshing and essential read for all those with the courage to think differently about climate change."

The report can be read at www.greenparty.org.uk/reports.


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