Fundamental Choices

Liberal Democrat column for Whitehaven News, by Elizabeth BARRACLOUGH (President) and Roger PUTNAM (Secretary), published on November 21st 2018.

Elizabeth Barraclough

We are facing a unique combination of crises which will have profound consequences if we do not face up to them.

The immediate crisis is Brexit. We cannot recall any national issue which has so divided both people and politicians. We are entering the final stages of this long debate about our relationship with our European neighbours and our ability to retain a key role in international affairs. Fortunately, as Parliament faces its most important decisions since 1940, it remains possible that our country can save itself from deep, self-inflicted injury.

People now recognise more clearly the full implications of Brexit. National polls and local surveys across Cumbria all indicate that we should re-examine that momentous decision made, with hopelessly inadequate information, in June 2016.

A ‘people’s vote’ will give an opportunity for the whole electorate, including the new generation reaching 18 who will live longest with this decision, to make their final choice. Their decision may not only maintain the huge advantages of membership of the EU, but also ensure the very survival of the UK. Liberal Democrats, committed internationalists, have consistently been in favour of such a vote.

But there is a vastly greater problem than Brexit. Fundamental changes are essential to avert the impending catastrophe of climate change. The problems are most evident in the Arctic regions where ice caps are melting and sea levels rising. At the other side of the earth, this rise is overwhelming Pacific island communities.

We in the west are the main cause of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but we are also, through our scientists and technologists, capable of reversing this process. This must be done now.

We all have a ‘carbon footprint’ ie. how much CO2 we put into the atmosphere through our dependence on fossil fuels. Each time we make a journey by car, bus or train – or worse, by air – CO2 is generated. Our homes are heated mainly by the use of oil or gas. Our food is brought to the shops by transport using oil. The list can go on.

There are solutions, such as major investment in renewables, but this short-sighted government is withdrawing subsidies for solar panels and windpower. Previous governments have proposed a carbon ration to keep the CO2 emissions within safe limits. This could be a really effective measure which would affect the lifestyle of the rich but not touch those suffering from the financial austerity of this government.

One damaging effect of the endless Brexit debate has been the government‘s failure to deal with other key issues of the day such as climate change, which of course can only be addressed by united international agreement, as being initiated by the European Union.

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