In a move that surprised nearly no one but dismayed nearly everyone, Rishi Sunak has committed to granting hundreds more oil and gas licenses in the North Sea. It’s part of his plan to ‘max out’ the UK’s fossil fuel reserves. Seemingly, this is a move designed to guarantee the UK’s energy security after it became clear that resource-rich states like Russia can weaponise energy supplies. However, with closer scrutiny, one can see that this is the next step of a longstanding campaign to make the environmental crisis and climate change a battleground in the so-called ‘culture wars’ that the Tories are waging.

Climate Wars

The Tories trade in outrage. Think of the ‘migrant crisis’ and the subsequent ‘Stop the Boats’ campaign that, quite explicitly, demonised those who seek a better future for themselves in this country. Think of their hatred of the judiciary. But most recently, the Conservatives have decided to attempt to make political capital out of the climate crisis. This started some time ago, but became explicit with Suella Braverman’s remarks at two Just Stop Oil protesters when she branded them: ‘Guardian-reading, tofu-eating workerati.’ The new plan to grant more licenses to pump more carbon into the air is simply an electoral gamble to win more votes. Emboldened by their recent win in the Uxbridge byelection, which was essentially secured by making the entire election about the expansion of the ULEZ, their aim is to make the next general election a single-issue vote on the climate crisis.

It’s a curious move, for many reasons. Whatever you may think of Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion — and there’s no denying that their methods have attracted both praise and disdain; causing some to wonder if their tactics are the most effective — the cause that they campaign for is admirable. Just Stop Oil is explicitly about stopping new oil and gas licenses, in order to put the brakes on climate change. In a gamble that voters are more annoyed at Just Stop Oil’s antics than they are at the possibility of catastrophic climate change, Sunak has effectively declared war on their campaign. Clearly, he didn’t hear the news that July was the hottest month on record or that the UN Chief had announced that we are now in an ‘era of global boiling.’

Enemies Of The Future

The biggest problem with Sunak’s latest move and the Tories’ addiction to outrage, is that they are fast becoming enemies of the future. Or, more accurately; enemies of our — the youths’ — future. Climate change will certainly impact everyone, but its effects will be felt most palpably by those who live long enough to experience them in full. Today’s young people tend to be more environmentally conscious and willing to take action to protect the environment. It’s no surprise that many young people, this author included, feel that they are not only being betrayed by the government but that their futures are being actively taken hostage for a mere electoral advantage. But that’s not the only disappointment; rather, it’s that absence of opposition to this betrayal.

In recent months, Labour has been in a curious stage of self-flagellation. In order to make Starmer more ‘electable,’ they’ve been watering down and rescinding many of the Opposition Leader’s former pledges. One of the most devastating of these is backing out of the £28 billion green projects pledge.

The Tipping Point

It’s odd, given that policies that aim to make the UK net zero are still popular. However, it’s become increasingly clear that serious action needs to be taken to cut carbon emissions if there’s to be any hope of keeping the climate stable. This likely means sacrificing economic growth — the crux of the so-called ‘degrowth’ movement, which enjoys a large following of young people — but that’s a price that Western societies must now pay. Part of the horror of climate change is its cruel logic: the countries that emitted the most carbon historically will be the least affected by its consequences. This is one moral argument for richer countries to support the net-zero agenda, but it doesn’t mean they have to or that they will.

Make no mistake, we are at a tipping point. The Conservatives’ pathetic posturing on climate change and Labour’s predictable watering-down for electoral advantage misses the point: climate change is far too important to politicise. Quite simply, the world in which we live transcends the world of politics. Both major parties are not only letting down the general public and, in particular, its youth; but all future generations.

The climate crisis is not a political football to be booted about. It must be taken off the pitch entirely because the future is not a political campaign.

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