NETWORK NEWS: Molly Scott Cato

As we reported on our New Era website, Molly is one of the group which founded a new thinktank in 2011, the Green House. It is committed to a politics of hope and to  greater confidence in the new paradigm in social and economic life built up over the last sixty years.

The latest Green House report, Guardians of the Future, was launched at a packed meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday 10th January. It argues that we need a specialist jury of Guardians to protect the interests of future generations, who are disenfranchised within our existing political system. This idea joins a number of radical ideas which are starting to make small but real impacts in the world. Hungary appointed an Ombudsman for Future Generations in 2008. The concept of the crime of ecocide is being considered by the UN. And Bolivia has passed laws giving nature equal rights to those of humans.

Government minister Norman Baker, commented on the idea, as did MPs Caroline Lucas and Jon Cruddas. Norman Lamb was also present for part of the session.

A podcast of the speeches given at the session is available and a transcript of the proposal by Rupert Read, a philosopher at the University of East Anglia, can be read on his blog.

On 21st May, in the run-up to the Rio+20 conference in June, the report of the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the Green Economy criticised tensions in the government’s approach to developing the green economy in the UK. They identified in particular the conflict between the Treasury’s focus on growth at any price and attempts by more environmentally sensitive departments to constrain the economy within planetary limits.

Molly gave evidence there on behalf of the Green House thinktank, following up its written evidence which suggested that the basis for developing policy for the transition to a green economy was the recognition of planetary limits.

The Committee cited Green House’s view about the need to limit economic growth to ‘transitional growth’ meaning that our use of energy and materials can only be increased now if they are invested in infrastructure that will eventually lead to a lessening of demand for them in the future:

“Green House believed that economic growth was only possible in the short-term as part of a transition strategy to move us towards an economy that is in a steady state. Such economic growth would be confined to replacing infrastructure to enable self-reliant economies stabilising the economy within our national resource limits.’ (para. 54)”

They also included Green House suggestions that government needs to play a much stronger role in planning key strategic areas such as energy and food security:

“Green House believed that the Government should be prepared to plan levels of crucial outputs, like renewable electricity, road usage, agricultural production and pollutants, and take a stronger role in controlling corporations whose activities are destructive to the environment, including removing their licences to trade.’ (para. 39)”

Molly raised concerns about the dominant role played by business in discussions about how we might move towards a green economy in the government’s document Enabling the Transition  which, she told the committee, “reads very much like a conversation between business and government”. She called instead for the involvement of the citizens of the UK in a mature discussion about how we might all build a green economy and a better society.

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