Liberals have always set great store by laws and declarations. It was joked about Lord Loreburn, the liberal Lord Chancellor in the years before the First World War, that if told the Germans had landed he would immediately have taken steps to obtain an interim injunction from the Chancery Division requiring an immediate withdrawal. These days something similar seems to be happening as regards the Liberal Democrats’ approach to climate change.
Last Thursday Ed Davey took aim at the City, which he has decided to add to the party’s growing list of climate change villains. In a curious interview with the Guardian he put forward a modest proposal to deal with the problem: his demands included an immediate ban on the listing in London of any new company whatever involved with oil, coal or gas, and the outlawing of any attempt to raise a loan, or issue any bonds, to finance exploration for any of these commodities. Those fossil fuel companies already quoted in London would be graciously allowed to remain there. But after two years would be summarily ejected unless they pledged carbon neutrality by 2045, at which time all fossil fuel concerns would also be compulsorily delisted.
Grand gestures of this kind are nothing new for the Lib Dems. Most of the local authorities they run have already issued solemn declarations about a ‘climate emergency.’ And in June Ed Davey co-sponsored with Caroline Lucas a quixotic Climate and Ecology Bill that would require Boris Johnson to declare his own climate emergency: impose on the government, among other esoteric things, a duty to ensure the UK ‘expands natural ecosystems, wherever possible, and enhances agroecosystems for the purposes of safeguarding their carbon sink capacity and their resilience to global heating’, and set up a Citizens’ Assembly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency to prevent any backsliding.
Measures like these are pretty obvious political posturing: no one honestly thinks they will have much effect.