Corbyn Gets (weak) Sustainability

CES PhD student Simon Mair gives his take on the election of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on 12th September 2015:

The Labour party may have a chosen a divisive leader in Jeremy Corbyn – but it does look like he gets (weak) Sustainability.

Indeed to me the the most interesting aspect of Corbyn’s “Protecting Our Planet” manifesto was the way it presented its environmentalism: climate change and energy policy make up the bulk of the document – but biodiversity and marine health are also in there. What’s more, Corbyn doesn’t shy away from the social aspects of sustainability, explicitly linking social and environmental goals and acknowledging the electoral and political issues that underpin them. In this way, I would argue “Protecting our Planet” is really a Sustainability document, rather than merely an environmental one.

This has to be a good thing – if we’re going to achieve a sustainable world we need politicians who understand the intimate connections between environmental and social wellbeing. And, on the face of it at least, Corbyn does get this. Moreover, with his (controversial) appointment of a vegan as shadow environment secretary there is the possibility that a Corbyn administration would recognise the importance of consumption as a driver of environmental degradation – something researchers in CES have highlighted. From his manifesto it is also clear that Corbyn understands the importance of investing in green jobs and infrastructure (two other themes of CES research – see here and here).

However, the outlook is not perfect. Corbyn does go further than most British politicians in paying lip service to the “Earth’s resource limits”, but the specific policy proposals outlined continue the tradition of efficiency drives and chasing ever more economic growth – something Tim Jackson of CES and others have argued against. Moreover, CES have long stressed the need to take a holistic, global view of environmental and social impact that considers UK/European impacts overseas and across product lifecycles and it is not clear that this is part of Corbyn’s sustainability.

So, to sum up, we have further to go if we’re to get a strong view of sustainability and see a mainstream political party arguing for a steady state economy. But I think Corbyn’s environmental vision is a sustainable one and as a young, sustainability conscious voter Corbyn and Corbyn’s Labour give me hope for the future.