Green Evolution: Lessons from British Climate Policy, 1979-2020

Scheuch, Eric

Over the last few decades, the approach that the United Kingdom has taken to climate policy has undergone a dramatic evolution, from a fierce opponent of climate policy at any level to a strong supporter of such policy at both the domestic and international level. That shift—which took place under both Labour and Conservative administrations—was driven primarily by two factors: increased public opinion in favor of climate regulation and a shifting judgment about the value of such policy to the British economy. This evolution holds four main lessons for advocates of sustainable development: 1.) Durable cross-party support for climate change policies is possible, provided that politicians view supporting climate policy to be in their interest; 2.) Public pressure after elections is as important as pressure during elections to ensure that politicians’ campaign promises match policies they enact in office; 3.) The business community can have a transformational effect on the policy debate when it recalculates the value of climate policies into its bottom line; and 4.) Ambitious governmental action on climate change is easiest when accomplished in steps, rather than in an overnight, all-or-nothing period.


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Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development

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August 18, 2022