If you are a politician with a Darwinian view of humanity, ie. one who reckons all people are fundamentally self-interested and prone to care only about their own survival, then chances are the environment is low on your list of vote-winning policy ideas. You might prefer instead to cut fuel duty, or inheritance tax.
If, however, you reckon that people do care about others, not against their own personal interests but alongside them and maybe even because of them (ie. the better off other people are, the better off I am), you might surmise that people are interested in policies that protect the planet – our ultimate home – and put these front and centre.
It looks like the Conservatives have recently adopted the latter sociological view of the British public, having launched a detailed and pretty sensible environmental plan last week, on the basis that it will help win them votes, presumably as much as it is just the bally right thing to do.
The environment can be politically expedient. A cynic might say that choosing to showcase environmental policies is a way of distracting the nation from Brexit and the state of the NHS. Indeed, it’s easy to look good when you are pledging to do things that have relatively intangible effects day-to-day for the majority of people.
But the thing is, Michael Gove seems to genuinely get it. When he talks about environmental protection measures, the impression is that he has fully digested the common sense arguments of the environmental lobby and is right on board, mind and spirit, with the mission. This is surprising to all, but no less pleasing for it.
The Conservative party may be pro-business, but Mr Gove is right to point out the link between Conservatism and conservation – greenness can also be compatible with free-market capitalism, even though not everyone takes the “doing your bit” part as seriously as the “make money” bit. You can’t make money on a dead planet, as the saying goes.
The attack on single-use plastics is bang on. Thank God David Attenborough stepped in with Blue Planet when he did. So is the commitment to more habitats for wildlife (though this dovetails nicely in with NIMBY-ism and the desire among rural Tory voters not to have new homes near their own – cynicism duly withheld.) An environmental watchdog is also a good idea – it’s a shame the Conservative Government got rid of the last one in 2010.
There’s more the plan could have said on recycling and bottle collection schemes, according to environmentalists. But everyone seems to agree they did not make a bad fist of it at all – and suddenly wouldn’t mind a cup of tea with Mr Gove.
How much will actually happen is of course another matter, but to have not only the political will, but the will AND a plan, is a great thing and we should encourage the Government all the way on it.
Clearly, at Good With Money, we hope that this revival of political will to look after the planet extends to people’s financial choices, too, and that things like sustainable investing, through the turgid laws on fiduciary duty, will also be encouraged by policy and maybe even more tax breaks.
Enterprise Investment Scheme relief could be duplicated for green energy or energy efficiency investments, or for sustainable waste disposal businesses who wish to raise money. These options should be open to normal investors, through their ISAs, so that those choosing to put money into green businesses through some of the newer platforms, such as Abundance Investment, Crowd2fund and Downing Crowd, are rewarded as much for their investment choices as for their plastic bag avoidance. Abundance is currently raising for a project that will turn whisky residue into biofuels.. it’s offering 15 per cent interest a year for two years (risks apply)… just imagine if that came with basic rate tax relief, too?
Even the most assiduous canvas bag user is undermining their efforts if their pension is invested in big oil and banks, sectors which typically care little for sustainability. Check out our pick of greener pension and savings providers, and our Good Egg companies, who put people and planet alongside profit.