Comment: Some Conservatives failed over Mandela – others are failing now over climate change

I am a Conservative and an environmentalist – a position, it seems, that is increasingly irreconcilable. Australia’s centre-right administration is busy dismantling a carbon tax. Canada’s Conservative Government has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol. And, in the United States, the Tea Party is purging Republicans who agree with the 97 per cent of climate scientists who say that human activity is causing global warming.

As a politician (and former president) of the Maldives – one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations – this places me in a quandary. A believer in free markets, small government and globalisation, I feel a natural kinship with the school of thought that brought us Thatcherism and Reaganomics. But the Maldives lies just 1.5 meters above the rising seas. To deny the dangers of climate change is to ignore my country’s greatest national security threat.

I suspect I am not alone in this predicament. As climate change bites, more and more world leaders are forced to grapple with its consequences: fiercer droughts, wildfires, storms and floods. A denialist, Conservative movement has no solutions to offer these countries and therefore risks irrelevancy.

It also leaves Conservatives on the wrong side of history. Over the past few weeks, as the world commemorates Nelson Mandela, an uncomfortable spotlight has been shone on Conservatives who branded the ANC as terrorists in the 1980s. How will today’s crop of Conservative climate refuseniks explain themselves to future generations, in a world made hotter, nasty and poor by global warming?

Strong action today to curb emissions should prevent catastrophic climate change. But if we ignore the issue for another decade, we face a world of soaring temperatures, ferocious storms and a climate out of control. Future generations will hold Conservatives responsible for wrecking the planet.

My party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), owes much to the Conservative movement. They have provided us with ideological inspiration and practical know-how. Britain’s Conservative Party taught the MDP how to campaign – invaluable support in a young democracy like the Maldives. We are also grateful to conservative-run governments, such as Canada’s, who pressured the Maldives to hold recent elections when the country looked like it might slip back into dictatorship. The actions of politicians such as David Cameron, William Hague and John Baird, in support of democracy in a far off land, demonstrate the very best in enlightened leadership. When our movement is capable of exemplary governance, why do so many Conservatives let us down on climate change?

It was not always like this. Teddy Roosevelt founded America’s national park system. Richard Nixon introduced the Clean Air Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol to limit CFCs. And George H Bush introduced a cap-and-trade system to curb acid rain. But contemporary politicians fail to uphold one of the founding principles of Conservatism: the duty to conserve. There is nothing Conservative about advocating for the destruction of the climate, and thus all we hold dear. This is not a credible Conservative standpoint: it is reckless and extreme.

Our movement’s pro-fossil fuel advocacy also flies in the face of the free market economics we espouse. The oil, gas and coal industries have benefited from a century of subsidies and tax breaks. So why are we continuing to subsidise highly profitable and polluting fossil fuel firms, while choking off support for clean energy?  We are not supposed to be the fossil fuel industry’s trade union.

Capitalism, free trade and globalisation have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and helped countries, such as my own, graduate from developing to middle income status. We owe a lot to neoclassical economics. But as any economist will tell you, markets sometime fail. The modern economy allows companies to dump dangerous greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at no cost. The responsible, Conservative approach to this problem is to price and/or regulate these emissions.

Fortunately, this position is starting to find acceptance, even in the unlikeliest quarters. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP and Shell are already planning their future growth on the expectation that governments will impose a price on carbon emissions. If oil companies can accept the inevitability of climate action, why can’t Conservative politicians?

Enough of this antediluvian denialism – it is time for climate conscious Conservatives to speak out. We should ask ourselves what Churchill, Thatcher or Reagan would do. Even in the face of vested interests or powerful opponents, they would not shirk their responsibilities. They would lead the fight to conserve our climate.

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4 thoughts on “Comment: Some Conservatives failed over Mandela – others are failing now over climate change”

  1. Yes, yes. Don't believe in global warming. Let conflicts fester worldwide. These 'arch-conservatives' will pay the price in blood when nature's devastation and people out looking for vengeance strike their homelands.

  2. whats does Maldives have to do with global warming.. we did not cause it.

    But, yes, Maldives WAS a willing puppet of climate Mafia - really a capitalist gang disguised as climate lovers.

    Its big business.. carbon positive anyone?

  3. At last Mohamed Nasheed has spoken. I have been waiting for it.

    Your free-market economy ideas perhaps led you to rent out the Male International Airport to a foreign company.

    I think you did not explain it well enough to the nation.

    The only thing left is the name that you gave it: Ibrahim Nasir Airport. Everything else has changed.

    Your party MDP is a conservative
    party. I think PPM, JP, Adhaalath are all conservatives also. But you do not seem to get on with each other at the political level.

    And more importantly, Maldivians and the world do not know that yours is a conservative party.

    Why is it so?

  4. you? an environmentalist? lol. you are an amazing human being, you inspire me,you are a true patriot and a humanist. but you are definitely not an environmentalist. or atleast not when you are in Maldives or focusing on Maldives.

    Not a single word about it in either of your presidential manifestos. instead of sustainable development, you talked about "7 feet steps" development. you did not care about conservation, you approved destruction of valuable priceless natural resources under your authority. while you actually did create the first environment protection agency in the country, you convinietly refused to make them independent or give them real powers. they were places under the ministryif environment and ....wait for it...HOUSING. the very minister in charge of mega development projects signing eia reports. we have seen burning down of ancienw trees, selling unique islands with unique ecosystems to achieve this highspeed development of yours.your mariculture policy or your guesthouse policy didn't consider environmental impact. in fact, environment is a non-issue when you are in Maldives.

    two reasons you are an "environmentalist" sometimes:

    1) foreign aid. just like your predecessor and successors, you need those funds.

    2) as a favor to uk conservative party. what another commenter here calls the climate mafia. climate change is very real, just like terrorism. doesn't mean they won't be used as an excuse by capitalist mafia to do their dirty work. carbin neutral bullshit is money. increasing green energy investments is buying the future. so it could be controlled just like the oil.

    and btw, didn't you once say mdp is a center left party?? or was that one of you 'moments'. your welfare and social policies suggest you are goddamn commie.

    but seriously... for godz sake...plax stop calling yourself an environmentalist. climate change enthusiast perhaps? KKBK!


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