The politics of climate change in the UK



Between 2006 and 2010 climate change rose rapidly up the UK political agenda and the Labour Government, with cross-party support, introduced major changes in domestic climate and energy policy, including the landmark Climate Change Act 2008, which represented an important step toward the UK becoming a low carbon economy. Cross-party consensus was initially sustained by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, before growing criticism from the political right began to turn climate change into an increasingly partisan issue, thereby weakening the commitment of David Cameron to climate leadership. The article examines the transition of climate change from low politics to high politics, assessing the role of public opinion, the media, business, environmental groups, and party competition in overcoming the obstacles to progressive climate change and energy policy. The roles of party politics and of individual political leadership are identified as critical factors in raising the profile of climate change and delivering radical policy change. The significance of the growing partisan divisions over climate change is assessed.

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Conflict of interest: The author has declared no conflict of interest for this article.