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What is free market environmentalism? Meet the BCA – Sunil Sharma

4 min read
30 March 2020 | OPINION

It has often been argued that it is not possible to achieve both environmental and economic success. However, we at the British Conservation Alliance (BCA) believe it is possible to achieve both through the power of the free market. Historically, environmental activism has been exclusive to left-leaning political values, but BCA acts to re-engage on these principles of conservative conservation, to champion market-based solutions to environmental problems, and to empower all to live more green-conscious lives. These are our founding principles.

Launched in September 2019 by a group of conservative and liberal-minded millennials, we saw a clear gap in politics when it came to pro-market solutions to environmentalism. Since then, we have established a campus presence at around 30 universities across the UK, spoken at over 10 international conferences, and will be launching a book entitled ‘Green Market Revolution’ over the summer, with launches in 5 cities across the world.

At BCA, we have clear policies across a number of platforms that we believe can have a positive impact. For example, it is necessary for a functioning free market economy that we try to minimise negative externalities that occur and lead to economic inefficiency. CO2 is a prime example of a negative externality that can have harmful impacts on our everyday lives, in both the short and longer terms.

While taxes can be coercive and counter-intuitive, we believe that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is a step in the right direction when implemented correctly. For example, it could be paired with a reduction in corporation or income tax elsewhere; the case of British Columbia is evidence that such a carbon tax can both reduce emissions and grow the economy at higher rates than without one.

Meanwhile, we support a mixed-energy approach, as this can help understand the comprehensive combination of various energy sources that will be necessary to transition to a decarbonised energy grid. This includes a transitionary fossil fuel phase, nuclear energy, renewable energies such as wind & solar, thermal, hydro, etc. Tax incentives for green energies, such as Clean Tax Cuts and Clean Asset Bonds & Loans, can level the playing field after years of subsidies for fossil fuels.

In particular, we look to remove the stigma surrounding nuclear energy, because all statistics show that this is an exceedingly safe, clean, and reliable source of power. We must be doing everything we can to extend the lifeline of current reactors and plants whilst renewable energy becomes more reliable and efficient. France and Sweden can be seen as great examples, as they have some of the lowest per-capita carbon emissions in the developed world, with both relying very heavily on nuclear for their decarbonised grids.

In general, we promote creating an economic situation in which clean innovation is not only possible, but also rewarded and accelerated. We must abandon nonsensical precautionary principles that stymie such innovation, and allow for progress to be made in the biotechnology, artificial intelligence and nuclear sectors, among others. Putting the power of the free market to work in innovating our way out of climate change is the only way to solve our environmental problems without sacrificing our economy.

Ultimately, this quote from Michael Liebrich encapsulates our market environmentalist vision for Britain: “An open, liberal, trade-friendly economy – though one pricing in externalities – will do a better job of addressing climate change and other environmental problems than stalling or reversing economic growth.”

We have a number of other policies and ideas that we feel can help promote eco-friendliness in Britain, and will be sharing more of these as we keep growing (especially with our upcoming book launch). However, our focus is not merely on the UK: at BCA, we believe that the UK needs to take a leadership role on the international stage to promote positive, market-friendly environmental practice.

This can be done through becoming a pro-enterprise bastion of innovation and new, clean technologies, which we can then export to the rest of the world through clean free trade. With the COP26 summit in Glasgow this November, and the opportunities of Brexit, we will be working with our international partners to promote global market environmental opportunities for the United Kingdom.

But what does all this mean for you? There are in fact many opportunities for young conservatives and libertarians in the UK to get involved. Firstly, if you are a university student, you should join our campus network, where we support you and your potential society in your activism, help you with funding for events, and give you resources to learn more about the issues.

If you would like to join our team more generally, we sometimes also post role openings on our website for positions in policy research, social media, etc. We also accept article submissions for our blog, and you can request a speaker for your event (university or elsewhere). Finally, do get involved on social media, follow us on Twitter, and keep an eye out for exciting new projects coming up, including our book launch!

Ultimately, however, our mission is simple, we want to change the narrative on environmental discussions in Britain by empowering a new generation of leaders to promote free-enterprise and market-based solutions to protecting Britain’s beautiful environment. We’d love for you to join us in this mission.

Sunil Sharma, Policy Researcher

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