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The Conservatives have forgotten the greatest challenge of all: climate change

Those early days - with the promise of being the greenest government ever - feel very far away indeed.

It is easy to forget that it was only five years ago when David Cameron and George Osborne presented themselves to the country as a green Prime Minister and Chancellor in waiting.

While Cameron famously hugged huskies and promised to lead the ‘greenest government ever’, Osborne told climate campaigners, “if I become Chancellor, the Treasury will become a green ally, not a foe.”

Yet within months of taking up residence in Downing Street George Osborne was pledging Britain would no longer lead the world in cutting carbon pollution. Behind the scenes, the Prime Minister was caught telling his advisors to cut the ‘green crap.’

As the results of this are felt at home and abroad, today Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd addresses Conservative Party conference desperately in need of a reset of her party’s agenda.

As clean technology companies turn their back on Britain, the government is almost entirely silent about its role at this year’s crucial climate change summit of world leaders in Paris. This silence represents a dangerous neglect of our national interests and should not pass without challenge. 

We refuse to believe, as the Chancellor frequently implies, that people in Britain have to choose between a clean, healthy environment and decent jobs and services. This is a false choice that leaves us with neither.

Whilst George Osborne tells us that we cannot afford clean energy, the very countries he points to as our competitors are piling their money and political support into low-carbon technologies. China is investingmore in clean energy than the whole of Europe. President Obama has overseen a doubling of renewable energy generation in the United States. India is planning a five fold increase in clean energy investment over the next five years.

Whilst he is stubbornly silent on the impacts of climate change, economists, health chiefs, and business leaders are lining up to tell us that if we don’t act on pollution, our economy will pay the price. Days ago the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney warned rising temperatures present huge risks to global financial security. Aviva Investors recently concluded that a minimum of $4.2 trillion of assets in the global economy will be put risk if climate change is left unchecked. Modern economists understand that prosperity and environmental sustainability are not trade-offs – they rely fundamentally upon one another. On this subject, we have a Chancellor that has not just got his morals but also his maths terribly wrong.

Britain’s absence from the debate on climate change is a symptom of this government's flawed reasoning on foreign policy. Whether in the EU or the United Nations, we pursue an isolationist, disengaged approach, in the mistaken belief that by ignoring international problems we can shield ourselves from their consequences. Yet it is global forces – whether financial de-regulation, the displacement of refugees by conflict or natural disasters, or the impacts of accelerating climate change– that now and in the future shape the everyday lives of working people in Britaing

It is because the Labour Party understands this that we are calling on the government to lead from the front at the Paris summit.  We will champion an agreement that signals once and for all the fundamental transformation of the global energy economy that is necessary to protect us from dangerous climate change.  We will also demand international rules that punish free-riders, and give British technology companies the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with those around the world. 

David Cameron was right when he said in 2006, “Tackling climate change is our social responsibility to the next generation.” Today his government must finally remember that protecting the environment is a duty, a legacy, and an economic opportunity that they neglect to all our cost.

Lisa Nandy is the MP for Wigan. She was formerly Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.