As Labour leader I will challenge the myth that we need to choose between the economy and the environment
David Cameron with huskies in Norway as part of his bid to rebrand the Conservative party
David Cameron used to claim he’d lead the ‘greenest government ever’. Yet the way his government has behaved shows those were just hollow words. Or to paraphrase the prime minister – ‘green crap’.
Two days before the election, environment secretary Amber Rudd promised that the Conservatives would ‘continue to take action to protect the environment as part of our long-term economic plan for green jobs and growth’.
Just more pre-election hollow words from the people who reclassified child poverty to hide from their failures, cut the power on the Northern powerhouse and rebranded the minimum wage as a fake Living Wage.
The reality is thus: the government’s actions have damaged investor confidence in the UK energy market, will increase consumer bills and jack up the cost of decarbonisation.
That’s a disaster for our economy and for those of us who want to see serious global action on clean energy.
Today Amber Rudd is giving a speech in which she’ll confirm a further watering down of the Tories’ already inadequate commitments. Shutting down the Renewables Obligation a year earlier than planned – and cutting subsidies for onshore wind projects in the process – was only a popular move if you were asking the opinions of a vocal group of backbench Tory MPs.
If you were to seek opinions outside the 1922 Committee the response is strikingly different. Industry body Energy UK criticised the move, stating that the ‘announcement risks confidence in energy investment upon which a great deal of vital infrastructure investment depends’. The CBI argued the move was not only a blow to industry but could damage the UK’s reputation as a good place to invest in energy infrastructure.
Or to put it another way – if the government keep on undermining energy infrastructure, the lights might start to go off and bills will start to go up.
So onshore wind has taken a battering – but what about Solar? In May, Amber Rudd stated that she wanted to unleash a new solar revolution under this Parliament. Instead she’s threatened to cut industry support.
Responsibility? Consistency? I’m not sure Amber Rudd knows what they are.
So what do we do with an energy secretary intent on damaging investor confidence in the UK energy market, unfazed by abandoning those in fuel poverty? We send her to Paris in December to represent our nation in the most important international negotiations on climate change of our time.
We need an ambitious plan for the Paris climate change negotiations – but that plan needs to be matched by serious action at home as well. As Labour leader I will challenge George Osborne’s myth that we need to choose between the economy and the environment. Low carbon businesses were the biggest growth area during the recession, and the CBI estimates that the number of green jobs will increase to 1.4 million by 2020.
Where Cameron sees ‘green crap’ I see future jobs, investment and prosperity. The Tories have been relentlessly negative about clean energy and have failed to present a positive vision for what they want to see investment in – other than fracking.
We need to hold the government to account for its undermining of the renewables industry and unlock the potential to both cut carbon and create new jobs.
Cameron promised the greenest government ever. He hasn’t tried very hard.
At a time when we face the inter-connected global challenges of energy security, climate change and globalisation, Britain really does need the greenest government ever. Losing in May meant that Labour under Ed Miliband – a great climate change secretary – couldn’t be that government. For our country and for future generations, we need a Labour leader who can win and form a government that is truly committed to clean energy. There’s nothing ‘crap’ about that.
Liz Kendall is the shadow care minister and a candidate for Labour party leader. Follow her on Twitter
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