David Cameron was at the Royal Horticultural Halls today speaking to environmentalists, academics and press about his triangulation between "green" and "growth" - the Blue Green Charter. Read the speech in full here.
Cameron apologised that the timings had changed for the speech because he was going to have his second meeting with President Bush straight afterwards. They first met in Washington last November. He added that it mightn't be the best excuse to give passionate environmentalists!
Gordon Brown and others have tried to capitalise on the fact that the Party's focus had shifted somewhat from the environment as it became less of a priority to the public, so the main message was that environmentalism was still important despite the rising cost of living: "The era of cheap oil is well and truly over... for the sake of our future prosperity and our current cost of living, we must wean ourselves off our dependence on fossil fuels and go green". "We can't afford not to go green", we must say no to the argument that "protecting the environment is a luxury rather than a necessity". "The choice isn't between the economy and the environment, it's between progress and the past".
Cameron was flanked by Alan Duncan, Greg Barker and Peter Ainsworth and he paid tribute to the legwork done by the latter two on environmental issues (although he did tell Ainsworth to "get out more" when he mentioned that he'd just read Newt Gingrich's Contract with the Earth). He also thanked the assembled environmentalists for their continued and valued engagement with the Conservatives.
The speech was structured around the five-point charter for tackling climate change (the bullet-points are virtually verbatim)...
1. We must harness the power of markets and create commercial frameworks that give businesses the confidence to invest in innovation.
- The fight against climate change shouldn't be approached with an attitude of 'can't', of stopping people doing things. Goes against the grain of human nature and it just annoys people.
- We've set a carbon emissions target for cars for 2020 so businesses can adapt their research and practices, better than Brown's retrospective tax.
- I want Britain to be the world leader in hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered cars - the Americans might have been slow in getting climate change, but they're anything but when it comes to getting the technology.
- CCS could reduce our coal-based carbon emissions by up to eighty-five percent and it's truly within our grasp. Compare Government's mixed messages with Schwarzenegger's clarity in California where all new coal plants have to built with CCS.
- A Conservative Government will follow the Californian and implement an Emissions Performance Standard which would mean the carbon emissions rate of all electricity generated in our country cannot be any higher than that generated in a modern gas plant.
- A Conservative Government would take money from the auctioned EU Emissions Trading Scheme credits and use it to fund at least three CCS demonstration projects over the next five to ten years.
- There's a massive barrier to the development of CCS in our country so we're going to set up a panel of experts to advise on how to move matters forward. Britain could be a global pioneer in both pre- and post-combustion technologies.
2. We believe in green taxes, but only if they change behaviour and are replacement taxes, not new taxes.
- Brown gives green taxes a bad name because he just sees them as a way of raising revenue. VED will raise £1 billion for the Treasury but have a minimal affect on cutting emissions.
- Not been a tax invented that had people singing and dancing in the streets. Taxes aimed at changing behaviour are punitive by nature.
- We believe that any revenue raised should be offset by tax reductions elsewhere. Higher taxes on the things we want to discourage, like pollution, and lower taxes on the things we want to support, like families.
3. We must take action to secure our energy supply.
- Relying on oil and gas isn't just bad for our wallets, isn't just bad for our environment, it's also bad for our national security.
- If we could start our economy from scratch would anyone suggest creating a system in which we're dependent on a fuel that not only has wild fluctuations in price but comes from some of the most unstable areas of the world, often under the control of autocratic governments?
- Renewable energy key to moving away from dependence. We plan to decentralise energy like Germany has done, introducing "feed-in tariffs" which pay homes, businesses, hospitals and schools for the clean energy they produce.
- Also need large-scale projects. Tidal energy could provide us with up to 20% of our electricity needs, yet the Marine Deployment Renewables Fund hasn't given out a penny in the last four years. The next Conservative government will put rocket boosters behind this area of research. Alan Duncan (who was also present) will force the Government to come to the House of Commons and explain why so little has been done for so long.
- Energy security is not just a question of renewables. We have taken a responsible long-term view,avoiding ideological posturing and set out a framework in which nuclear power stations can be built. With Brown it's always about the politics, never the policy, he has been in government for a decade and hasn't actually commissioned or built a single nuclear power station.
4. We must prioritise energy efficiency.
- Distinction between mechanical efficiency and behavioural efficiency, the latter is more difficult for government to influence.
- Smart meters give more accurate bills and real-time energy displays in your home - letting you know your energy use, cost and carbon emissions. We would ensure that smart meters are installed in every home in the country.
- A Conservative Government will make sure
every gas and electricity bill contains information that allows each
household to compare their energy consumption with the typical consumption of households on their street. This is a post-bureaucratic
approach to policy making - giving people a nudge in the right direction by creating positive social norms. UPDATE: To clarify, The Times' interpretation that this means "snooping" on individual neighbours' bills is incorrect.
5. We must renew our national transport infrastructure.
- Our country is grinding to a halt - and we need big changes in our infrastructure for the sake of the economy as well as the environment. High speed rail to connect the country quickly. Giving parents a real alternative the school run to ease congestion. Tackling our worst road bottlenecks. Opening up the capacity of our ports.
- Why on earth are they so hell-bent on pressing ahead with a third runway at Heathrow without a proper and rigorous analysis of whether we need it? There are now increasing grounds to believe that the economic case for a third runway is flawed, even without addressing the serious environmental concerns. The important decisions for our economic competitiveness - and for ending the national embarrassment of the state of Heathrow are the competition issues around BAA, looking at how our airports are managed, and seeing what can be done to make them better.