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Gregory Barker MP: The big green budget?

Greg_barker Gregory Barker MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, criticises the lack of new ideas on the environment in yesterday's Budget.

Today we found out that not only has Alistair Darling no new ideas or credible strategy of his own to beat Climate Change, he doesn’t even have the bottle to steal our ideas any more! 

What has been trailed since before Christmas as “the Big Green Budget” was Darling’s opportunity to present his own compelling strategy of how to beat Climate Change. What a yawn! What a huge missed opportunity! What a huge betrayal of future generations. David Cameron was absolutely spot on in his reply when he said that not only was this government facing a credit crunch, it was facing a credibility crunch as well! Nowhere is that more true than on Climate Change.

At the centre of the Chancellor’s supposed new Global Warming agenda was legislation to permit a review of the potential to impose a plastic bag tax at the end of the year! How pathetic! The Daily Mail has run a brilliant and welcome campaign on plastic bags but it is much more about the ecological and littering impact of these unwelcome eyesores than a plea for action on Climate Change. The Chancellor, for cheap political expediency has completely blurred the two. The fact is that the emissions of just one 747 flight to Australia equate to the manufacture of over three quarters of a million plastic bags. As a measure to clean up our seas and save wild life, to reduce litter and protect the environment more generally the plastic bag campaign has huge merit, but as the central plank of a strategy to combat global warming it is hopelessly unambitious.

The other measures on tax and emission standards were footling and recycled. The new emissions standards for vehicles have effectively already been announced by the EU. Five year Carbon Budgets are already in the Climate Change Bill. The fuel duty rises look remarkably like yet another stealth tax, painted with greenwash. Even the 100% auctioning of allowances in Phase III of the European Emissions trading is in reality a response to initiatives already coming from Brussels.

Compare all this to the ambitious vision of the Shadow Chancellor, who last month set out three radical, business friendly proposals which demonstrate the creative thinking and sense of ambition that is the hallmark of a successful Party preparing for government.

These three new policies are only a small part of our total Climate Change action strategy, but they are important nonetheless:

Firstly, a new network of business incubators attached to every British university and research centre to drive forward the development and commercialisation of the best of British green technology research and innovation. 

Secondly, the creation of a world first, a new dedicated Green Environmental Market, building on the success of AIM. Working hand in hand with the London Stock Exchange we want to make London the world’s leading capital market for the new low carbon economy.

And thirdly, the Shadow Chancellor announced plans to create Green ISAs, what The Sun called “saving to save the planet!”, GISAs will provide a real incentive to encourage saving and investment in Britain’s most progressive and successful low carbon companies. Not just environmental companies but potentially companies in all sectors, right across the economy. Why? Because every company regardless of what it does has to join in the effort to drive down greenhouse gas pollution. Those that do so will be given credit for embracing change and making it pay. And for retail investors Green ISA’s will create an attractive opportunity to share the economic rewards that will come to those who lead the way towards the new economy.

Any successful plan to defeat dangerous man made Climate Change requires ambition, innovation and strong political leadership. It also requires politicians at Westminster to put aside Party differences where possible to build a long term consensus that will give the private sector and our capital markets the confidence to invest in long term solutions. Politicians need to give clear long term signals to the private sector if it is going to deploy the vast sums of investment capital needed if we are going to shift our economy and our lifestyles on to a more sustainable footing. 

But building that consensus becomes so much more difficult when the Party in power is so utterly afraid to act or completely bereft of new ideas.


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