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Cameron promises a green consumer revolution

David Cameron was uncompromising this morning in a speech on climate change:

"Let me give you just one fact. If the Himalayan glaciers melt, three-quarters of a billion people will be without sufficient water. We cannot pretend that this would not have serious consequences for all of us – in terms of global conflict, the mass movements of people and our national security. Of course, there will always be some who deny the science and the scope of the threat posed. They say ninety percent certainty is not good enough. But that is not a justification for inaction. I say to them, would you ask your children to live in a house which ninety percent of the experts told you was going to burn down?"

The main purpose of his speech was to outline five "post-bureaucratic" principles to create a Green Consumer Revolution:

  1. Transparency: More information about the cost of energy for consumers. In this regard he praises Conservative-run Windsor and Maidenhead: "They are publishing online, in real time, the energy consumption of each of their main council buildings – and setting that against their targets for energy usage. That way, local taxpayers can hold the council to account for failing to meet its own targets. This innovation has already led to a fifteen per cent reduction in energy consumption. That’s what is happening in Windsor – imagine if we extended it to every public building in the country?"
  2. Human nature: This seems to me to be identical to principle one. Cameron cites transparency as causing consumers to compare their energy use with others and cut costs accordingly.
  3. Incentives: Conservatives will encourage green behaviour by, for example, paying people to recycle.  George Osborne trailed this 'sunshine' approach some time ago.
  4. Accurate pricing: Ensuring activities bear the full environmental cost.  The Tory leader gives an example: "we will replace the Climate Change Levy, which is a tax on energy, with a proper carbon tax that targets the most polluting sources of energy.  This means clean companies will have the edge and the most polluting ones will be left behind. And we will also put a floor under the 2013 level of landfill tax at £72 per tonne until 2020.  In other words, the tax is here to stay and it will continue to rise.  This will send the clearest signal out to businesses: you must take the cost of waste into account, so you must take steps to design it out of the products you develop."
  5. Profit motive: Encouragement of sustainable companies.

Mr Cameron announced the launch of a new working group, led by Greg Barker MP, "to work with industry to ensure all new appliances and electronic devices sold in the UK have their ‘economy’ modes as the default setting."

The full speech is here as a PDF.

Tim Montgomerie

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