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David Davis joins "Tory backlash on the environment"

Picture 14Today The Independent splashes with the suggestion that David Cameron is suffering an increasing "backlash" from leading Conservatives on the environment, with a variety of senior figures questioning the consensus he has embraced on climate change.

It comes as the director of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit has stepped down during a review of its allegedly manipulated data, whilst another academic is afforded the front page story in today's Express after calling climate change a “load of hot air underpinned by fraud”.

Whilst the Independent's editorial line is to be "baffled" by climate change sceptics, it has given a platform today to former shadow home secretary David Davis, who opines that "the fixation of the green movement with setting ever tougher targets is a policy destined to collapse".

He continues:

"The ferocious determination to impose hair-shirt policies on the public – taxes on holiday flights, or covering our beautiful countryside with wind turbines that look like props from War of the Worlds – would cause a reaction in any democratic country. This adverse reaction will be reinforced if, as predicted, we suffer power shortages in the next decade. Lights going out around Britain could be an electoral off-switch for environmental policy. This will happen at the same time as fuel bills rise by 30 per cent."

Mr Davis concludes:

"To date, too many discussions on this matter have degenerated into infantile mud-slinging and virulent name-calling. It is simply unacceptable for one side to describe the other as deniers, with its deliberate holocaust connotations, and the other side to essentially call their opponents liars. This issue is too important for the argument to be reduced to the level of an adolescent political spat, and it is time we engaged in this debate on a properly adult level."

The paper also uses quotes past and present from a variety of other Conservative MPs as it attempts to paint a picture of "a growing challenge" to David Cameron's authority on the issue:

Peter Lilley: "There is an irrefutable scientific process [on global warming]. I just think its effects tend to be exaggerated."

John Maples: "I do not believe that the science is anything like as settled as the proponents of the [Climate Change] Bill are making out."

Philip Davies: "I would like to see some proper cost-benefit analysis [at Copenhagen] on the impact on the economy, rather than this charge towards trying to be trendy and to please the environmental lobby. Everyone has gone completely mad on this. It has taken on the hallmarks of a religion rather than a policy issue. Anyone who says 'hang on a minute' is completely decried and treated like a Holocaust denier."

Graham Brady: "There is some room for debate about why the climate is changing and the best ways of tackling it. It is a good idea to reduce carbon emissions, but I would not want to see the whole economy destroyed in the process. There is a balance to be struck."

However, the paper's report does go on to point out that only five Conservative MPs voted against last year's Climate Change Bill (including two of those quoted above) and that only two of the party's MEPs (and yes, they were Dan Hannan and Roger Helmer) opposed the party line in the European Parliament last week by voting against a motion demanding that the Copenhagen summit agree an 80% cut in emissions by 2050.

Reflecting on the ousting of Australian Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull because of his support for the Labor government's climate change bill, Tim Montgomerie told The Independent that "climate change really is an issue that can split conservative parties around the world." It is certainly an issue that needs to be carefully managed. Conservatives in Britain won't support action on climate change, Tim has argued, if there are not other clear and significant benefits. Last week, he set four tests for supporting 'green measures'.

Jonathan Isaby


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