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Huhne and Cameron over-rule Osborne and Cable and put green targets before economy

By Tim Montgomerie

In his News of the World (£) column Fraser Nelson warns that sluggish economic growth could mean "game over" for Cameron's chances of re-election. "Germany has exported its way to a boom," he writes, "The always-on-strike French are recovering twice as quickly as us. Even bombed-out Greece is outpacing us." Osborne may be making Obama-sized cuts to the deficit but he's not enacting Reagan-sized growth measures. No cuts in penal rates of tax. No reform of union laws. No big efforts at free trade. No successful attack on new EU regulatory powers. My audit of the Coalition's growth measures reveals the very mixed Coalition prospectus on growth.

Things may be about to get a lot worse, however, if today's Observer splash is correct. It reports that in what would amount to the most disastrous concession to the Liberal Democrats so far, David Cameron has sided with Chris Huhne in committing Britain to cuts in carbon emissions that will be greater than any other country in the world. David Kennedy, chief executive of the independent committee on climate change, told the newspaper: "We have moved into uncharted territory and are going to be watched carefully by other countries. No one else has a target like this."

Cable, Hammond and Osborne - all representing Britain's job creators - had expressed serious concerns about the Huhne plan. In correspondence leaked to The Guardian Mr Cable had written: "Agreeing too aggressive a level risks burdening the UK economy, which would be detrimental to UK, undermining the UK's competitiveness and our attractiveness as a place to do business."

Forget the speculation about whether or nor Chris Huhne cajoled another into taking his speeding penalty points, the Climate Change Secretary's green policies should be commanding our attention.

Let's be clear what it means:
  • Higher energy prices. We can wave goodbye to the idea of a manufacturing revival in Britain. Businesses wioth any sense will locate in jurisdictions that don't use expensive and unreliable renewable energies.
  • Social injustice. The poor in Britain, especially those pensioners on fixed incomes, will suffer most from higher energy prices as they spend a large share of their income on keeping their homes warm (or on travel). Only complex new taxes can combat this effect.  
  • No reduction in global carbon emissions. The British economy could disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow and emission of greenhouse gases would still grow. Anything we do here will amount to unilateral economic disarmament because it will be dwarved by what China, India and other emerging economies emit. They have rightly decided that greater wealth is the answer to their problems and that they'll use that wealth to adapt to climate change and not engage in any futile attempt to combat it.

I suggest David Cameron gets on the phone to fellow Conservatives Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott. Harper just won a majority in Canada while rejecting the consensus on global warming. He hasn't abandoned green issues but has sensibly focused on micro-environmentalism; recycling, clean water and protecting natural habitats and endangered species. Abbott is slowly destroying the minority Labor government in Australia by pointing out the huge costs of PM Gillard's climate change policies. When many families are struggling to make ends meet the last thing they need are higher transport and home energy costs.

Let's hope The Observer story is wrong.


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